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The Salon Business

A Salon-Preneur’s Journey: Keeping Your Chin Up Amidst a Salon Shut Down
By Lisa McAuliffe, Product Club Educator

I once heard that hair professionals are statistically among the happiest of all professionals and I absolutely believe it. We get to connect with people, create beautiful art, make our clients happy, and achieve financial success. Why wouldn’t we be happy? So what happens when all of that gets unexpectedly taken away from you?

2020 was a year of extreme adversity. We have been mentally, emotionally and financially challenged. What do you do when you are in a leadership role and you have to be strong for your team? YOU BUCK UP. Don’t get me wrong, I have been scared, sad, and mad. I have shed many tears. But at the end of the day it is my job to lead. It is my job to create a future for me, my team and our beautiful family of patrons at my salon. The most important lesson I have learned in 2020 is that self-care is number one. Remember the first thing they tell you on a flight, “In case of emergency, apply an oxygen mask first to yourself before you help others.” So come on — breathe with me.

I will be completely honest in admitting that the first thing I did in March was overindulge. Chips, chocolate and wine. LOTS OF WINE! And then I woke up one morning and said to myself, “Okay, this situation is going to be here for a while and I cannot go on like this.” Just like that - the party was over. I sat down and literally wrote out my game plan. I asked myself what I missed from my happy “pre-shut down” life and what my new life would need to succeed. Following are a few items off my recipe for survival list.



First and foremost, I fed my body. I began to plan my meals. No more junk food. No more excessive amounts of alcohol. Don’t get me wrong, many of us needed a vice to get through those hard times, but I had to put a cap on my indulgences if I wanted to weather the storm with endurance. Just like many of you, I was on a strict budget. This was the first time ever I had to live on social assistance. Planning meals allowed me to accurately allocate a portion of my budget to food. I love a good challenge and here I was trying to master the art of buying the most nutritious ingredients on a very strict budget. No more room for junk food — problem solved! The other way I fed my body was to ensure that I exercised. This had a cyclical effect. Although it was incredibly hard in the beginning to find the motivation because I was admittedly experiencing some level of depression that was undeniable. But once I got around to that first workout, I could feel the release of dopamine and serotonin. (I highly recommend the Peloton® App! It offers amazing workouts for a very inexpensive monthly fee.) I found myself waking up and looking forward to my anticipated work out. Soon enough I could feel the depression subside and I was on the road to a lighter heart.



Second, I fed my brain. The first task I faced was developing a survival plan for my business. How much was this shut down going to cost? How long would it take to pay back? In the end, the shutdown cost me three months of rent and expenses. I was determined to make it through. I created a strict personal budget that included only the necessities of life and determined how much I needed to pay myself once we reopened to cover it all.

If there was something I was beginning to recognize — it was the true simple pleasures of life. Did I really need a monthly gym membership? Weekly manicures? Expensive dinners out? No!! These situations also presented a continued risk of exposure, but the reality was that all I wanted was a picnic in a park with a good friend, drinks on the rooftop patio of the salon with my stylists, a visit from my mom and dad, and long evening walks with my beloved Boston Terrier, Lenny. Cutting out the luxuries was not hard.



Once my budget was complete I was able to determine a plan to get my salon back on track. Although sanitization and disinfection were now of great importance, I had to strategize how to maximize profit while limiting the amount of staff and clients in the salon, while adhering to social distance guidelines and requirements. A thorough cleaning of the salon would be necessary as would ensuring that each station was visibly set up with hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and Barbicide® containers and spray bottles for our tools. I wanted all my clients to see the measures we were taking so that they would feel safe. Later on, client feedback would prove that this was in fact successful. I was fortunate that I had enough square footage in the salon to effectively distance each stylist’s station while making little change to their daily schedules.


I wanted my stylists to be able to work as much as they wanted to or needed to, in order to accommodate backlog and personally recover financially from being unable to work for three months. As a leader it was also very important to let my team know that if they were not able to return in full capacity just yet, that I understood and respected their choice. I was aware that there would be fear and anxiety caused by our added exposure to the public. I personally expanded my schedule to 11-hour work days/7 days a week, and I was more than happy to do so.



One of the most successful ideas I had involved little “table toppers” that I placed around the salon that featured suggestions for ways to help a small business post shut down. What led me to this idea was the fact that when my salon was closed I received numerous emails from our amazing clients asking how they could help. This was my chance to let them know. I made little signs that I placed in beautiful picture frames that included a list of ways to help us out. The first suggestion was to take a selfie to post on social media promoting both the stylist and the salon. As a result – our new client bookings showed an increase! The second suggestion we developed was asking guests to pre-book their next visit. Stylists were encouraged to explain to clients that due to our decreased capacity combined with higher demand, it would limit the ability to get a last minute appointment. This also had a positive result as many clients started pre-booking appointments on a regular basis — sometimes even booking standing appointments right through the year! The last suggestion proved to be the most lucrative. We suggested that clients buy their favorite take home retail products, so they could “recreate their bombshell hair” at home. Our retail sales increased by 60% - even better than we anticipated! Sometimes all you have to do is ask. Between my added hours, the added hours of my top stylist and the added retail sales, I was able to recover my loss within two and a half months of reopening.



Another great way that I fed my brain while I wasn’t working was to read and learn something new. I would listen to audio books while I walked my dog. Great self-help books, inspirational biographies, and at times, fictional stories to take me somewhere wonderful. I also studied Italian with a free app called Duolingo. I was afraid of falling down the rabbit hole of Netflix. (I’m not saying I didn’t restart Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning and watch all 16 seasons.) I’m just saying I insisted on doing something productive before allowing myself to indulge.

This extra time is an excellent opportunity to continue your education as a hair colorist/stylist and brush up and your skills or learn new techniques. The Product Club Online Education Page offers informative, technique based videos from industry experts covering topics like balayage, color melts, highlight placement, gray blending, and more. By using your time wisely and focusing on advancing your artistry and your craft, you can turn a negative experience into a positive one.



The last thing I fed was my soul. I needed to keep my heart lifted. I needed to believe that tomorrow would be beautiful. I made sure to surround myself with inspirational people. Unfortunately, not in person (as I was isolating like everyone else), but I made it a point to listen to podcasts every day that would lift my spirits. One of my ABSOLUTE favorites became “The School of Greatness” by Lewis Howes. He interviews an array of experts on various topics all designed to inspire you to greatness. On my worst days I would end up somehow more optimistic by the end of each episode. I highly recommend it.

Sadly, my salon in Toronto, entered into a second mandatory shut down on November 22, 2020 and it was recently extended until at least January 23, 2021. But with my new outlook and recent learning experience, every day I continue to work on myself. While each day requires a conscious effort, I feel confident in my strength to carry myself and my salon through this challenging year. In the words of the author, Glennon Doyle, “We can do hard things.”

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