As we continue to learn from (and adapt to) the reality of living life in a pandemic, we spoke with salon owners about their creative approaches to starting conversations with their teams, clients and community.
Owner of Filomena Salon & Spa, Coquitlam, B.C.
Since salons in British Columbia were among the first to reopen, Shawna Russell played an integral role in helping lead the industry through so much uncertainty with an informative video she created and shared on her Instagram page (@hairbyshawna_russell).
Offering a virtual tour of her revamped salon space— in which she removed six chairs in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines— the video features Russell sporting personal protective equipment (a face mask and face shield) in preparation for her salon’s reopening.
“I think a lot of stylists were super nervous about how much time it would take [to clean their salon stations] in between clients, and were also worried about being able to breathe [while wearing their PPE],” she says. “I got a great response from the video, and tried to do updates every couple of days just to let people know what was going on.”
With a staff of 15 stylists, Russell had to balance many emotions and concerns surrounding COVID-19. “It was important for us to be a cohesive team and all on the same page,” she says. “[During the closure] we all updated our certifications with Barbicide. Our team is super strong and like a family, so when you’re away from each other for so long, you really miss those work relationships. We now appreciate them even more because we’re having to lean more on each other for everyone’s health and safety.” In addition to prescreening clients with health-related questions, the team decided to conduct temperature checks as another layer of protection.
“Before the pandemic, I might have let a client keep their appointment if they weren’t feeling well, which would have put me at risk of getting sick. Now, I have a zero-tolerance policy, which I will be keeping—even after COVID,” says Russell. “As hairstylists, I think we’re standing up for ourselves more, and clients are pretty understanding of that.”
Since her salon has now been reopened for more than a month, Russell says things are slowly getting back to normal. “It’s been different— that’s for sure. But it’s been awesome to be back with the team,” she says. “I feel like clients appreciate us a little more right now.”
While the salon is fully booked for at least another month (Russell is booked until October!), the pandemic has taught her and her team the importance of balance. “Stylists need to take some personal time. Even though we just had all of this time off, [my advice is] don’t overwork yourself,” she says. “Before, I was doing 11-, 12- and 13-hour days and would feel overwhelmed and like I was going to crash. You want to fit everybody in but take your time, try not to get overwhelmed and pace yourself.”
Medulla & Co, Toronto
In Ontario, many salons were closed for more than three months. While there was a lot of initial uncertainty regarding how long the closures would last, no one could have guessed it would be late June before many would begin reopening their doors.
During their salon’s closure, Pacheco (@luiscolourist) and his team decided to make a powerful statement on Instagram with their video, #WaitforUs, in which they asked people to wait for their hairstylists and avoid the urge to colour or cut their hair at home.
“Being away from the salon, you can feel disconnected,” he says, “so I wanted to connect us as a team virtually and send a message to our clients that let them know we understood it was a scary time for everyone. The message was, ‘You’re thinking about us and we’re thinking about you, too.’”
The idea began when clients started reaching out to inquire about purchasing professional colour kits. While some salons offered these during their closures, the Medulla & Co. team decided against it, opting to band together in a video as a way to help ease their clients’ concerns while also supporting the professional hair community.
“We’re in a situation where we’ve lost a lot of control. Our ability to control the things that we do and the way we look has significantly changed and that can cause people to go into panic mode, which is what I saw happening,” he says. “We wanted to look after our clients as much as we could, and help them not feel abandoned during this time of crisis. It’s so important that we all stand in solidarity.”
To create the video, 20 members of his team submitted clips sharing heartfelt messages and words of encouragement that Pacheco edited together to create one cohesive and unified message.
“From a visual perspective, I wanted it all to mesh together. I sent them all a guideline but told them to feel free to put in their own identity, which made it really difficult to edit. For so many of them, I could have used their whole monologue,” he says. “Putting it together was the emotional part.
It all worked because I saw my team come together in a time when we needed to come together. I was so proud of them.”
Paulina and Samantha Truong
Blue Gemini Hair Studio, Edmonton, Alta.
After hearing concerns about COVID-19 from their team and clients, sibling powerhouse Paulina and Samantha Truong decided to close their salon a week before the provincial mandate.
Being ahead of the curve, the Truongs took to social media to stand up for the hair community and speak out against selling professional colour kits to clients, as well as offering private at-home or in-salon services during the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders. Making a bold statement on their Instagram page (@bluegeminihairstudio), the team posted two graphics: Why We Don’t Send Clients Hair Colour? and Why We Don’t Do Private Service in Salon or at Home?
“We wanted to stand behind our profession,” says Samantha. “When [the pandemic] is over, you will have to work extra hard to rebuild your business and not just try to get clients back in the door. You have to protect the industry.”
After seeing a slew of salons across North America offering root touch-up kits, it motivated the Truongs to begin promoting root touch-ups sprays as an alternative. “We understand that clients were anxious to get their roots done but we want those clients to come back to the salon [for these services],” says Paulina.
View this post on Instagram
We have been getting a few requests for home appointments and/or private openings during the COVID-19 pandemic. 💙Our salon is following the government public health order for all hair salons to be closed. 💙We truly appreciate that our clients have us in mind and wants to support us during our closure, but, our highest priority is the safety of our clients, our team and their families. 💙We are trying to do our part #flattenthecurve, respecting and honouring all those who have risked their health, safety and lives to take care of those affected by this pandemic. #stayhome 💙Worried about roots during the salon’s closure? Touch Up spray from @lorealpro and @oribe gives you a natural looking result & hides your roots in seconds. We have many shades to match your roots #hairtouchup #haircolor 💙How to support us? By continuing to buy your hair care through us. We will drop them off at your door steps for your convenience #nocontact To all of our dear and loyal clients, please wait for us, we will be back! We appreciate your understanding & support during this time. Any inquiries or need products, please send to [email protected] or DM us. Take care of yourself, each other and stay safe. #staysafe #staystrong #pleasestayhome #community #yegsmallbusiness #stopthespread #socialdistancing
As for the post about not offering private at-home or in- salon services, the motivation came from their team. After receiving messages and requests from clients to offer these services, the salon didn’t think twice about posting in support of their team’s and clients’ health. “We were proud that our stylists stepped up to say no,” says Samantha. “They didn’t want to risk [the health of] clients, themselves and their families. It defeats the purpose of why salons closed in the first place.”
While their salon has now reopened, it’s still not quite business as usual. “It’s probably going to take a good half a year to reorganize the flow of the salon again,” says Samantha.
Paulina adds that it’s a good opportunity for their team to think about how they want to run the business differently and look at ways to improve it. “We always want to do better, so it’s going to give us an opportunity to evolve. A situation like this can teach you patience and help you come back to the salon with a fresh perspective.”