Running a salon comes with its fair share of ups and downs, which is why Professional Beauty launched the Support Our Salons (SOS) Campaign last year. The initiative, which was showcased at the 2017 PB North and Ireland shows, and PB London 2018, aimed to sustain and grow the beauty industry by helping salon owners share ideas, problems and solutions.
As well as hosting an array of SOS-themed seminar programmes at each show, where delegates could ask a panel of experts about recruitment, financing and staffing issues; we also launched a series of SOS competitions encouraging salon owners across the country to share their toughest business challenge.
Entrants had to tell us in 100 words or fewer, “What’s the biggest or most surprising challenge you’ve faced since starting your salon or mobile business, and how did you overcome it?”
We had an overwhelming number of entries at each show, which told us that talking about these issues and supporting one another is just what the industry needs. We caught up with our SOS winners to see how sharing their story and winning the competition benefitted their business.
Professional Beauty North winner: KAREN JOHNSON, OWNER, THE CHILGROVE CLINIC, CHICHESTER
Business challenge: “It was scary at 62 years of age setting up my own clinic. After renting a room in a beauty salon for five years, it was clear the business could only grow if I had my own premises. I took a leap of faith, and after six months of operating, the clinic is on track to triple its turnover, with the addition of a doctor joining too. If you have a vision and passion, go for it, it’s never too late.”
• Consultant Susan Routledge’s Salon Success Freedom online programme (worth £2,997)
• Six months of e-newsletter marketing by Catherine Trebble (worth £1,620)
• Elemis Pro-Collagen Super System
• Cuccio Nail Kit
• Lycon Starter Kit.
Johnson’s story is one many can relate to – the fear of starting something new after years of doing the same thing. “I wanted to grow my business by adding new treatments and employing a doctor, but knew I could only do that if I expanded. I really thought my age would be a barrier. I mean, had I reached saturation point?”, says Johnson.
The Chilgrove Clinic opened in March 2017 and, despite Johnson’s worries, it has exceeded expectations. She works three days a week and clients mainly book in for long appointments of two to three hours. So, although she only sees around five to nine clients per week, she is turning a healthy profit, with laser hair removal, microdermabrasion and antiageing the most popular treatments. Dr Mark Holmes comes in three times a month to do facial aesthetics and bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.
Sharing her anxiety about the transition in our competition helped Johnson take her business to the next level. “The £1,000 prize money came in handy because the business was growing so quickly I didn’t have the funds to maintain my stock. I went from needing a tiny number of products when renting a room to requiring a large stock to match the number of treatments I was doing in clinic,” she explains.
Being your typical time-poor clinic owner, Johnson said the advice she’s been receiving from beauty business consultant Susan Routledge is also giving her the confidence to drive the business forward.
“It’s one thing to be totally immersed in your business and know that you’re doing well, but another to step back and think about where you can improve,” she explains.
“Susan has been brilliant at helping me pick out the areas where I need to do more targeted marketing to grow my client base, as well as realising that I need to take on somebody else so I can manage the business more.” Johnson’s in the process of hiring another doctor who can help with treatments.
BEAUTY BUSINESS CONSULTANT SUSAN ROUTLEDGE’S TIPS
Implement processes – “Karen’s a victim of her own success. She’s working flat out because she’s so good at what she does. However, if anything happened to her, then nobody could come in and run the clinic because it’s not systemised. She needs to put everything in her head on to paper. We’re also going to look across the board to make sure that her time is spent profitably in treatment.”
Professional Beauty Ireland winner: EMMA HEANEY, OWNER, ELITE AESTHETIC TREATMENT CLINIC, LONDONDERRY
Business challenge: “When I opened my clinic, I was fighting in an era of pillow cheeks, duck lips and frozen faces. I wanted to promote the safety in aesthetics message but it was challenging educating clients – I actually refused to treat some people. I also established the business during an uncertain time in the Irish economy. Despite this, Elite never became part of the price war and this has paid off.”
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When starting a new business, the last thing you want is to turn people away, but that’s what Heaney had to do to establish Elite Aesthetic Treatment Clinic as safe and reputable. “When I launched, the appearance of looking like you’d had work done was big, whereas I was much more about natural enhancements,” she says.
“I had to turn some customers away as the treatments they asked for they just didn’t need because, for example, it wouldn’t suit their face structure. It was scary turning away custom but I would have felt unethical doing the treatment.”
Heaney’s mission to empower women to feel good in their own skins set her apart from the competition as she began offering everything from red vein removal and mesotherapy in clinic, and waxing and make-up application in the beauty salon section of the business.
This point of difference also helped her weather the recession. “The locals named it the fall of the Celtic Tiger because the recession hit the economy hard. Londonderry had big pockets of deprivation; it’s a working-class area so disposable income was at a minimum,” explains Heaney.
“I managed to build my reputation via Facebook, word-of-mouth recommendations and by writing a column for a local magazine about safety in aesthetics.” She also steered clear of price wars with the ongoing number of pop-up clinics in the area, “knowing my value and having faith that I was delivering a good service,” she adds.
Winning the competition not only boosted the clinic’s reputation but has helped Heaney expand her reach even further, with the addition of two new services. “I spent the E1,000 prize money on launching a blow dry bar in the beauty salon part of the clinic. It has been on the business plan for more than a year but I just didn’t have the funding,” she says.
“I’ve also booked one of my therapists on the Novalash lash extensions training course this month. Again, this was a service I really wanted to add to but didn’t have the budget. Winning the competition has opened up some new treatment avenues for me.”
Strengthen the structure – “What Emma needs to do now is look at the business from a bird’s eye view and maximise on its key areas. She doesn’t want to ever get to the point where she’s just firefighting from the surface – dealing with immediate issues but not underlying problems. I’m going to work with her to build an even stronger foundation, systemising the business so it runs even more efficiently.”
Professional Beauty London winner: EMMA GRIFFITHS, OWNER, THE BEAUTY BAR, WADHURST
Business challenge: “After completing the salon renovation and hiring staff, my biggest challenge was myself. I got sick so I was off work a lot in the first year of business. I realised systems would be the key to the salon’s success – treatment protocols, salon check lists, a guide on how to answer the phone, cleaning rules, reception know-how, and so on. Being able to leave the salon and know everything can still run efficiently without me is the best feeling in the world.”
• Consultant Susan Routledge’s Salon Success
Freedom online programme (worth £2,997)
• Lunch and business advice with Mark Moloney, PB’s managing director.
Burn-out is a topical and very real issue in the industry, which is why Griffiths’s story particularly stood out to our SOS Competition panel. After finally deciding to make the leap from mobile therapist to salon owner, and spending three months renovating an old antique shop into the business she wanted, Griffiths fell ill.
“I’d felt poorly during the last month of renovations and it turned out I had pneumonia. I had 11 serious chest infections during the first year of business, so I was off at least one to two weeks every month,” she explains. “Getting sick was the one thing I hadn’t planned for.”
Despite Griffiths being unwell, The Beauty Bar had to continue to function and, most importantly, make a profit. In her absence, Griffiths created processes for every aspect of the business, systemising the day-today running of the salon so it could operate smoothly with or without her there.
“I made sure my team had lists for everything that needed to be done. I created so many systems – how they needed to answer the phone, the treatment room set up, cleaning lists, information on how to cash up, treatment protocols,” says Griffiths.
Yourself in the client’s shoes and see everything from their perspective.” Griffiths kept in touch with staff via a work WhatsApp group, where the team kept her in the loop, allowing her to take the time out she needed to heal. Now, she’s back to full health and believes other salons owners should think about their self-care.
“When you run a business, you don’t have much time to yourself, but your mental and physical health is so important,” says Griffiths. “I try to factor in more time to read, see friends and experience treatments myself.”
She used the £1,000 prize money on a reception refit, which included the addition of a brand-new product area, and the creation of the first The Beauty Bar products. “I’m a trained aromatherapist and I’m making the salon vegan, so I wanted natural and organic oils to use,” she says.
“Having this money allowed me to buy the ingredients and tools I needed to create my own line of bath oils, massage oils, and room and linen sprays. It’s something I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.”
Maximise on business growth – “I’ve not yet started working with Emma but I can see she’s doing things right. She’s systemised the business to the point where it can run with or without her and the team know exactly how she wants everything done. Now, she needs to think what the next steps are. She could sell the salon – as it’s saleable and scalable – or she could duplicate the business and franchise it.” PB