The Business of Hair:A Guest Blog by Tara Byrne

We are fortunate to be part of an industry that allows us to earn as much as we want! However, our earnings are directly related to the amount of effort we put in.  Many stylists complain they can’t earn a decent living doing hair.  It is common to see stylists change careers after only 5 years.

Delmar College is proud to be a Nuts and Bolts Member School, offering our students the keys to business success in the salon 

Back in 1993, I got into hairdressing as a ‘just in case’ kind of thing.  I was in the middle of a Bachelor of Commerce Degree and thought I should have something to ‘fall back on’.  I decided to go to hair school. How hard could it be?

Salon floor
The student salon floor at Delmar College

Well, it was extremely hard but I instantly fell in love!  Like most graduates, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to make a good living doing hair.  I was a single parent with a huge student loan and terrified.

I was fortunate to work in a salon with some very successful and busy stylists and I quickly realized what the secret to success was; EXTREMELY hard work, dedication and treating MY column like a business.  The owner was a very busy stylist herself and did not have the time to help ME  become a busy stylist.  I would have to do that myself.

I became an education junkie!

Just one of the many qualifications Tara has completed

I offered amazing service to my clients in hopes they would return.  However, I realized that was not enough to grow my clientele. I needed my clients to help me.  I began giving extra business cards to existing clients and asked them to refer their friends and colleagues.  In turn, I offered them a discount off their service once their referral came in.  That seemed to work but I still wasn’t growing as quickly as I wanted.

Referral cards are one way to build your business. Our students are expected to start this while working in the student salon and spa. That way they have already started building a clientele before they get out into the working world.

Retail was something I REALLY struggled with in the beginning.  I didn’t feel comfortable ‘pushing’ products on my clients. My salon had a product knowledge class and the educator said something that has stuck with me all these years;  ‘clients will trust you more if you TEACH  them HOW to care for their hair! ‘. That one simple statement changed my career. The very next day, I began EDUCATING my clients about the products and tools I was using.  I showed them how to style their hair and encouraged them to contact me if they had any questions.  I found my clients returning more often and noticed an increase in referrals.  New clients often said ‘no one has ever told me that before!’.

Retailing is the key to client retention and building strong relationships

Within less than 2 years, I had a strong enough clientele that I decided to move into chair rental.  I quickly learned that business is all about the numbers.  Making a profit is a simple math equation!  Revenue must exceed expenses.  I had to earn more and spend less to maximize my earnings. It wasn’t long before I was averaging $45/hr.  However, I still wasn’t booked as far in advanced as I wanted.  I knew stylists who were booked 6 months out and I wanted to be one of them. I attended a Salon Management seminar where the concept of pre-booking was discussed.  Such a simple concept…my career was transformed again.

The Nuts and Bolts program is aimed at educating beauty professionals on how to build a business, and maintain it.

In 2002, I packed up and moved to London, England.  Starting over was daunting but it didn’t take me long to build a clientele.  Soon I was one of the highest earners and retailers in the company!  After 9 years of working in the UK and being Head of Training and Development for a group of 6 salons, I headed back to Calgary to start over yet again. This time though, I wanted to give back and teach a new generation of stylists what it takes to be successful in our industry.

Kings College, United Kingdom

At Delmar College, in addition to our stellar technical curriculum, we have embraced the Nuts and Bolts training program. This allows us to teach the ‘business of hairdressing’ to ensure our students are prepared for the workforce. They learn all about educating their clients, how to deliver 5 Star Customer Service, building their business and resume writing/interviewing skills. It makes me incredibly proud when we have students who achieve a retail to service ratio of 78% and higher simply by applying what they have learned!

Work smarter, not harder

We have also created an in-house E3 (Embrace, Educate, Empower) program to deliver to our Apprenticeship Program to ensure they also have the skills necessary to be successful.

Tara giving a student a full size hair trolley, which she earned through being a top retailer

Of course you need strong technical skills but you must be business-minded.  Today’s stylist also has social media (particularly Instagram) to help grow their business.  The choice is yours, you can earn a little or a lot!


Tara Byrne is a licensed Hair Stylist and is our Director of Hair Design here at Delmar College

no gimmicks. just great education

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