Do you aspire to own a natural hair salon one day? Then, you’ve stumbled upon the right article. If there’s one thing this past year has taught us, it’s that it’s now or never to follow your passion!
To motivate (and educate) you on your journey to salon ownership, we spoke with Athena Hill, Kandace Cummings, and Aubrey Fields, three amazing salon owners within our CurleeMe community. From their insightful interviews, we leave you with these five salon success secrets:
1. Don’t underestimate the need for curly hair care
Our salon owners shared they were all sought for their specialty in curly hair, which is exactly for which our CurleeMe community strives!
AUBREY: “While working at a [predominantly] white salon for four years, one day I realized I had multiple clients taking up all of our shampoo bowls and dryers! It was then that I knew it was time to move on and get my own place.”
KANDACE: “I realized that we were taking off when our books began to fill up with only curly haircuts. We’d [originally] been a salon that catered to every service, including Keratin treatments and relaxers. At some point, it became awkward to molecularly straighten a curly girl in front of another curly girl that I’d just advised. Once our books began to shift and the percentage began to grow in curly cuts, we were able to truly identify ourselves in the curly community, end the straightening services and begin to hone in on our true calling.”
2. Prioritize exceptional customer service
When asked what makes their business stand out from the rest, all of the ladies spoke on the value of customer service, where the client feels cared for and appreciated.
AUBREY: “I remember receiving a rating from a woman who praised my having knowledge and skills in the natural hair industry. She said that her experience in my salon was worth every penny and that customers would leave the salon feeling beautiful and liberated.”
ATHENA: “After going off on my own [as a salon owner], I realized one of my core skills was networking. I built relationships with clients as well as vendors, and even became a point of contact!
KANDACE: “When a client talks about how many compliments they get on their haircut—not just from strangers, but also family members who never like their hair— we know it means a lot to them. Reviews are always appreciated because they allow other clients to know what to expect.”
3. Recognize your niche (and invest in it!)
Each of these ladies saw that their skills were not only cherished but demanded! Pay close attention to the positive feedback you receive from clients and build on that. Your work will speak for itself!
AUBREY: “The riches are in the niches. I specialize in tight curls, which people generally experience as the hardest to properly cut and shape. I help clients understand how to take care of that hair texture and retain length.”
ATHENA: “I recognized my ability to meet a client where they are and plan their hair care for the future. My goal is to find a solution tailored specifically to their needs.”
KANDACE: “We are among a lot of great curl specialists in the Boston area so taking on a mindset of competitiveness doesn’t help us in the long run. It’s more about our level of transparency and vibe. An experience with us is focused on building a relationship in order to help curlies reach their goals. We work within their regimen and love to educate and provide additional nuggets of information to add to their arsenals.”
4. Maintain a healthy work-life balance
Prioritization and time management skills were the common denominators for all of these successful owners. When it comes to running a business, a work-life balance is a must. If not, the business can become overwhelming and consuming.
AUBREY: “You definitely have to be a goal-setter in the hair industry. In addition to styling clients [in the chair] 2–3 days per week, there’s behind-the-scenes work that I still have to do on other days to efficiently sell my digital products and run the business. I also dedicate specific days to my faith and spending time with family, so there needs to be a balance.”
ATHENA: “It’s not as much balance as it is being flexible. Be honest with yourself—it’s okay to admit you can’t serve 20 clients all in one day. Have a good time management schedule. Plan time for you to recharge—you can’t pour from an empty cup. Whether you go on a walk, read a book, or take a vacation, plan it in advance. Prioritization is key!
KANDACE: “I work in cycles. Time management is an area in which I am always looking to improve.
5. Do your research (including mentorships!)
From what these wonderful women shared, it seems that much of what you do as a salon business owner isn’t taught, but rather learned as you go.
AUBREY: “Before you decide to go on your own, crunch the numbers to learn how much you can afford. While you may be able to pay booth rent, it doesn’t mean you can financially handle more than that at the moment. Observe how current salon owners operate. Also, invest in a professional community of mentors. They offer support, ongoing education, and helpful perspectives.”
ATHENA: “Be honest and okay with not knowing something. Get around mentors—build that relationship and get information [from them]! Also, learn from businesses of other industries, such as restaurants and hotels. Consider things like their booking system, customer service, and cancellation policies. These are great ways to think outside the box.”
KANDACE: “Study every resource you have beforehand, including salon owners that you admire on YouTube and salon ideas on Instagram (you can put together Pinterest boards!). Research what a small business in your area needs, including a lawyer, an accountant, and taxes. See your business as a large, successful corporation, not a small hole in the wall. Last but not least, practice empathy and forgiveness along the way (because you will need those for later).”
We hope these tips were informative and inspiring! Unsure about a brick-and-mortar location? Take the next step in-salon ownership virtually! You can set up a professional website right here on CurleeMe and start booking clients in your area in no time.