Posted on October 26, 2017
Sola Salon Studios
Kenya Kirk is one of our 2017 Faces of Sola who is quite savvy when it comes to creating events and services in her salon that help her book stay full and keep clients consistent with pre-brooking. In addition to thinking outside the client retention box, she is giving back to her community in a beautiful way with a nonprofit dedicated to making wigs for kids with cancer. In this Q&A, she shares some wisdom that will help you grow your heart and your own businesses.
Before we start talking about your business tactics, let’s talk about this beautiful way you’re using your talents and connections as a hairdresser to give back in a really big way with your Dreams for Diamonds initiative.
My family and I started a nonprofit that makes wigs for kids who have cancer. We hand make all the wigs and give them to a local hospital here in Austin, Texas. I make them out of bandanas, and I do this because I want to give the scalp a chance to breathe and to provide a quick solution for kids to wear to the hospital or around the house. It’s also important to me that the kids are given the opportunity to have fun with them so we include fun colors like pink and orange.
Are you using synthetic or real hair to make these?
Right now I’m using synthetic hair, but I’ve been collecting real hair for over two years so that I can make some real ones.
Would it help you to have hairdressers donate hair to your nonprofit much like how they donate to Locks for Love?
Oh absolutely. That’s the direction we’ll be taking the nonprofit over the course of the next three years. We have been given some opportunities to donate wigs to other hospitals, but unfortunately, we don’t have the wigs to give them because we need the hair and supplies.
How much time and money does it take to make a single wig?
It takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to create a single one. I’d also like to mention that we do regularly team up with local high schools. We host parties with the high school kids where we have them help us build these. It’s a really great way to teach the youth how to give back to their community and also give them a chance to be creative and have some creative freedom while doing something good. And seeing what they create and what they come up with also helps me and jog ideas for when I’m creating them on my own.
They aren’t too expensive to make to be really honest. We can make them for under $15 each.
Do you find making these wigs to be somewhat therapeutic, kind of like how people find knitting calming and a way to reduce stress?
Oh very, very much so. It also gives me a chance to explore my creative range. When I’m making one, I imagine what kid this could go to. I bedazzle them, put superheroes on them, and really embellish them. It’s really all very exciting to create because I’m providing these kids with a temporary solution until their hair grows back.
In addition to teaching high schoolers how to create wigs, you’re also busy educating other hairdressers and teaching your clients a number of things. Let’s talk about that for a moment.
I’m an educator for Keratin Complex and teach their smoothing and color lines. When it comes to me teaching in the salon and with my clients, I created a class called Mommy & Me. It is for women who have different textured hair than their children, especially if the child is adopted or is a foster.
This class not only helps women learn and understand different textures and what they are working with, but it also creates a bond between mother and child. It doesn’t need to be a knockout, drag-out event when it comes to washing and styling a child’s hair.
I do this through teaching them about different products and techniques to make the experience for everyone an enjoyable one. They learn about the curl pattern, the texture, about the differences between a texturizer and a relaxer. We even go over shampooing and how often you should be getting the child’s hair cut. Teaching them how to braid, blow-dry and flat iron are covered as well. Every child also receives a mini consultation, a scalp analysis, and product recommendations.
How long are these events and what are you charging?
They usually run about two hours long and I charge $25 per parent/child. On average I have about 25 people that attend.
How many of these people attending covert into a client?
About 75% of them do.
That’s fantastic! How do you go about promoting this?
Through Facebook by creating an event, word of mouth, and I do want to say that I also have a lot of grandparents who attend this. Around Father’s Day, I also create an event for the father to attend with their child.
Where does this desire and determination to give back come from?
I would say my parents, who I’d like to add were amazing foster parents for kids while I was growing up. Growing up, my house was always the house to go to. They have always been a positive influence and always taught me that if you have, then you give.
Did you go to beauty school in Austin?
No, actually I went to beauty school in a small town in South Carolina. I was only there for maybe less than a year and I’d like to mention that during that time I had the chance to be with my biological father.
While I was there, I made quite an impression on the city. I had a teacher who let me do extra credit work so I was styling hair and donating my time for a local church so that I could graduate early and by a specific day because my mother had to come pick me up and she was coming from Texas. I was one of the fastest people to ever graduate from school with the appropriate amount of hours.
I had so many people at my graduation [starts crying] and seeing everyone attend made me know just how important I am and big of an impact I can make by standing behind the chair every day.
When did Sola come into the picture?
I just celebrated three years with Sola. Prior to Sola, I was booth renting and had worked in a chain/corporate salon.
What has your Sola location been like?
As soon as I met my location owner Mason, I knew I was home. His energy and personality were everything and I knew I just had to have my studio there. What really drew me in was how I could make my Sola my own and that I can be myself.
You mentioned that your Mommy & Me event is extremely successful, but what would you say is your three most profitable services you’re offering to your clients?
Smoothing would be my number one, and then color, and for my third, it would be my Frequent Styler Program. I created this because I have a lot of businesswomen and people who are constantly on the go. It is a weekly or bi-weekly service that includes blowout and style. For weekly, it is four blowouts and a style for the month, and that is priced at $175. For bi-weekly, it is two blowouts and style for the month priced at $80. What’s nice about this is that it fills my book really fast. It secures me on a financial level and it keeps everyone pre-booking. At least 20 percent of my clients use this service.
What happens if you’re out of town or if you have to be somewhere for let’s say Keratin Complex?
They know that the minute they pay, the have to book out their days. And they don’t have to just work around my schedule; I have to work around theirs! At the end of the day, THEY, my clients, are who I work for. They come first before educating and traveling.
How many clients would you say you have?
Wait, what?? HOW MANY?!
So it’s safe to say you haven’t really struggled to build your clientele, huh?
[Laughs] Over the years I have gotten a lot of my clients through word-of-mouth. My retention and request rate is solid. Even when I was working at a corporate salon, my request rate always stayed around 95 percent.
I service clients between the ages of 8 to 80, and I can do all types of hair texture. I service women, men, boys, and girls.
Continuing my education and learning all these different types of hair textures and knowing what works and what doesn’t have helped me get to almost 900 clients.
What helps you stay on track and keeps you organized?
I actually have a personal assistant. Not an in-salon assistant, but a personal one. She helps me with social media, keeps all my speaking engagements and appearances organized. This helps me do what I need to get done in my Sola and also for my clients. What I do is put together a list of everything that I have committed to and what I want done to support everything in and out of the salon. I like to plan 90 days in advance. She is also there to help display and present me on social media in a specific way because it’s different when you’re trying to promote yourself.
How has Sola changed your life?
I’ve been able to be unstoppable. I’ve been able to produce my dreams in my studio and keep a comfortable and private lifestyle for my clients and give them my all.