2 Salons. 5 years.100% Dedication
When Kate Moeves graduated high school, she went straight to college to become a pharmacist—just like her dad. But she was unhappy in her studies and realized her career choice was not going to be a good fit.
“I just wanted to make people feel good,” she says. And she knew just the place to go where she could build a career in making clients happy—beauty school. More specifically, Moeves wanted to attend the Aveda Institute in Cincinnati. However, there was a one-and-a-half year waiting list to get in.
Undeterred, Moeves put her name on the list and switched her college courses from pharmacy to business. She knew she wanted to be an owner someday, and that business courses would come in handy.
What she didn’t know was how soon her dream of owning a salon would come true.
A Woman with a Plan
When Moeves finally entered the Aveda Institute, she was the oldest in her class at age 21. She worked hard, graduated and made the decision to pursue a salon catering to a male clientele so she could hone her men’s cutting skills.
“I felt like I needed more experience in men’s styles after school,” she says. “So I worked for a men’s salon for three years until they closed down.”
The salon closing propelled Moeves into ownership sooner than she thought.
“I had been working for three years and doing well for a 23/24-year-old,” she says. “I was saving all my money to someday open a shop, and that day came quickly.”
She began looking for a building for her own business and in the interim, approached her previous salon’s biggest competitor. “I was very up front and told the owner I needed a spot to land for about nine months,” she says.
“I went to work for those two salons strictly to gain a male clientele. And I got really good at cutting men’s hair.”
Once she had armed herself with a strong male clientele, Moeves knew she wanted her business to be an Aveda Concept Salon.
“I couldn’t wait to get back to working with Aveda products and color,” she says.
The next step was finding space, which proved to be a major undertaking.
“I got a loan and bought a run-down building that I completely renovated,” she says. “My parents helped me with the demo and I lived in the apartment above the building so I wouldn’t have to pay rent,” she says.
Moeves saw something special in the 110-year-old building on a historic avenue of Bellevue, Kentucky (just outside of Cincinnati), and thought it was worth the effort of renovating.
“I knew the area was starting to turn around and wanted to jump in early,” she says.
So at age 25, Moeves opened 501 Salon & Spa.
Blood, Sweat and Tears
Sometimes, ignorance truly is bliss. Moeves confesses she had no idea what she had bitten off and what challenges she would face as a new owner—and she says that was a good thing.
“I just worked in the business and on the business 24/7,” she says. “I didn’t do a ton of marketing at first, but I managed to get voted best new store in the tri-state area in a local publication in 2011, right after I opened,” she says.
Hiring was tough at first because the salon had not built up a reputation yet.
“Nobody knew about me,” Moeves says. “I did a lot of interviews that wasted my time. But I maintained a good relationship with schools and my SDP, and started hiring.”
Moeves herself brought in a large male clientele, which she knew would fill the initial void.
“With an Aveda salon, I knew the women would come, and I hired stylists who had a women’s clientele or even no clientele at all,” she says. “And when women started coming in, they noticed how many male clients were in the salon, so they sent their husbands. We’re now about 40 percent men.”
With no marketing budget to speak of, Moeves had to rely on her own savvy to continue to build her clientele. She created a Facebook page and got herself out into the community, which, as she predicted, was the perfect spot.
“We have about five salons on the same street, but we’re the nicest in the area,” she says. “We’re competitively priced and people see a lot of value in what we offer.”
While there are multiple other Aveda salons in the area, Moeves says they’re each in their own distinct neighborhood.
A New Venture
Scoping out neighborhoods has become a passion for Moeves, who loves renovating and helping turn communities around—she even married her contractor and the two flip houses as a side business.
Recently, she found a building in an area just a few miles away from 501 that she couldn’t resist.
“There’s so much growth in this area, that I knew someone would put a really nice salon there. I thought, ‘why not me?,’” she says.
“I originally had another location in mind about 20 miles away, but decided to keep it closer.”
In July, she will open Industry, a sister salon to 501. “It’s another rundown building in an up-and-coming area,” she says. “We have a ton of sweat equity in these buildings but I love designing and decorating.”
The salon, which is in Newport, Kentucky, will have a younger, funkier vibe to fit the new neighborhood.
“I wanted this salon to be more of a spin off of 501,” she says. “We called it Industry, because it’s in more of an industrial area with a younger demographic. It’s a little funkier with no spa and a different service menu.”
Moeves has tied the two salons’ websites together, but she is focused on a fresh crowd.
“If the salon were 15 miles away, I’d definitely make it another just like 501, but I’m fishing in the same pond, so it needed to be different,” she says.
Getting the new business up and running has proven easier the second time around. Moeves has learned a lot and is using her knowledge for a smoother opening.
She honed in specifically on the front desk. “They are a completely trained team,” she says. “Last time we didn’t know how to book appointments or use our software system. Now I have a manager who assists and have doubled up to get my front desk team trained—I want a seamless open.”
She also has two stylists from 501 who are going to Industry and will help train and onboard new staff.
“When I turned the lights on the first time at 501, it was my mom working the front desk, and me cutting hair,” she says. “Now I have all systems and policies in place so we can follow what has worked.”
Moeves says her initial plunge into salon ownership worked for one reason—she was willing to make it her life.
“People don’t know how much goes into it—I didn’t know,” she says. “I feel like I literally eat, breathe and drink this place. I had no idea the sacrifice I would have to make in the short term. Unless you’re willing to make it your life for however many years it takes, don’t do it.”
She also advises working with someone you trust with your money to balance books and help with accounting—in her case, it was her mom.
“My mom has been my eyes and ears when it comes to balancing books, and making sure permits and taxes are paid, while I’ve been behind the chair,” she says. “Now I’m getting down to two days a week and have more freedom to work on the business and mentor/teach.”
If your dream is to own, Moeves also recommends saving money and setting goals.
“Write down six-month and five-year goals and hold yourself accountable,” she says. “Don’t give up when it gets scary—that’s when you’re about to succeed. How you deal with hard times is what will propel you forward to the good stuff, but you must be willing to make it your life.”
Moeves herself already has dreams of a third salon, but she’ll renovate the original business first.
“I’ll expand the spa, eventually tripling its size, before I open a third location,” she says.
“I love creating jobs and opportunities to help my community out. It feels good to create a space for people to come and get an awesome service, too.”