Is it time to go studio? A look inside the reality of the salon studio trend.

We are so incredibly lucky to be hairstylists in 2015.  The economy is growing, social media provides endless marketing possibilities and the technology in haircare and tools has never been better.  One of my favorite industry changes has been the option of opening a salon studio suite.  Suites take the opportunity to be a business owner to a whole new level.  Some of us dream of being business owners but don't want a whole team to manage.  Some love renting a chair, but haven't found a team that they connect well with.  The answer: salon studio suites.  

I receive emails every month from stylists who are just starting off in their suites or those who are thinking about moving their business into a suite soon.  While this can seem like the holy grail of hairstylist dream jobs, I encourage you to enter with caution.  This leap of faith can either be the best decision you've ever made or your worst nightmare.  

The first thing to consider is the huge expense you are about to incur.  On top of the rent which ranges from $800 to over $3,000 monthly in some locations, You'll also need to factor in the added security deposit that many studios require which can be up to an additional $1,000.  You'll also need to purchase furnishings, retail and maybe even some hair color unless you are already fully stocked.  Nearly every studio renter will say the transition was smooth, but the reality is that it generally costs much more than you think it will just to get started.

Be sure you know exactly who you are as a stylist and what your branding is before you jump into a studio.  It is crucial that your decor, furnishings and marketing pieces are on point and consistent in order to be successful.  Invest in beautiful artwork, accessories and furnishings that enhance your brand to ensure that your clients are comfortable and can trust the business you've created.  

I tend to be frugal when it comes to business expenses, but in this case I say go big or go home.  If you have the option to pay more for a suite that is a bit larger or has a window with nice natural light, pay for the upgrade and work just a little harder to support it.  Eventually you won't even think about the additional expense and these little factors will make a difference to both your client and your own personal sanity.  Just the small perk of a window can mean a lot when you are standing in that room for 40 hours a week.

You'll also want to be prepared to loose up to 30% of your clientele when you move.  Some studio stylists don't loose much of their base at all, but you need to be prepared to loose the standard 30%.  This loss is possible anytime a stylist moves to a different salon, however the risk is increased when you go into a studio as not all clients will like that type of environment.  If you barely have enough clients to get by right now, don't jump into a studio now.  Instead, find your hustle and build your clientele and then make the leap when you are more stable and can afford to take a loss.  I strongly suggest having 2 months worth of income in your savings account before you move into a studio suite.

Even if you have a solid clientele base, be prepared to step up your marketing game.  If you haven't already done so, invest in a salon software system or app that will manage your appointments and do some basic marketing.  You'll also want to have an email marketing system in place.  Ramp up your referral program and improve your rewards program to increase your competitive edge.   Remember that even the best stylist on the planet looses 10%-30% of their clientele each year due to relocation, job changes and loss, scheduling conflicts or other challenges.  You need to always be working to stay above your losses.

Last but not least is the most obvious but most overlooked challenge; you are all alone.  For some stylists this is a gift and they thrive in this environment.  For others, they loose their passion and ultimately start to let their business fall off track.  If you know that you like the energy of a team or you need support as a stylist, a studio may not be for you, and that is okay!  You may find camaraderie in the other professionals within the studio which is an added bonus, but don't count on it just in case.  Be sure you keep up on your education and network with stylists in your area when you can.  This is a social business so don't let your networking connections fall to the wayside. 

The sky is the limit for stylists today!  Be sure you do your research before deciding if a commission salon, rental position or studio is right for you.  Once you've made your choice, reach for the stars and chase your dreams.  The possibilities are endless for those who are willing to hustle and make it happen.


Britt Seva