Growth from the Ground Up
A mortgage broker and a doctor walk into an Aveda Institute. Why are they there? Do they need to buy products? What’s the punchline?
They’re there to hire stylists, of course. Chad and Edward Pereira, owners of Aura Salon in Jacksonville, Florida, aren’t your typical salon owners.
The brothers, who always knew they wanted to own a business together, weren’t sure what that business was going to be. Enter mom.
“My mom was a big Aveda fan, and one time while she was getting her hair cut, she overheard her stylist talking about how she wanted to open her own salon, but was lacking capital,” says Chad.
Chad met with the stylist, who had taken courses at the Aveda College, and she filled him in on Aveda’s points of difference and its eco-friendly mission.
The Pereira brothers decided they wanted to back her. But within six months, they figured out she wasn’t the best manager.
“In 2009, a year after we opened, we made an offer to buy her out, which she accepted,” says Chad. “I quit the mortgage industry and threw myself into the salon industry.”
Building a Powerhouse
Edward is a silent partner in the salon, and remains working in the medical profession. Chad; however, has fully immersed himself into the salon industry and Aveda culture.
“When we first started, I attended every single class at the Aveda Business College,” he says. “I’m a numbers guy, so it was a good fit. And I met other salon owners, and asked what they do to be successful.”
Chad’s hard work and a desire to learn has paid off in double-digit growth—since day one.
“We did $350,000 the first year and then 48 percent more the next year and kept growing and growing,” he says. “In 2010 we expanded to add more chairs plus spa and now we’re opening a second location.”
Chad credits Aveda as one of the biggest factors of his salon’s growth. Before he even opened, he made the decision to follow Aveda, Neill Corporation and The Salon People’s guidelines for success and hasn’t looked back.
“I went into business not just by myself, but also with Aveda, The Salon People and Neill Corporation,” he says.
“I had no idea what I was doing, so I took whatever Neill Corporation and The Salon People told me and executed it,” he says. “They know what works, and at the beginning, I didn’t. They told me who to contact to get a website and what was successful for other salons. The SDPs were very helpful in getting me through the buying of the company, and learning more about Aveda,” he adds.
With a strong team behind him, Chad never felt alone in his journey to open and build a prosperous business. He also loves the continuity of owning an Aveda salon and what it offers customers across the country.
“You get the same look and feel here as you would at an Aveda salon in New Jersey,” he says. “But I only make money when someone else does good work. Aveda might bring them into the salon, but I have to have people who are competent and believe in the company.”
Since day one, Chad has offered his employees benefits like health insurance, paid vacation and education, even though it didn’t always boost his bottom line.
“It took us a little longer to be profitable, but you can’t find a better job in Jacksonville in the salon industry than here,” he says.
Aura recruits stylists primarily from the Aveda Institute, The Salon People and Neill Corporation helped him find four great people when he opened to help him get off the ground. Now, he has a hiring process firmly in place that includes interviews with team members and a day of shadowing.
“On the day they shadow, the team can tell if the candidate wasn’t attentive or if he or she did extra work even though they weren’t asked,” says Chad. “They let me know if they get a good vibe.”
Over the years, Chad has learned more about stylists, their personalities and what makes a good leader in the salon. Now, he has a stylist who he promoted to manager due to her logical side and urgency to get things done.
“One of the things I’ve had struggles with as an owner is falling into the trap of fear,” says Chad. “I had a fear of disciplining someone because they might leave,” he adds.
“But my new manager has no problem talking to people, and the salon has turned up the growth mode because of her.”
While Chad struggled with holding staff members accountable at times, his new manager is confident holding them accountable for everything and won’t hesitate to send them home to change if they aren’t dressed properly or for any other infraction.
But she does it in a way that’s non-offensive, so the salon thrives.
“She doesn’t hold back and it has been wonderful,” says Chad. “It’s your culture and you can’t rule out of fear.”
Chad has also started working with his front desk manager to create a policy manual for the entire leadership team.
“Now if a shampoo bowl breaks, they don’t have to call me. They just consult the manual to see who to call,” he says.
Currently, the salon has 20 stylists, four assistants, one spa therapist, three front desk staff, one front desk manager, one manager and a part-time HR person.
Chad plans to make his manager a general manager over both locations when his second salon opens.
A New Adventure
A second location wasn’t on Chad’s radar when Neill Corporation and The Salon People approached him about an opportunity in the Town Center, Jacksonville’s most popular shopping area.
The second location also allows Chad to give his stylists even more opportunities for growth, something he is passionate about.
Currently, he offers career paths in a variety of ways, one being education.
“We hire two or three new stylists every year who assist and go through our program,” he says. “A few of our stylists teach in this program, which gives them the experience they need if they eventually want to become an Aveda instructor or work for The Salon People and Neill Corporation.”
Aura stylists are a happy bunch—they have benefits, a career path and a beautiful salon that Chad keeps in pristine condition.
“There’s no better deal anywhere else,” he says. “And I treat people with respect and try to figure out how to reward them.”
One of his concepts is the “Elite Group,” a name chosen by his stylists.
“This group is for my stylists doing the best retailing, the most services, making it to meetings, getting involved in the salon, etc.”
Next year, Chad has decided to establish even stricter criteria and reward them.
“They’ll have to have a certain amount in sales, come to every meeting, every event, help younger stylists on floor, etc. We’ll meet once a quarter when I take them to dinner. At that time, I get their input on what we’re doing. I’ll show them the budget, let them know what our options are and ask them how they want to spend it,” he says.
The reward for the stylists’ hard work and dedication? An all-expenses-paid trip to Aveda Congress.
Chad says people look at him now and say, “Wow, you’ve got it good owning such a successful business.”
But they’re only seeing the fruits of his labor, he maintains. “It’s a lot harder than it looks—that first year was tough,” he says.
With a second location opening, a strong staff and culture, and happy clients, Chad makes it look effortless—especially for a guy from the mortgage industry.
Aura’s Growth Stats
Q: What was your percentage of growth over the last three to five years, per year?
A: 2015: about 9% growth rate; 2014: 12%; 2013: 18%; 2012: 22%
Q: What are your top three new-client drivers?
A: We have two. First, we market ourselves as Aveda—we get a lot of calls from people looking for Aveda. Second, we focus a lot on getting referrals with the referral cards we fill out and give to guests.
Q: What are your top three staff-retention tips?
A: Benefits, education (we offer outside education in addition to our in-house program), and finally, making sure the salon is a nice place to visit/work. We keep it clean, and if something needs fixed it gets fixed. Our stylists take pride in the place they work and love it when we get something new like lighting or flooring.
Q: What is your advice to help salons continue to grow?
A: Invest in your people. If you don’t have an education program, get one. Make opportunities for people (teaching, be a mentor). People need more than just coming in and doing hair every day. It will come back to you tenfold.
Q: What is your advice to help salons continue to engage their staff?
A: People get engaged when they feel there’s growth. I’ve talked about growth since I first started business and seven years later I’m opening a second location. If you make opportunities for people, they will be engaged. Tap into their creativity—put on a fashion show, do a photo shoot and share the images in your salon. You can be too far on the business side or too far creative. You want to have a balance.