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Misunderstood: Busting the Millennial Myth

Fiona and Rory Tolunay
Fiona and Rory Tolunay | Photo by: Michael Ramos Photography

It’s time for you to shift your thinking about millennials. The millennial generation has endured more than its fair share of criticism, particularly in the workplace. But this blanket generalization of millennials is just that—a generalization. Millennials are taking the world by storm with big ideas they execute with passion and persistence. “Millennial” is just a box others are putting them in—a box they break out of every day.

Meet three millennial salon owners who are rocketing their businesses to record growth through innovation, creativity, and a lot of hard work.

Fiona and Rory Tolunay

Vanity Salon (two locations): Houston, Texas

The Success Story: Sister and brother owners Fiona and Rory Tolunay opened their second location in the Heights area of Houston in December 2016 with partner and creative director Alex Zuniga.

Partner and Creative Director Alex Zuniga, Rory Tolunay and Fiona Tolunay
Partner and Creative Director Alex Zuniga, Rory Tolunay and Fiona Tolunay | Source: Vanity Salon

At 1,800 square feet, the space is about half the size of their original Tanglewood location, but it’s proving to be a profit powerhouse.

In the first quarter of 2018, the Heights location saw a 42 percent increase over the first quarter of 2017 in service gross sales, and a 48 percent increase in product gross sales.

Numbers are up across the board, and the Tolunays feel the potential is still being tapped.

The location, in the heart of the trendy Heights, filled with boutiques and restaurants, has been a big factor in the fast growth, Fiona says.

“And going from more than 3,000 square feet in our other location to 1,800 square feet in the Heights was a challenge we were ready to meet.”

The Tolunays ramped up the retail area, setting up a special makeup space for customers to have a makeup experience in the salon.

How They Did it: Before they even found their new location, a growth plan was in place. Fiona was invited to participate in a special Goldman Sachs small business program where she was assigned to work on a growth plan.

“At that point, we were already working with a Territory Manager at Neill on a second location, so everything I did in the course was real-life work.”

With a business plan in place, location was the next important decision.

“Location is a huge factor,” Fiona says. “The Heights is a booming area and the demographic is the epitome of an Aveda client—yet there was no Aveda salon there before us! We estimated a missed opportunity of $700,000 per year in retail—it was almost a no-brainer to come to this area.”

One night while having dinner, the Tolunay family noticed a business had gone under at a premium corner space on the hottest street in town. They made a call immediately and snagged the coveted location.

“It drives a lot of walk-ins for us,” Fiona says. “We get a lot of people who don’t know what Vanity is and so they come in to see what we’re all about.” The Tolunays worked with their marketing firm to find a way to turn all those walk-ins—especially the ones buying retail—into clients.

“The front desk asks the walk-in if they’ve ever been in for a service before,” Fiona explains. “If not, they get a $20 off coupon for their first visit.”

The small break room at the new location is purposely designed to be very small, so stylists don’t congregate there. Instead, they can be found on the salon floor, offering casual consultations to walk-in guests. They may also be the ones to hand over the $20 off coupon and even pre-book the guest before they leave.

Now in the middle of a thriving community where sip-and-shops, parades, and festivals occur every month, Fiona says they’re always trying to stay ahead of trends in marketing.

Vanity Salon
Vanity Salon

“We have a younger staff at the Heights who are huge on social media,” she says. “They take photos of their clients to post and even go outside with products on occasion to take creative shots.”

Empowering her staff with the SalonBiz Stylist App has helped boost profit, too, Fiona says. “They’re really good about upselling services like the deep conditioning treatment because they see their numbers every day.”

Where They’re Going: The success of the Heights location has inspired more growth for the Tolunays. They added a new stylist at the end of their first year and currently have an apprentice going through their education program who will start in fall 2018.

“And when that apprentice is on the floor, we have someone else lined up to start training,” Fiona says. “We’re really focused on recruiting and training our own stylists.”

“We’re always evolving,” Fiona says. “Even with education, we sit down with the team at least once a month so it doesn’t get stagnant. We have a lot of competition, and we want people to come work for us. We coach them to hit their numbers and let them know the sky is the limit. There’s no ceiling on what they can earn with us.”

Jen Baudier

Bella Style Salon: Slidell, Louisiana

Jen Baudier, owner of Bella Style Salon in Slidell, LA

Jen Baudier, owner of Bella Style Salon in Slidell, LA | Source: Jen Baudier

The Success Story: Growth is the name of the game for Bella Style owner Jen Baudier. She has been in business for eight years and each year takes on a new challenge to better her business.

Two years ago, that challenge was buying real estate and moving her 900-square-foot salon to a 3,800-square-foot space she renovated in a historic part of town. She was only 31 years old when she accomplished the half million-dollar project.

“I wanted to be part of our community, so I decided to buy a building,” she says. “I had a mentor come in and coach me, and after she left, I was amped up. I knew it was now or never.

Bella Style Salon
Bella Style Salon

I was making money, but not living to my fullest potential—I needed to be challenged,” she adds. “Two years later we were in the building.”

Last year, she achieved 20 percent growth, earning her a place in the SALON TODAY 200. This year, she’s aiming for 30 percent. And so far, she’s on track to achieve it.

“Each stylist set their goal at 30 percent in services over what they did last year,” Baudier says.

How She Did It: Baudier says the secret to her success is easy: numbers.

“I’ve taught my staff early on that their chair is a business,” she says.

“They learn all about numbers and a P&L sheet. They know what the salon’s numbers need to be to turn the key, and we manage numbers every day.”

Pre-booking, retail, service sales—Bella Style stylists know them all and more. And with the help of the SalonBiz Stylist App, they look at those numbers every day as well as a future revenue report to figure out what they need to do to get to their goal.

“We’re very proactive,” Baudier says. “We do add-ons or sell more retail—we don’t wait until the end of the quarter.”

Baudier also makes sure the customer experience is second to none.

“Every guest, every time, should get the same great service,” she says. “I go to salons and spas in other areas to see how we can keep elevating our experience. Guests don’t understand technical hair stuff, but they are wowed by a beautiful space and special touches. That’s why we serve mimosas, have a coffee bar and elevate our language.”

“We want to be the Ritz-Carlton of Slidell.”

Baudier says she has always been driven and hungry to make a name for herself, and money in the process.

A few years ago, when she was offered a spot in the Goldman Sachs business program, she snatched it up, eager to learn more about how to grow her business.

“It provoked big-picture thinking,” she says. “There were 30 different business owners from all walks of life with the same issues. We all had to get to know the P&L, balance sheet, etc.”

Where She’s Going: In the new location, Baudier has been able to add services and team members. She’s also pulled herself out from behind the chair so she can work on the business, not in it. An added bonus? She no longer works Saturdays.

Her plans continue to evolve in the direction of growth.

“Once the chairs are filled, we’ll start doing split-shifting,” she says. “Through my research, I’ve also found we get guests because we’re a destination. People come from all over the area to come here.”

Because of these findings, Baudier thinks a second location in a neighboring community is a strong possibility.

“I want to position myself to be financially stronger before making that move,” she says. “But with our growth and our strong team, we’re on the right track. We work for our guests and do whatever it takes to make sure they are taken care of and happy.”

And in turn, guests are making Bella Style a success story.

Lauren Stell

Gloss Hair Studio: Houston, Texas

Lauren Stell

Lauren Stell, owner of Gloss Hair Studio in Houston, TX | Source: Lauren Stell

The Success Story: Lauren Stell had been working as a stylist for almost a decade when opportunity knocked.

“I couldn’t find a salon that was the work environment I wanted for myself,” she says. “A really great deal on a space became available, and my husband and I decided to open our own salon. So with the help of my parents, we went for it. My husband is a CPA, so he handles the business side of things, and I have the luxury of coming to work and doing what I love.”

Stell opened the doors of Gloss in 2012 and spent her first four and a half years trying every retail line imaginable.

“I was trying to find something we all loved, but it ended up being impossible to retail to clients,” she says. “It was overwhelming to have so many options, and we weren’t helping our guests find the right products to use at home.”

Enter Aveda. After turning away her Aveda rep, Victoria, several times, Stell finally sat down with her to hear what she had to say.

“Within 15 minutes, I realized I had been missing out,” Stell says. “Since becoming exclusively Aveda last year, everything has become easy and seamless.”

Product education and classes both in-salon and at the Institute have elevated Stell’s business and changed her retail dramatically.

She went from selling $0 retail per month to $2,000-$2,500 per month after a year of using Aveda.

“We only have four stylists right now, so I know that’s just scratching the surface,” she says.

How She Did It: Before taking on Aveda, Stell’s business was succeeding, but just barely. And she was also growing stagnant.

“I was just floundering and trying to make things work,” she says. “Nothing was keeping me excited, and I didn’t feel like there was anything at work worth leaving my baby at home for.”

Not only has becoming Aveda made her more accountable, Stell says it has also reignited a creative fire.

“I had lost my passion,” she says. “But now all the education, meetings and support from my Aveda rep has reinvigorated my love of hairdressing. I am accountable to my rep and it keeps me fresh. It’s easy to get stagnant, but now we’re growing.”

As one of only two salons in her area that provide Aveda, clients are finding Gloss without any marketing on Stell’s part.

Gloss Hair Studio Aveda Sign
Source: Gloss Hair Studio Facebook

“We are in a huge oil and gas area, so we have access to new client bases all the time,” Stell says. “Since becoming affiliated with Aveda, people call and book simply because they are looking for a brand they know and trust. In turn, all we have to do is provide what Aveda has taught us, and we have a new loyal client—it’s incredible!

“Another perk is the networking,” she says. “I feel like we can not only survive in this industry, but thrive with the help of all the talented people at Aveda and Neill.”

And getting her current staff on board with the change was not as difficult as Stell anticipated.

“The staff felt unfocused,” she says. “When I brought up Aveda, they were excited because they knew people wanted it. The only challenge was letting go of some of their personal favorites.”

Color was another hurdle that was quickly overcome. “Everyone loves the education and opportunities,” she says. “Educators come once a month to help formulate and answer questions,” she says. “The transition has been excellent.”

Stell herself never thought she could whole-heartedly embrace one line, but says Aveda has made it simple.

“The need to tap into other products just isn’t there anymore,” she says. “And who doesn’t want to streamline and condense ordering and inventory?”

The amount of money the salon has saved by using Aveda has left Stell room in her budget for other things, and the support has been priceless.

“We have had more education in the last year than we had the whole five years that Gloss has been open,” she says. “Before, we had four other color lines and many product lines. How many of those sent educators out for the day once a month? How many e-mailed and texted to check-in? How many genuinely had an interest in our salon’s well-being and growth? None.

“Because of Aveda and the resources from Neill, I can say with much excitement that 2018 is slated to be our most profitable year yet!”

Where She’s Going: Stell says the salon’s growth in the past year since taking on Aveda has been nothing short of amazing. And with two apprentices, she is anticipating even more growth in the coming years.

“Aveda is helping me create a solid apprenticeship program,” she says. “We have seven stations, so I want to get seven stylists on staff by the end of the year and then help build up their clientele.”

After getting a taste of Aveda education, Stell says she’d like to take her staff to events like Congress as well as continue to attend advanced education classes at the Institute.

“We’re just scratching the surface of what Aveda can offer,” she says. “I want to continue to strengthen our foundation, embody all things Aveda and keep growing in that direction.”

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