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If you build it …….

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

If I knew I was going to master starting over, I would have made my next decisions with a different perspective. At that time, the people who I had known and grew to love in the city of Gardner encouraged me to take a chance and open my own business again. I was slightly haunted by my past, but logically I was indeed in a different place physically, mentally and spiritually. The thought of being either exploited by another employer or fired abruptly gave me the extra motivation I needed. My mentors reinforced my thinking with practical ideas that kept my ego in check and spirits high.

I found a location on a busy street that was owned by the proprietors of a tanning salon a few doors down. When they showed me the space, it wasn’t the best, but I had developed a talent in seeing the potential in things. The rental price was right, and I had enough cash saving to pay a month's rent and security deposit. After borrowing some money from some friends, I hit the Home Depot and began my renovations of the floor, walls and bathroom. I purchased some used chairs and equipment from Craigslist and went on what seemed like a journey to IKEA to get some stylish mirrors that would later be a talking point from most people coming to the shop.

I painted the walls with some artistic creativity to cover up some of the discrepancies with the interior that I couldn’t do myself. A friend from the program did the plumbing for my shampoo sink installation at a very low cost, and I was grateful. The electricity didn’t need any work and the heat was powered by oil, which the landlord would give me a bill for periodically.

I wasn’t in a position to invest in an official sign at the time, so I bought an a-frame sidewalk sign and advertised my haircut and color price out in front of the store. People asked me all the time how it was going and promised to come to my shop and give me business, which keep me hopeful and feeling like I was on the right path, but the weeks leading up to the 1st month rent were coming fast, and I worked hard to keep my display of despair at a minimum.

I went to the local library and used their computer to find log onto the internet and create a flyer, and then went to Staples to print out one hundred flyers which I would pass out and leave in car windshields wherever I went.

I don’t remember when my first day open was, and I never had a grand opening, the stakes were too high at the time to think of anything ceremonial.

The first day I opened I had 10 customers, a good showing, and I good sigh of relief. My second day was crickets, so I did some work around the shop to keep myself busy from overthinking my choices. I also went out and passed out flyers to pass the time.

As the days went by the business picked up, and by the end of the month I had made my rent, it helped that I was very conservative with my spending and saved every dollar in fear of not having enough to cover the rent.

I was relieved when that goal started to take shape. To me, building clientele was a math equation. (rate of hair growth/type of service/weeks in the month/average visitation rate) In the winter hair grows slower, and people wait for events to do big services. Shorter haircut clients will come two times a month during summer, and gray hair color clients one time a month. So by taking care of three clients a day for the first month of business would turn into at least five clients per day in sixty days, as long as the hours were convenient to their schedule.

This is why hairstylist and barbers get very upset when clients miss appointments, it’s more than one missed opportunity, it could be several. But I’ll go into business perspectives later. At this point, I was hoping that the formula still held true, and it was.

My shop had started to have demand in ninety days, and I was busy most days and booking in advance. I had three chairs in my shop, with space for four. I had no intention on becoming an employer, but now I know the universe decides what shall be.

A young lady came into my salon and asked if I was hiring, I told her I had space available and did she want to talk about working. She was young, attractive, with a great smile and laugh. She was married with a child and was trying to get back into doing hair full time. Not only that, but she had a presence that I felt would be a good vibe for the shop, so I asked her to do a model. Later, she did a cut, highlights and style on her mom, and she had a little trouble getting started, so I coached her a bit, but I knew I was going to give her the job. She also had some great ideas on how to get business for herself, like joining a book club to meet prospective clients.

I had never heard of that before, but it made sense. We instantly bonded and would have great conversations and worked together well. There were things she needed help with as far as skills, and I helped when I felt it was appropriate.

That’s how I did my hiring process. I’d chat with you, and if you could do hair, you were in.

If you needed help in areas, I would guide you. It’s what I had learned to do, and it always got me employees, so I saw no reason to change that process. Within a few months of that first young woman, I had hired 4 more stylist and had them rotating shifts. There was some quirkiness between the personalities, but I made sure that everyone was getting paid. Everyone seemed happy with the arrangement, but the space started to feel too small, it was time to expand.

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