So, you are thinking of starting up your own business. You ask yourself: Where do I start? What is involved? Will my clients come? What will it be like being a boss? Can I afford it?
These are common questions/concerns that people ask themselves when considering to make the plunge. However, many people do not conduct the research necessary (or thoroughly enough) prior to opening. Sadly, ownership does not mean ‘IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME’.
Many professionals believe they can open their own salon/spa simply because they are talented and have a strong clientele-base. It is this thought process that is the death of MANY salons/spas.
First things first; you need to make sure you have enough money saved that you can pay ALL personal bills/expenses for AT LEAST 6 months! Realistically, you should not take a wage during the first 6 months (to a year) as that money should go back into your business. In addition, when you do start to draw a wage, make sure it is only what your business can afford. Your salary should NEVER put your business into the red or more into the red! Also, remember not all of your clients will follow you (estimate losing about 50%) and the stylists/estheticians you hire may or may not bring clients with them.
Be sure to create a BUSINESS PLAN! Again, many professionals fail to do this. Being clear, concise, thorough in your Business Plan will make everything go much smoother! https://www.google.ca/amp/s/articles.bplans.com/how-to-write-a-business-plan/amp/
Find a suitable location that you can AFFORD. Make sure the space is an appropriate size….don’t let your ‘eyes be bigger than your stomach’!
Budgets should be created on the lower end of revenue intake. This accounts for the ‘quiet times’ and allows you to still pay your bills when revenue is low. https://www.fundera.com/blog/how-to-create-a-business-budget
COMMON EXPENSES (include but not limited to):
- Loan payments (you will probably need to take out a start-up loan in order to purchase everything necessary to open)
- Business license
- Equipment maintenance
- Building maintenance (inside and out)
- Advertising (this includes but not limited to business cards, brochures, social media, google)
- Internet and wifi
- Bookkeeper/Accountant or Accounting software so you can do it yourself. https://www.bdc.ca/en/articles-tools/technology/free-low-cost-applications/pages/accounting-software-free-low-cost-options.aspx
- POS system Banking fees (including debit and credit card fees per transaction)
- Banking fees (including debit and credit card fees per transaction)
- Utilities (heat, gas, electric, water)
- Recycling: Green Circle: https://greencirclesalons.com
- Salon/Spa software https://www.saloniris.com/package-comparison/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwk8b7BRCaARIsAARRTL7kb6L_QENwHUKShLwRLjKG3H2SyyoY3flIu-nh48-qLkrIh8HJqwoaAtxaEALw_wcB. https://sales.vagaro.com/salon-software?utm_campaign=salon&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=SoftwareAdvice
- Intermittent expenses such as Staff training/education, Staff parties (Christmas), purchasing new equipment, renovations
Insurance that covers:
Business, liability, content, employee theft, building, cyber-security.
As individuals and business owners, we rely heavily on the cyber world! As such, it is important for business owners to be aware of Ransomware. https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-malware-ransomware-5-dos-and-donts.html
Payroll (largest expense)
Will you do payroll yourself (using payroll software) or use a payroll company? These expenses must be worked into your budget as well. https://www.knitpeople.com/guides/best-payroll-software-canada
Minimum wage is $15/hr ($600 per week per employee based on a 40 hr week). You must remember that even on commission, if employees don’t meet minimum wage with commission, you still have to pay minimum wage. Therefore, it would be commission or minimum wage whichever is higher. As such, you need to carefully consider what commission level you can afford to pay. For example, if you choose 50% commission, 50% of your service revenue will automatically go to paying your service providers. Then you have your wage-based staff like apprentices and receptionists to pay. Once payroll is done, you may have approximately 40% of your revenue left to pay EVERYTHING else (including rent/mortgage).
Source/Payroll deductions ( this is an expense most people do not consider):
All businesses are required to pay income tax, EI and CPP for each employee (in addition to what is deducted from their wages).
Health Benefits (if offering them): remember that generally employers pay half of the total benefit cost.
Retail: research what will sell and know your price points. Inventory is a huge expense and if it just sits on the shelf, it is draining your business. Often, the first instinct is to offer numerous product lines. However, unless retail is your focus, it is better to offer 3 or less. If you choose to be a dedicated salon (offering one line only), it is imperative you AND your staff are dedicated to promoting that line.
Backbar/Dispensary: all products used need to be calculated into prices.
Product wastage is often a HUGE expense for salon/spa owners. This includes shampoo, conditioners, treatments, masks, wax used in excess, color/ lightener thrown away as too much was mixed. Often, staff do not take care when mixing as they don’t pay the bills.
Everything discussed here is just the tip of the iceberg! Once open, you have to MANAGE PEOPLE (staff and clients). This can be very challenging and time-consuming. As such, you may want to take some management courses. You will have GREAT team members and team members who require coaching from time to time. You need to be able to balance all aspects and still lead and inspire your team.
I decided to reach out to a graduate of our 1400 hr Hairstyling program who recently opened her own Salon to get some insight into her journey! ISHU PAHWA owner of LAZRIEL SALON.
What path did you take to become a salon owner and how long did it take?
I was brought up in a traditional business family; you go to a good school, get good grades, have a degree in business and start helping with the family business. I owned a well-established, custom-made clothing store in India. I was the owner and fashion designer. After getting married to my husband who was in Canada, life had other plans for me. I shutdown my business, left India to start a brand new life in a different country.
Once I was here, I wanted to do something creative of my own. Having a fashion background, I always loved making women feel beautiful, confident and better about themselves. In addition, I always had a knack for styling my hair. So, to fuel my passion and vision, I chose hairstyling as my new profession. Hairstyling is an art form and creativity is a big part of the process. The excitement you have for your hair can be a source of motivation.
After being accepted to DELMAR, I knew my life was on the right path. I was blessed with a family who always supported my vision of owning a salon from the day I started studying. After completing school and my apprenticeship, I achieved my Red Seal license. My vision was still the same; salon ownership. My husband and I started looking for an existing salon and after a long search, fell in love with LAZRIEL Salon. I spent about 7 months going to banks, lawyers, business planners, distributers, etc prior to finally owning the salon. I remember the day before possession, I started taking an Advanced Hair and Makeup class at 10:30 pm to further my knowledge and skills before going in to my own salon.
I felt ready to take on this roller coaster ride.
What are the benefits of being an employee VS owner?
I believe if you’re an employee, you enjoy the benefit of doing your ‘9-5’ job and keeping clients happy. As an employee, you do not need to worry about the business aspects, you generally will have an idea of what your paycheck will be and can budget accordingly. You do not need to worry about ALL of the expenses and you get paid holidays. As an owner, you do enjoy the perks of being your own boss with having the flexibility of decision-making. Looking at the bigger picture, an owner is responsible for EVERYTHING; finances, payroll, expenses, management, advertising, client complaints, staff disputes plus much more! Salon owners have more difficulty with both business and personal budgeting demands due to variable expenses and fluctuating revenue.
As the owner of the business, you should be pouring all savings into ongoing investments to generate the earnings to keep business running.
Prior to the ownership what were your expectations? Does reality meet expectation?
One doesn’t think of the actual situation until its really happening! Of course, I thought that (after previously owning a business) life will be all roses; I would have a flexible schedule, it would be easy to balance my professional and personal life but little did I know, it is quite the opposite! It is not just about ownership but about strengthening relationships with employees and clients. It has taught me how to get through challenges when I thought I have no energy to give. It’s been 10 months now and I still work 10 to 11 hour days. However, despite all the hard work, this decision would count as one of the best decisions of my life! At the end of the day, this satisfied feeling I get every day is what makes it all worth it. As they say, “Rome was not built in a day”, so working hard each day is building my empire for tomorrow! I’ve learnt one thing; life is not here to give you what you expect. You have to work hard and earn it for yourself. “Hard work and sacrifice today will reap fruitful rewards tomorrow.”
What are the biggest challenges in salon ownership?
Every day is a challenge and the fun part of facing them is learning from them and coming out stronger and better. These challenges make life interesting and add to your experience. The biggest challenges that I have faced up until now are:
* Juggling multiple roles: I am a salon owner and work behind the chair. I am the HR manager and the payroll manager. I am a part-time receptionist and Marketing Director. These are just some of the never-ending roles that I get to play. Encompassing all of these roles is not easy as every role brings a different challenge with it.
*Maintaining income stability: It is a universal truth that every business has their busy and slow months. However, stability really depends on the business owner’s perspective of how to turn the slower periods into productive ones. I chose those months to come up with better marketing strategies for retail and acquiring new clients.
I also invest in educational programs for myself and my staff so that we are keeping our skills sharp and up-to-date because I believe my staff are the most precious asset of my business.
What are the biggest rewards in salon ownership?
Nothing beats the satisfaction of being your own boss and you get to make all of the decisions yourself. You get to choose the vibe of your salon, you get to build your own staff, you get to decide what type of clientele the salon will cater to. You have full power to decide what prices will be charged and what services and products will be provided. All of the money, effort, time and energy that you put into the business is reciprocated by an incredibly great feeling which is very rewarding and that is the beauty of owning a salon.
Discuss the many expenses you have?
There are endless expenses that one should be ready for! It starts with small supplies for the office and goes as high as rent and payroll. A FEW of my expenses are:
*Bank & Debit terminal
*Debt re-payment toward the purchase of the salon
*There are many more expenses….
Do you work behind the chair as well? If so, what are the challenges?
Yes, I do work behind the chair. However, due to the other multiple roles that I have to play, I am limited in my hours behind the chair. The challenge is to accept the roles as they come. My business demands a great deal of attention from me and I want to put my heart and soul towards growing it as these are the steps to setup a strong foundation.
How has COVID affected your business?
Wooooooow, this was a HUGE obstacle I faced!!! I only owned the salon for three months before COVID-19 hit and the whole economy suffered! Just like any other business, we were shut down due to public health restrictions. I count myself fortunate that we had some government support. The best thing that we could do was to look forward, remain calm and stay positive. We continued to stay in touch with our clients via e-mails, social media, and phone calls and provided custom color kits and products for curbside pick-up. It was yet another level of learning when we re-opened as things were not the same as they were before.
* Training myself and staff according to the new normal so that my staff and clients could feel comfortable walking in.
* Additional expenses have been incurred for sanitizing, disinfecting supplies and additional PPE. This was difficult as cash flow was already enormously affected.
* Having to wear a mask all the time which is still not comfortable to work with all day.
*Social Distancing is another factor that greatly affects my business as it limits the number of services/clients we book and clients are allowed through appointment-only.
Fortunately, I remain positive and I have a set of goals which helps me to thrive every single day no matter what lies ahead.
What sort of advertising do you do for your business?
Today is the era of digital media and that is why we rely on social media as a huge part of our marketing strategy. At LAZRIEL, we believe that our work speaks for itself.
If you had to start over again, with the knowledge you have now, what would you do differently?
As I started from scratch, I had no idea how this was going to happen but learning from my experiences, if I had to start all over again, my mantra would be:
*Mistakes are inescapable: I have made a lot of them! However, learning from them allows me to face them more strongly and learn with an open mind and heart.
* Create balance in your personal and work life: I was too hard on myself initially to get to where I wanted to be and compromised my personal life. But now, when I walk through the salon door, I leave my personal life at the door and I apply the same idea by not bringing work home.
*Proactive decision making: You never know what surprises you’ll get at any minute in your business! I have learned to understand how things work, recognize daily routines and practices that exist in business. Setting priorities and developing foresight is really important in order to face anything that comes your way.
*Pat yourself on the back: Stepping outside of my comfort zone was not at all easy when I started. Now when I look back, I realize how far I have come and I’m proud of making this amazing decision of my life! I’m making people happy and confident about themselves and am making unbreakable bonds every day. I realize how blessed I truly am.
We are proud of all of our graduates who have taken the plunge and embarked on salon/barbershop/spa ownership! We continue to wish them all the success they deserve! Hard work pays off!