Being your own boss might be your dream, but you need to be committed and disciplined to make it happen. Here’s a critical look at what you need to know in order to know about this new to Canada business model.
Cheryl Quinn never thought about opening her own salon. While she enjoyed cultivating a strong clientele and the satisfaction that comes from working in a creative industry, the business side just wasn’t for her. But when the mom of two young children heard about the construction of Pro Beauty Suites in Burlington, Ont., she reconsidered. The opportunity to maintain her clientele along with a flexible scheudle just might give her the balance she needed for her family. Quinn isn’t alone. In fact, it’s this flexibility that has many beauty professionals considering their own move to this new-to-Canada salon concept. With the salon suites business model making its way into the Canadian beauty industry over the past year, we’ve got the breakdown on this business model, along with the cost and benefit of doing business.
Just the Facts
Here’s the breakdown on the salon suites business model that’s cropping up across the country.
What it is: Located in an existing building, salon suites offer private rental space for health and beauty professionals. Each suite is occupied by independent business owners including, hairstylists, beauty professionals (nail and makeup artists along with other wellness professionals (such as massage therapists). More upscale locations also feature a central reception area.
How it works: Business owners are able to use their space at any time, on any day of the week. When it comes to the individual suites, each one features a professional washing and styling station along with a colour bar area. Each suite is finished with features including cabinetry and counters and hairstylists are able to personalize their space depending on their style aesthetic.
Why it works : According to Linda Lefebvre, owner of a My Salon Suites franchise in Ottawa, Ont., this business model works because it offers flexibility for both the client and the hairstylist. But that being said, consistency and organization is key. For some stylists, “using an online scheduling system helps with prebooking clients,” she says addiing that an online payment system can help keep track of finances.
Who it works for: As Lefebvre explains, this isn’t the right option for new hairstylists who are just starting out. “You need to be willing to do it all, from the services you offer to clean up to managing your finances,” she says adding, that for some, the tradeoff is worth it. In addition, hairstylists, nail and makeup artists who work freelance may also find that having a studio offers a consistent space to schedule clients.
Where to find them
My Salon Suites, Ottawa, Ont.
Salons by JC, Toronto, Ont.
Pro Beauty Suites, Burlington and Oakville, Ont.
Tru Salon Suites, St. John’s Nfld.
The Top Five Challenges of Salon Suites
Making the time to plan your finances, from paying rent to paying for products, means you need the right people to stay organized. Finding a good accountant and bookkeeper is essential because you’ll need solid business advice from professionals. Still, you’ll need to keep track of your expenses and receipts to avoid paying a higher price for their services, as financial professionals will charge accordingly. Plus, having good financial professionals on board will help you track your own savings so that you can take vacation or sick days when you need to.
“It’s important for salon owners to build up the talent of young hairstylists and get involved in community events,” says Mark Liddall, director of sales for Venus Beauty Supplies Ltd. He sees that staff enjoy the energy of a strong team environment. When you’re working on your own, cultivating creativity can be a challenge because you don’t have anyone else with whom to discuss ideas. At the same time, Liddall notes that the suite environment may be more appealing to hairstylists who are at a more advanced level in their careers and prefer to focus their time behind the chair.
When you’re working within a salon, you may find that education opportunities are more readily available. For example, in many salons, master-level hairstylists lead education sessions. In addition, because salons have a larger team, education sessions led by manufacturers are also readily available. At the same time, education is fairly easy to access these days, so you’ll just need to look for opportunities at hair shows, through professional brands or online.
According to Liddall, many hairstylists have failed because they don’t have enough of a client base to support their costs. Even on slow days, there is the opportunity for walk-in clients in a salon, which doesn’t happen when you’re working in a suite environment. Liddall also notes that the client experience is different in a suite than in a salon. “Many clients prefer a large, open salon space, where positive energy is happening,” he says, adding that this difference in a client’s experience may impact your clientele.
Retailing can offset your expenses and play a big role in increasing your bottom line. But carrying a product line is a financial commitment, and any products you carry need to translate to sales, which means that you’ll need to up your selling game.
Make The Most of this Opportunity
Check out ways in which these salon owners are making the most of the opportunity to build their businesses.
Finding new clients: With different health and beauty professionals operating their business at Salons by JC, including hairstylists, nail artists and massage therapists, referrals are part of doing business. Even though it has only been opened a few months Ernie Pozzobon, owner of Salons by JC, says business owners are referring their clients to one another.
Organize your business: For Lori Crosby, an Ottawa-based hairstylist, the simplicity of the suite was key. “For me, it was so easy to set up, and straight-forward,” says Crosby. “I would say that the one challenge is making sure that you stay organized, keeping receipts and invoices in a folder and finding a payment system that works for your business.”
Building your network: Even though she’s not in a traditional salon, Quinn says she has still been able to stay connected with other hairstylists and beauty professionals. “We cross-refer and we’re all really very fortunate that we have this really good energy,” says Quinn of the other hairstylists at Pro Beauty Suites.
Controlling your product: Keeping tabs on product inventory can be tricky, and both Crosby and Quinn say it’s important not to overstock from the beginning. “Only keep product lines that you use to recommend to your clients for home care,” says Quinn.