Is Owning a Private Salon Suite Right For You?
Whether you’re renting a chair at the freshest barbershop on the block or working as an independent contractor at a chic boutique that accommodates A-list clientele, there’s always the same looming question—would owning and operating a salon suite be an even better fit? Private salon suites have been around for decades. They’re popular in the beauty and wellness industry, because professionals get the chance to run their own businesses without the upfront costs of buying property or the hassle of managing a staff. Many of the locations look just like fresh condominiums or soft lofts with a long list of trendy amenities, such as private rooms, modern equipment, and electronic security monitoring. And across the country, more industry experts on Booksy are choosing to own these private spaces. To all of the grooming experts, beauticians, colorists, nail techs, and wellness providers considering this route, here’s the ins and outs of this rising trend told from the perspective of two successful Booksy business owners, who both felt that it was time to step out on their own.
Tripling Her IncomeAlmost two years ago, 25-year-old Amanda Annoreno was styling hair as an independent contractor at a trendy salon on the Northwest Side of Chicago. Although she had loyal regulars and three to four walk-ins a week, things weren't working out for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Amanda just wanted to be able to control her finances, something she felt she deserved after six years in the industry. “I didn’t want to give any more of my hard earned money away that I was bringing in,” Amanda said.
“I realized what they were taking from us, and it was just unnecessary,” she said, adding that she learned information about overhead costs and how much money it takes to run a salon. And it wasn’t as much as her previous employer “made it out to be.” In April 2018, despite being “very scared,” Amanda said she took steps to open Loft 24 in Wicker Park. Inside her cozy space, where almost a dozen plants add life to the already warm room illuminated almost entirely by natural light—Amanda tripled her income that first year. Today, she can’t imagine being happier. “What could you not want? You have all of your freedom. You run your own books. I mean if you’re an independent contractor renting your own chair already, why not just eliminate the middleman and just do it yourself?” she said.
How to Become Your Own BossEven though it may seem like this process was almost too easy for Amanda, it actually took months of hard work and planning. A few of the things she did on her own and recommends to others who are thinking about owning their own salon suite include:
- Attend continuing education classes taught by industry professionals who also changed locations and worked at a salon suite
- Learn marketing strategies on promoting and advertising via Instagram
- Inform clients well in advance and move to a location that’s convenient for them
- Use the Booksy Biz app and its promotional tools to keep your client base
The Benefits of Eliminating the MiddlemanTripling her profits the first year was obviously huge for Amanda. But that wasn’t the only thing she gained from running her own salon. For Amanda, being her own boss meant feeling truly independent for the first time and being able to give her clients better, more private sessions. “My clients are a lot happier, she said. “A lot of my clients suffer from anxiety and different sensory issues. And so, I feel like it helps them to be in a space that’s just with one other person and being able to shut out the rest of the world, while they’re trying to focus on themselves.” Before joining Booksy and moving into her own private salon, Amanda had to deal with booking problems, because she wasn’t allowed to schedule her own appointments. Clients had to call and speak with a receptionist, which lead to double or triple bookings and limited break times. “You already know what to do, their hair—you’re doing it. You don’t need someone to hold stuff over your head, like when you can and can’t take a break. How about when I have a break it’s because I have a break in my day, and I’m going to have a break now. You know when you need to have a break, so you can pencil that stuff in yourself. And nobody can tell you no!” Amanda said.
Building a BrandJust a 15-minute drive from Amanda, tucked inside his own colorful shop, proudly stands 39-year-old Montez Washington—the owner of Montez Barber Studio. From his location in South Loop, Montez runs a space that he describes as a man cave but is so much more.
The pictures on his wall include a smiling image of Marvin Gaye, who he resembles in both complexion and soulful demeanor. And there’s also a framed poster that hangs high, just below the ceiling, which reads ‘Marvel’ in reference to the critically acclaimed superhero films. Montez spread his wings in April 2018, after spending six years at a barbershop in Naperville. Even though he still plays some of the same jazz songs and loves to recreate the familiar, family-oriented vibe where he was mentored, he doesn’t regret making a name for himself. “Being under someone else, you can only do so much. You have a limitation on what you can do because it’s not your location, it’s not your brand,” he said. “I felt that I was building my brand, and making my own noise for my own name—but I felt I couldn’t do certain things, because this person’s name is on the board.”
Advice from an ExpertNow that Montez has successfully opened his own shop, where he has created an environment that expresses his original brand of grooming services that people have been appreciating for years, his advice to anyone who wants to do the same is to strive for repeat business. Montez said private salon suite owners typically don’t get walk-ins from off the street, since people can’t always see them from outside. Because of that fact it’s even more important to offer quality over quantity and make sure clients keep coming back. Taking time to add subtle touches requires more effort, but it distinguishes his business from others, he said. For example, Montez schedules clients far enough apart, so they never see one another to make sure every guest feels special and not like just another guy on the list.
Another thing that he suggests is to give yourself a specific pay date and make sure to deposit loose cash into the bank, because too many dollar bills can lead to overspending. “It’s real easy to reach in your pocket—oh let me go to Burger King real quick. Before you know it you’ve been there about 20 times, and you’ve already spent your day’s earning, and you don’t have nothing to look forward to. At year two, this is still something that I’m learning,” he said.
Think FirstOn a final note, Montez said that if you’re thinking about running your own salon then it’s even more important to make a solid decision and decide if this is right for you. Because all of your efforts after opening your own business require self-motivation, he said. “The most important thing that I always go back to—you have to love doing this. And do not make this just a job, and if it becomes just a job then move on—then pass that torch to someone else. Don’t get out here and just sit behind a chair and just cut hair and not give anyone an experience, something to look forward to on a Friday at 5 p.m.,” he said.