Take Your Salon to the Next Level with The Salon People Business Academy

Aveda Business Academy
Source: Aveda Flickr

A few years ago, Tom Petrillo, CEO of The Salon People realized the luxury salon market was under siege. “Really successful hairdressers were leaving the luxury salon world to move into the booth rental environment,” he says. “So, salons were ceasing to grow or even experiencing revenue decreases.”

Petrillo decided it was time to create a new salon model that would support service providers by giving them the resources to grow and a compensation model that would clearly show them the path to a six-figure income.

As he was contemplating how to structure a new operating model, he learned Van Council, owner of Van Michael Salons in Atlanta, Georgia, had put together the Van Michael Kit for owners who wanted to learn from his success. “Van’s model is perfect for the sustainability and growth of luxury salons. I knew it was an opportunity to align when I read his book,” Petrillo says, “but we had to make it scalable to a wide range of salons, starting with the $400,000 salon and going up to $2 million+.”

Around the same time, Whole Aveda Salon Spa Group founder Tim Belcher approached Petrillo with a plan to take his three-plus decades of experience as a salon owner and translate it into a consulting business.

Petrillo knew it was time to evolve in a big way, and The Salon People Business Academy was born.

With Virginia Meyer, Tim Belcher and The Salon People’s SVP of Finance Deanne Wilkins, Petrillo created a program designed to help owners of Aveda salons grow and outpace the industry standards.

“After a year, we’re already seeing double-digit growth happen in mature salons,” Petrillo says. “Our customers are coming through the Academy and going back to their salons with a plan that puts their stylists first and articulates a path of growth and prosperity that their teams all want and dream about.”

Tim Belcher
Tim Belcher, founder of Whole Aveda Salon Spa Group | Source:
Virginia Meyer
Virginia Meyer, co-founder and COO of redCHOCOLATE and Fourteenjay Salon | Source: Facebook

The Vision: Top-Tier Business Education

To create a curriculum for The Salon People Business Academy for Aveda salons, the Academy team also enlisted Virginia Meyer, co-founder and COO of redCHOCOLATE and Fourteenjay Salon, to help.

“We came from an awareness that many salons struggle with profitability and growth because they aren’t set up on a strong operational foundation from the start,” Meyer says.

To create structure for a solid foundation, the Academy team created nine content units to cover over five days:

  1. Financial Wellness
  2. Seamless Operations
  3. New Artist Technical Training
  4. Recruiting, Interviewing, HR
  5. Getting Busy
  6. The Performance Wheel
  7. Culture
  8. The Blueprint (a career path for growth and prosperity from New Artist to Mastery)
  9. The Power of 2 (gaining two more guests per stylist per week)


“To be set up on the right foundation, owners have to consider each of these elements,” Meyer says. “We have identified current best practices in each of these areas and translated them into a ‘how-to’ learning experience.”

Top Salons: Who Does it Best?

With the nine areas of concentration determined, the Academy team went on to organize the content by revenue level of salon, as what works operationally and what a salon can afford changes as a salon grows.

“Everything from staffing the front desk to establishing hours of operation is based on what you can afford to spend based on solid financials,” Meyer says. “If you don’t understand your financials, you can go upside down quickly.”

Determining universal truths in the content elements made them relevant to all salons, and also allowed for testing on real salons.

“We looked for the people creating the best results in each category,” Meyer says. “For the Performance Wheel, we looked at Van Michael Salons. What do they know, and how can we use it to help others do better? What do the experts do…that if others knew, they could do too?”

The Academy team collaborated with owner Van Council to create a how-to guide in service and in-demand pricing where stylists can increase their income more steadily. Council outlined the information, and then the team dug deep.

“We talked about how you take the outlined concepts and apply them as you grow,” Meyer says. “We also looked at different scenarios. What if you don’t have all the things Van has? How can you do what he does on a smaller scale?”

For each of the nine units, the team completed this exercise with top salons in the field. But it didn’t end there. “We continue to evolve the content as we coach people who’ve been through the Academy and are executing the concepts,” Meyer says.

The core group of teachers and the owners who are tapped to teach future classes are there because they know how to get results.

“There’s a distinction between ‘I love this and I want to teach it’ and ‘I am producing dynamic results around this and know how I did it,’” Meyer says. “We want our teachers to have behaviors that can be identified, duplicated and taught.”

Source: Aveda Flickr
Source: Aveda Flickr

How Owners Benefit

The details and systems owners walk away with after The Salon People Business Academy experience are second-to-none.

“They’re getting the nuts and bolts of operating a salon,” Belcher says. “Everything from benchmarks, pricing, task organization, marketing info, financial tools—it’s all covered.”

He adds, “For the new salon owner, this is an incredible opportunity. But for seasoned owners, there are so many bits and pieces that will improve or alter existing systems.”

Meyer adds, “To my knowledge, it’s the only content out there that has been organized by salon revenue level and takes into consideration what changes as a salon grows. ”

“There’s something you have not considered or seen before in every one of those nine segments, and some of it is radically new,” she says. “For example, having a leveled pricing system is not new. But having a system that considers how you need to be priced from entry level up that connects guest count, promotional criteria, a review system—we believe this is the first time anyone has thought about it like that.”

Belcher says, “Each recommendation we make, whether it’s about hours you should be open or hiring, is categorized by revenue level to address every size salon. We start at the $400,000 level and go up to $2 million+ because benchmarks change as your salon revenue increases.”

Michele Wilson, owner of Pure Aveda Salonspa in Mount Dora, Florida, has attended The Salon People Business Academy and will teach the Culture segment in the next session and join the Business Academy coaching team.

“The Salon People have absolutely outdone themselves with the launch of this groundbreaking Academy,” she says.

“As an Aveda salon owner for 30+ years, The Salon People Business Academy is the best investment I’ve ever made in business development education.”

“I’ve never felt more engaged, inspired, or empowered to fuel the successful growth and future of my organization.”

Wilson says the educators and tools allowed her to escalate her business results from adaption and implementation, all the way to sustainment.

“I got profit-building insights and solutions to enhance the culture, quality, and sustainability of my business.”

“The Academy is truly the gold standard of Aveda salon business excellence.”

Financial Wellness

The financial wellness of every business is SO important, but for many salon owners, this side of the business can feel intimidating. The Academy team’s goal was to change this feeling…to give owners the tools and knowledge they need to confidently manage the financial side of their business.

Salon owners are not generally accountants, so the Academy team was charged with developing financial tools that were both insightful and easy to use. Led by Deanne Wilkins, they developed tools that help owners quickly and easily assess where they are right now and help them plan for the future. They give owners the information needed to make decisions that lead to greater profitability.

“There is a financial implication associated with every concept we teach in the Academy,” Wilkins says. “We want to help owners look at the financial side of these concepts in a new way…to understand how much they can afford to spend…to take the fear and complexity out of the financials…to build confidence and success with their financials.”

The Take-Away: Putting Knowledge to Work

The Salon People Business Academy is broken into two segments, one in the spring and one in the fall. Both segments are two-day sessions, with a one-day add-on Financial Wellness Day.

For the full experience, owners should attend both the spring and late summer sessions to get the maximum benefit. The sessions can be attended in either order.

At the end of each day, owners will complete an action plan to guide them to what they will tackle first when they get back to the salon. They also receive all the content and tools on a flash drive to take home (soon to be online).

For owners who want extra accountability when they get back to the salon, optional coaching packages are available from Business Academy coaches.

“The packages can be whatever the owners want,” Belcher says. “We start with $150 per month, which provides an hour-long monthly coaching call and emails. We can also help guide tough conversations.”

Everyone needs someone to hold them accountable, and that’s what the Business Academy coaches do for owners with calls, texts and emails.

For more information, and to register for the next Salon People Business Academy, visit


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