Opening a salon or spa

Opening your own spa or salon is exciting! You probably have the name picked out and may even know how you want to decorate it … but you’d better slow down. If you are a cosmetologist and plan to set up a new business, there are several things to consider before you start doing the fun stuff.

As of 2016, there were approximately 270,000 salons in the United States, but salon and spa services grew by 3 percent to $62 billion in sales. Regardless of the state of the economy, people make room in their budget for haircuts and styling. That’s good news for you! If you plan well and are smart about your salon’s operations, you could very well succeed in this highly competitive industry.

Before you sign on the dotted line and set up a new business, make sure you have meticulously considered the following:

  • Financial matters – Unless you have won the lottery or have a significant amount of personal wealth, you may need to look for financing for your spa or salon business.
    • Find a strong business partner or mentor to share financial responsibilities (and profits).
    • Determine a budget. You’ll need to buy equipment and supplies and pay utilities and employees.
    • Think about the services you’ll offer and how much you need to earn to break even every month.
    • Discover ways to save from the beginning, and you’ll be in a better financial position if unexpected problems arise.
  • Legal, licensing and insurance concerns – Contact the Small Business Administration to find out which licenses you’ll need before you can open your salon.
    • See if your city and state require special licenses.
    • Make certain that each cosmetologist you employee is certified.
    • Your salon must pass health, fire, sanitation and electrical inspections to deem it safe for customers and operations.
    • Look into small business and liability insurance as well.
  • Location choice – This may well be your most important decision. With so many salons vying for market position, you want to be sure that yours is not within easy reach of another that offers the same services.
    • Look for an area that gets high traffic but has easy access to parking and/or public transportation.
    • Choose an area frequented by your targeted demographic. If you’re catering to young adults, you’ll want to be in an area where they shop and hang out. You want your clients to be comfortable in your location).
    • Drive around the area or areas you’re considering and look for properties that might be available to buy or lease. You could also enlist the help of a local realtor.
    • Maybe you know of an existing salon that is closing. If so, you might get a really good deal that includes equipment. A cosmetic overhaul is certainly easier than starting from scratch.
  • Staffing issues – Unless you plan to be the sole stylist, you’ll need to hire employees – and hire wisely. Your business is only as good as the people who work there.
    • Think about whether you want to pay on commission or rent out chairs in your salon. If you do the latter, realize that if the stylist leaves there’s a good chance his or her clients will follow.
    • The ideal salon or spa employee has a mix of skill, attitude and personality. You know the image you want your salon to project, so look for stylists who share your ideas. Obviously, they must be licensed and at least know the basic techniques. You can always help them hone their technical skills, but you can’t restructure their personalities.
    • Do a background check and get references. A good employee must be reliable, follow sound business ethics and not have a tarnished record or reputation.
    • A skilled barber or stylist needs to show good customer service abilities and engage with the clients. They need to be likable and confident – and preferably have a good list of clients.
  • Marketing goals – You can have the most beautiful salon around with highly skilled stylists that offer cutting-edge services, but if no one knows about it you won’t succeed. Along with a business plan, you need a marketing plan. Here’s where your creativity can shine.
    • First of all, have a good website. Make certain that it is user friendly, and add an appointment-booking feature if you can. If you need to, hire a professional to build and maintain it. If not, there are some low-cost options for a do-it-yourself website.
    • Take advantage of free marketing through social media. Put up a Facebook page for your business, and post photos on Instagram. Get on Twitter. Then share with friends and family, and ask them to do the same. Build up a potential client base from the “likes” you get.
    • Have an open house or a “grand opening” to get people in the door. Offer free bang trims or demonstrate a makeup application. Offer a coupon for a first visit or a referral discount. Be sure to have complimentary snacks on hand for your event.
    • You might also partner with another local business in a reciprocal arrangement. When customers of ABC Restaurant dine, they get a coupon for a percentage off at your salon and vice versa. Ways to promote your business are only limited by your imagination.
    • Partner with a known cosmetics line or hair product company. It may help you with marketing tips and promotions you can offer your clients.
    • Join professional trade organizations. You can network with your peers and find out what has worked for them.

If this is all a dream for you and you haven’t even gone through school, the cosmetology program at MTI College in Sacramento is an excellent choice. MTI’s Paul Mitchell The School helps you develop the beauty and cosmetology skills you need for a rewarding career – and maybe even your own salon. Class size is small, and the one-on-one attention you receive from your instructors – professional hairstylists and estheticians – helps you succeed.

Make your dream a reality. Register for the cosmetology program at MTI College today.