Survive and Thrive: How Neill and Aveda are Guiding Salons and Stylists Through the Shutdown
In mid-March, salons across the nation began to shutter their doors, along with the rest of the country. Social distancing turned into quarantining, and as the economy came to a grinding halt, small business owners began navigating loan applications and unemployment laws.
But for Aveda salon owners in the Neill network, there was a steady hand at the wheel to guide them through a messy process.
“After Hurricane Katrina, we created the Neill emergency readiness team that puts a plan together anytime there is a crisis,” says Cristen Walley, VP of sales and education for Neill.
“Edwin (Neill, president of Neill Corporation) gathered that team in early February, and a clear path of how to navigate the COVID-19 crisis was created,” she adds. “When you have a plan to refer back to, decision-making is easier. And we wanted to make sure our communication was consistent so we could walk shoulder to shoulder with our salon owners.”
Navigating Loans and Unemployment
Communication has been the key to keeping everyone on the same page through the tricky, ever-changing process of loan applications, furloughing employees and applying for unemployment.
“Every Tuesday at 9:00 a.m., we have a video conference call for our owners, Walley says. “We invite legal experts like HR attorneys and CPAs to answer questions live and provide a trustworthy resource on these issues.”
“We’re getting practical advice on how to navigate the situation,” Candice Hammit, co-owner of DV8 the Salon in Grapevine, Texas, says. “The laws and rules keep changing, and Neill is giving us accurate info, and it’s all becoming familiar because they are so consistent each week.”
Vivian Yeh, owner of two Josephine’s Salons and Spas locations in Houston, says, “The weekly conference call is really helpful in clearing up the confusion with the ever-changing SBA rules and regulations. The calls started with social distancing and sanitizing, then moved on to making the decision to close, and now are more focused on the loans available, and new laws in place.”
Along with The Salon People and Aveda, Neill has created a plan that walks owners through the closing of their salons, keeping staff engaged during the shutdown period and preparing the salon for a relaunch.
This resource guide includes everything from information on the Paycheck Protection Program to grant applications to details on selling products online (A-Commerce)—and much more.
Brandon Hensley, owner of five Tangerine Salons in the Dallas area, says he appreciates Neill’s proactive approach.
“All the support tools we need are available, and they’re giving us great tips on keeping our guests and team engaged,” he says.
Walley says Neill is also preparing salons for re-opening.
“There are new issues to consider, and salons need to be ready,” she says. “Some salons may have to adjust their hours or days open to accommodate the needs of their guests. Or they may need to designate a special area for at-risk guests.”
Neill has also anticipated another need—surgical masks. The company purchased 100,000 masks so owners can easily order when needed.
But according to Jamaica Williams, general manager at Ellie K Salon in Frisco, Texas, that’s not surprising.
“Before we even shutdown, we were receiving emails from Neill with resources to turn to if our business was affected,” she says. “They’ve consistently had the information to us before we needed it.”
A-Commerce and Social Media Flourish
One stream of revenue salons can count on during this crisis is their A-Commerce. And Aveda has made this online retail even more profitable by increasing salons’ commission rate from 20 percent to 40 percent through the end of June. And for consumers, shipping is free.
“I’m able to share that product commission with my stylists,” Yeh says. “And rather than do curbside pickup, I can direct clients to our site as a safer alternative—and they get free shipping.”
Aveda has also packaged social media and email marketing assets and tools to help owners promote their A-Commerce and let clients know their favorite products are still available.
“The social media package covers how to communicate with guests and maximize social media with our stylists and guests,” Hensley says.
“We’ve been doing massive email/social media campaigns. The A-Commerce has been a real positive for us.”
Free Online Learning
While many Americans are watching Netflix and doing puzzles, Aveda stylists are honing their skills with free education.
“We have a virtual education series hosted on our Neill Facebook page every day at 3:00 p.m. CST and another at @elevatehair on Instagram,” Walley says. “These are open to anyone and feature cuts, color and conversations with influencers.”
The Aveda North America Artistic Team is also doing live education every day at 2:00 p.m. CST and Vomor™ (extensions) is putting their free V-Learning out on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. CST.
And the icing on the cake: Learn Aveda is offering 60 days of complimentary education.
“Our team has been trying everything,” Hensley says. “This education is a massive resource.”
Hammit says she has two apprentices who were set to start taking clients April 1. Now, she has been able to direct them to specific classes (they have mannequins at home) to continue working on their skills.
“The ability to participate in the virtual education with global educators is amazing—these classes are not normally online.”
Williams says, “The education aspect has been nothing less than spectacular. My stylists are ignited in a whole new way because the access is just everywhere.”
The Salon & Spa Relief Fund
In addition to the support they’re already providing, Aveda is launching The Salon & Spa Relief Fund which will take donations and issue grants.
“They have plans for $1.5 million to be available to salons through this fund,” Walley says.
Currently, the support from Aveda and Neill has created a sense of calm and purpose among owners.
“The constant communication with us has been reassuring,” Hammit says. “On the last call, they let us know they were securing masks for us to order for when we re-open. There has been a lot of great information from top leadership.”
Hensley says his relationship with Neill has never been more important.
“We consider Neill part of our family,” he says. “Our two main contacts at Neill are also part of our team Facebook page, and they’ve been so encouraging of team members keeping up with education.”
Ellie K has only been part of the Neill and Aveda network for about a year, and Williams has been blown away by the level of attention the salon has received.
“In my time with Neill, it has been drilled into me that ‘people matter most,’” she says. “Neill Corporation has been integral in giving us the tools we need, as well as the trust necessary, to perform a new ‘business as usual’ in order to keep our guests and stylists engaged, keep revenue flowing, and to stand on unstable ground.”
Visit the COVID-19 Resource Page for owners for up-to-date information on loans, unemployment, online retail and more.
Author: Laurel Nelson