Two Years, 200 Percent Growth, One Fearless Leader
Three years ago, Hope White was plugging along, making a living as a stylist and salon owner, when she had hit a plateau with no room for growth.
The salon she opened in 2011 was stagnating, and short of moving to a bigger location, there was nothing she could do about it.
“I was doing a lot of work behind the chair, but not working on my business,” White says. “I was bored, and my husband suggested I make a big change. So I enrolled in a business course to learn how to take the next steps.”
After completing the class, White was ready to take action. But first she had to find a bigger, better location for Salon Thirty-One. Without that, she couldn’t implement any of the other changes she had in mind.
“I could either stay where I was and eventually have the creative energy sucked out of me, or move and grow,” she says. “I decided to go for it.”
Be the Change
White’s new location in Spanish Fort, Alabama, is situated near a mall, next to a restaurant and a Best Buy. Parking is plentiful, and she and her husband were able to gut the space and get it ready to open in a couple short months.
“I also found qualified people and changed my hours to be open seven days a week,” she says. “I felt we were leaving money on the table by not having two shifts of workers. I wanted a 9am-3pm and 3pm-9pm shift so everyone can work 32 hours (3 days a week). Mondays we’re open 9am-6pm, Saturdays 8am-5pm and 12pm-5pm on Sundays. Our hours doubled from the old location.”
With the extra space, White was also able to boost her bottom line by adding services: skin care, a pedicure room, a waxing room and a service room for facials. She also has stylists who are certified to do lash extensions.
With six stylists and an assistant, White was on the path to growth.
But something wasn’t quite right.
Setting the Standard
As a graduate of an Aveda Institute, White was missing the service standards and retail education Aveda provides. She knew her business could be better, and she wanted to offer her clients a luxury experience—an experience that would set her apart from every other salon in her area.
After a year in the new location, she was ready to make another big change. White started selling off her current retail line—$30,000 worth of product—so she could start over with Aveda.
“I took a loss, but the gain was worth it,” she says.
However, losing retail profit was the least of her hurdles to overcome. She had a staff who loved their color line, and she had to convince them the change she was making was for the better.
“Some of them were literally crying,” White says. “Change is hard, but they trusted me not to lead them astray and now they love it.”
In the first year they switched over to Aveda, White says she had to “Avedatize” her staff as none of them had attended an Institute or ever worked for an Aveda salon.
“We don’t have salons with this level of service around here,” she says. “In our first year, I held classes every four weeks to teach them about rituals, retail, service standards, color, etc. I taught some of them and I also brought in outside Aveda educators.”
White continues to hold classes every six weeks and even has an educator on her staff.
“I can’t be here seven days a week, so I created ‘ritual sheets’ in my software that I can check daily to make sure every guest receives her requested rituals,” she says.
Another standard White had to revisit was her pricing. When she switched over to Aveda, her prices didn’t match the level of service and quality of care her guests were receiving.
“It took two years to get our prices where they should be,” White says. “I did it gradually, and implemented a four-percent service fee to help pad so we aren’t losing money.”
Now, stylists must hit benchmarks to achieve their next price increase, and White is looking for ways to maintain market share.
“My goal is to open a training facility with the same standards, but at a lower price range because they are stylists in training,” she says.
With 12 stylists, three junior stylists and two guest care team members, a training facility is realistic as White builds her team.
“The nearest Aveda Institute is three hours away, so it’s hard to get graduates,” she says. “But we are always seeking employees who align with our mission.”
While White found it necessary to hire quickly, she never lowered her standards and fires just as quickly if someone doesn’t meet them.
The Future Looks Bright
All of White’s efforts—from expansion into a new location to training her stylists in all things Aveda—have produced profitable results.
In 2015, her gross revenue was $235,000. In 2017, it was $701,000.
“That’s nearly 200 percent growth in two years, and we’re on pace for more,” she says.
“I expect a minimum of a 20 percent increase in growth next year, but wouldn’t be surprised if it’s higher.”
Much of this growth will come from new clients. White built her stylists’ clientele off her own referrals, but now she says the sky’s the limit.
“I work behind the chair three days a week now, so my staff are the ones bringing in new clients,” she says. “They have beautiful referral cards to hand out, and a luxury experience to offer.”
Currently, the salon is seeing almost 200 new guests a month, which White attributes to that luxury experience.
“My stylists are selling a lifestyle,” she says. “It’s like going to Nordstrom or a convenience store. One’s a necessity and one is a luxury.”
With a luxury experience comes high-end products, and White has had to adjust her team’s outlook to help them reach their retail goals.
“They felt nervous about selling a client a product that cost more than they would normally spend,” she says. “But I showed them how many shampoos you can get out of one bottle so they could see the value when the products are used correctly. Product knowledge classes have helped as well.”
White says her retail numbers are improving, and now up to $13.50 per service ticket, and growing.
Stylists are further incentivized with a pay increase. They can’t receive it until they make their benchmarks—including retail—three months in a row.
“I’m coaching them for consistency now so they have opportunities to grow individually,” White says.
White also continues to invest in her business to fuel growth.
She got rid of all the expensive custom-made shelving she used for her previous line because it didn’t fit the Aveda image. She hung Aveda imagery and even had a banner created for selfies in the salon, complete with a hashtag.
But her biggest investment was a new website with online booking.
“Guests can book cuts, waxing and blow outs,” she says. “These services have gone up by $800-$1,500 per month since adding the online booking.”
With an eye on the future, White continues to make plans for growth.
“We’re currently growing stylists from the inside, but next year I’d like to start recruiting from the Institutes,” she says.
“My goal is to expand and double in size by opening a training facility, so our assistants have a next step and our guests have another option with the same service standards.”