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Fos panel recap

As the world continues to change and salon doors are slowly reopening, it’s no secret that salon studios offer an ideal environment for a post-coronavirus world. This is why we gathered four of our rockstar Faces of Sola (past and present) for a panel discussion hosted by Jennie Wolff, Sola’s Chief Marketing Officer, to talk about their unique journeys to salon studio ownership.

Meet the Panelists:

  • Lindsey Couch (2020 Faces of Sola): Arrow Salon in Louisville, KY (@thehungryhairdresser)
  • Steven Wren (2020 Faces of Sola): Steven Brandon Hair Studio in Bloomingdale, IL (@mrwrencuts)
  • Kelsey Morris (2019 Faces of Sola) – Studio K in Columbus, OH (@kelseymorris18)
  • Ashley Lantz (2018 Faces of Sola): Tress Passing Studio in Avondale, AZ (@ashleylantzhair)

Jennie: What was happening in your life and career when you decided to go independent?

Ashley:

“When I decided to go independent, I had been managing the salon I was at for about four years. It was about eight weeks before my wedding, and I had just come up with a new position with an education team that was going to require traveling once a month and give up six days a month in the salon. I realized if I was going to have all these other things going on in my life, I wasn’t going to be as effective of a manager, and that’s when I looked into the option of going independent. I wanted to be more in control of my schedule.”

Steven:

“At the time, I was working in a traditional barbershop setting for about five years. At the five-year mark, I decided I wanted more. I wasn’t in the position to open a traditional barbershop, nor did I want the responsibility. So making the move to open a suite was awesome for me because I wanted more at the time and it provided the perfect opportunity.”

Kelsey:

“I was actually moving back to Ohio from North Carolina. When I came back to Columbus, I had stayed home for a year with a new baby and was trying to decide how to go back to work. It was a little risky going into a salon suite with no clients, but I took a leap of faith and decided I wanted flexibility, to be my own boss, and to be in charge of everything in my own business. I ultimately made the best decision for my family.”

Lindsey:

“When I decided to leave the salon I was at, I was 22. I knew I wanted to be an educator, and I felt deep in my heart that I needed to move on and be independent if I wanted to pursue my dream of being an educator.”

And two weeks after opening her salon at Sola, Lindsey reached her goal and became a Paul Mitchell educator. 💪

Jennie: What were your biggest fears about going independent?

Steven:

“I was terrified. I was leaving the security of an established barbershop, and barbers aren’t typically in suites like others in our industry. I was afraid that my clients wouldn’t adapt to the new environment.”

Kelsey:

“First, it’s totally normal to feel afraid in these situations. The first question you have to ask yourself is, 'Am I going to be able to sustain myself financially?' It’s an overwhelming emotion, and my biggest fear was fear of failing – not just failing myself, but also my family. I wanted to prove that I could do it. But you’re always going to have those insecurities – am I going to have clients, how will people find me, are they going to like the suite situation?”

Lindsey:

“My biggest fear was if my clients would follow me. Wondering, ‘Do they really like me that much?’ I was also nervous about telling my salon owner I was going independent - nervous I was going to hurt his feelings. But once you realize, ‘This is my own path and I need to go on my own path,’ you can confidently move forward.”

Ashley:

“I was afraid that I was at a fork, and I was going down one path because I wanted to pursue education, but I was leaving everything else I had worked so hard to accomplish. On top of the relationships I had built with everyone, I was afraid I was going to lose the free education I was getting at the salon. This is how I ended up becoming an educator. I was also worried I would lose the camaraderie of a traditional salon if I was in a room by myself. But I am happy to say that all my fears – I’ve proven them wrong over the past four years.”

Jennie: This brings up the million-dollar question – did your clients follow you?

All Panelists: Yes!

Ashley:

“In my situation, I was the first one to move into my Sola. I had put my deposit before I even had walls… You’d be surprised how big of a fan base you have with your clients. My clients loved seeing my new spot, and I had a big grand opening. People were bringing me flowers, and everyone was very kind about my new spot and how proud they were of me.”

Steven:

“One of the most surprising things I’ve learned is that it’s not so much about the service, but our clients are choosing to spend time with us. They choose us, and they will follow us. They support us and become an extension of our family.”

Kelsey:

“When I first moved to Columbus, I started at a different salon suite, and even jumping from one suite to another, I was concerned I would lose clients. I remember so many of them saying to me, ‘We’re not here for the salon, we are here for you!’ Clients are going to follow you because they love you.”

Jennie: How did you build your business and how do you continue to attract new customers?

Lindsey:

“I assembled little bags with my business card and a free conditioning treatment. I found businesses with the same target market as me, such as small boutiques for women… When I dropped off the goodie bags, I asked them to please share with their employees… I got all of their employees and now do photoshoots for their clothes. Going to local businesses helped a lot.”

Kelsey:

“I did little gift bags too. I would make care packages for clients that they would take home. You can go to the SalonCentric or CosmoProf clearance sections and get little shampoos and conditioners and nail polish, and then create a coupon for $5 or $10 off next service, along with a referral card. Referrals are going to help you in this situation. I also printed postcards with my information on it and went around to local neighborhoods and put it in their mailbox. You’d be surprised how many people called me and brought in the postcard.

My biggest tip is to search on Facebook for local mom groups or buy/sell/trade groups. You can do a post there – what you specialize in and start with 20% off your first service.”

Ashley:

“I had a punch card in the beginning. Also, the neighborhood apps that everybody uses…. I was never a part of it until a handful of my clients kept saying that they saw someone tag me in the app and that people all come to you.”

Jennie: Steven, as a barber, can you build your business being surrounded by mostly hair and skin professionals?

Steven:

“I’ve been able to grow SO much being in this environment, and I did not factor in the cross-promotion available. My clientele is 90% male. Everybody else where I work has female clients (moms, grandmas, daughters) and they all have fathers, boyfriends, sons. Who grooms the men of the guests that come in? I grew so much from cross-promotion.”

Question: Is it a big investment to get started in a Sola studio?

Jennie:

  • Sola is a franchise, so each location is individually owned and operated. Everyone on the panel has a different situation with their owner.
  • What’s usually required is two weeks upfront for the deposit, and most locations typically offer a move-in bonus (ways to stock shelves and get started).
  • Most locations will cover the cost of paint, and you’ll have to make investments into décor and technology to get setup.

Steven:

“When I went on my tour and asked the million-dollar question –  how much do I owe for rent – it was much lower than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise.”

Lindsey:

“I pay my rent with a hair color and two haircuts a week. Also, (my salon partner and I) go into the Sola Pro app – we got a color kit through Paul Mitchell and Sola Pro and got an awesome discount on all our product and color, which really helped.”

Ashley:

“Don’t stress about jumping in and starting with everything in a perfect place. If you see photos of my studio when I first moved in, to what it was six months later, to a year later, to what my large studio is now… it’s all so different. Take your time.”

Steven:

“Don’t bite off more than you can chew. There are different room options. I’m in a large now, but when I started, I was in the smallest room in the corner. The price was comparable to what I was paying in my regular booth rent. You can upgrade. Take your time.”

Jennie: Can you work in your studio with a partner?

Note: There are three studio sizes available and the largest studio has two work stations.

Lindsey:

“Yes! You can do whatever you want. Working with a partner is great, you can bounce ideas off each other.”

Jennie: How do you continue to stay educated and inspired?

Kelsey:

“There is so much free education right now. It’s a very good time to be looking at individual color lines and extensions… I’m looking into hand-tied extensions right now. I’m on Instagram a lot, mainly for business, but seeing what everyone is doing really inspires me. I am always taking classes to try to hone my skills.”

Jennie: Why did you choose Sola?

Steven:

“Sola chose me. I didn’t know too much about the salon suite lifestyle, and within a week of seeing the ad on Facebook or Instagram, I was taking a tour.”

Ashley:

“Sola kind of chose me, too. I was online one night and had just googled ‘everything you need to know about moving into a studio salon.’ I came across an article that was on BehindTheChair.com, featuring Sola. When I looked at the locations, there was one literally down the street from me… I ended up putting a deposit down before my walls were up. My choice was solidified by my Sola manager. He was so amazing and made me feel like I made the right choice.”

Kelsey:

“With Sola, you’re not just by yourself. They offer so much more. You’re in your own studio and it’s your own concept, but you’re given so much more. The Sola Sessions, free education via the Sola Pro app, online webinars and more. The owners really do want to help us succeed.”

Open Q&A:

  • Is selling product a must and if so, how do we choose?
    • Ashley: “Retail is how I paid my rent in the very beginning. I think it’s a must. If you don’t, you’re really just missing out on that opportunity. Find a brand that you align with, with your beliefs and vibe and culture that works with your target market.”
  • What are the steps to getting started?
    1. Contact your Sola
    2. Set Up Your Systems: Sola Pro, SolaGenius, BookNow, Instagram, Website
    3. Think About Retail: Choose the products that fit the culture, needs and price point of your clientele.
    4. Get Down to Business: Obtain salon and sales tax licenses; file your trade name registration; set up service menu and pricing. Sola's comprehensive start-up guide makes it easy!
    5.  Plan your studio vibe: Name your studio, choose the paint color, purchase studio décor
    6. Spread the Word: Organize client info, put up social posts, send text/email reminders, personal phone calls

Jennie: What advice would you give to someone considering going out on their own?

Kelsey:

“Just believe in yourself. Take one moment and be brave. Create a really good plan, and you’ll succeed.”

Lindsey:

“You know if you left (your traditional salon), you would be fine. With Sola on your side, they will not let you fail."

Ashley:

“Lead with intention. Make sure that every step you’re taking is a puzzle piece to your big picture.”

Steven:

“Walk into your destiny, be driven, be motivated, be encouraged, and press through.”

Want more? Watch the full recording of our webinar & panel discussion "How To Transition to a Salon Studio"

 
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