From trendy hair salons to corner nail bars, this comprehensive guide will show you how to start the salon or day spa you’ve always dreamed of.
Since the dawn of the new millennium, the stock market has been in a freefall and the economy has been in the doldrums.
But it was a good time to start a hair salon and day spa – and it still is today.
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1. The Opportunities
There are three ways you can make your mark in the hair industry. You can open a franchise hair salon or spa, in which you pay money upfront for the privilege of opening that salon using someone else’s established name (which gives you an instant reputation) and its resources (like advertising campaigns).
You can buy an established salon from someone who is retiring from the business, has tired of the business, or has damaged the business and forced it into bankruptcy (all three happen every day).
A third option is to establish your own salon using your own money, your own ingenuity and your own optimism that hard work and talent will win out.
To begin with, you must consider your hours of operation carefully so you can accommodate the maximum number of clients during the business day.
You undoubtedly already know that the beauty business isn’t a 9-to-5 kind of industry. So while it wasn’t so long ago that people wouldn’t even consider getting a haircut on Sunday, salon hours on Sunday are now a must (even if on an abbreviated schedule).
Even day spas are open on Sundays, since this may be the only time during the week that a busy career mom can get away for some personal pampering.
Typically, hair salons in metropolitan areas are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, in busy urban areas salons are open on Sunday and some even on a Monday.
By design, Sunday and holiday hours often are the same as those of local retailers like malls and department stores. Lunch hours and Saturdays tend to be the busiest times for salons.
You might also need to have special hours to accommodate special needs. For example, if you do a lot of wedding work, you’ll probably have to be open earlier on Saturday mornings, say at 8 a.m., for the brides who have to get to church for a 10 a.m. service.
2. choosing a location for your spa or salon
Choosing a location for your salon is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in the early stages of establishing your new business.
Obviously, you’ll want to locate it in an area that’s easily accessible by highway or main road, with plenty of traffic (both foot and the four-wheeled variety) and parking.
Typically, salons operate out of three types of establishments: Free-standing buildings, storefront properties and shopping centers like malls.
Occasionally, salons are located in malls, but They’re also sometimes found on the ground floor of office buildings in large metropolitan areas where there is a significant amount of foot traffic during the business day.
However, such locations may not be optimal if they’re in an urban area that doesn’t have much traffic in the evenings or on weekends.
There’s one other type of property that deserves serious consideration when you’re looking for a place to set up shop.
A facility that once served as a beauty salon may be a good choice for your new location.
The good news is, a lot of the infrastructure you’ll need, including extra plumbing, special electrical outlets, and maybe even fixtures like salon stations and the reception desk may already be onsite and available for purchase with the building.
The bad news is there might be a really good reason why the salon closed such as too much competition in the area, the location is crummy, or the previous owner had a poor reputation among clients and in the community.
The same goes for a salon that’s currently in business but is up for sale.
3. costs and pricing for Salons & Spas
“Startup cost is a very variable issue as we have seen some very upmarket salons costing in excess of Tsh. 10 Million and some salons put up for just a few thousand rand (at home or informally)”, explains Wille Pietersen, President, Employers Organisation for Hairdressers, Cosmetology, and Beauty (EOHCB).
Another important part of your salon development plan is the appropriate pricing of your services.
Set prices too high, and you’ll limit the number of people who can afford them; set them too low and you’ll limit your profit potential and possibly put the business at risk.
Of course, the price the market will bear is very much dependent on the demographics of your service area.
If you’re in an upscale area with larger homes occupied by people with more disposable income, you can price your services accordingly and even offer high-end spa services.
But if the surrounding community is peopled by young working families, you’ll have to forego the spa services (or offer no more than the bare minimum) and concentrate instead on basic haircutting and color services that are affordably priced.
Although technically it’s an aesthetic service, nail and foot care is often offered in hair salons. Nail services include:
- Manicures (both traditional and French manicures)
- Acrylic nail application
- Nail tipping
- Paraffin treatments
- Skin exfoliation and hand/foot massage are often part of the manicure and pedicure processes.
Whether you offer nail services is entirely dependent on the size of your salon and whether you can afford both the equipment and the salary of a nail technician at the outset.
Today’s nail client is used to visiting shops devoted only to nail services, so she won’t be surprised if you don’t offer manicures, acrylic nails, and tipping.
But you may be able to get her to leave her regular manicurist if she sees that you’re offering the same service at your cool new salon. At the very least, you should offer haircuts and styling, basic perms, straightening treatments and highlighting.
4. Salon size and layout
Size of your shop
You’ll need four separate areas in your hair salon: Reception and retail, shampoo, cutting/service, and storage. The largest of these, of course, should be your salon services area, which should take up about 50% of the floor space.
About 20% of the space should be allotted for retail/reception, 10% for the shampoo area, and the remaining 20% for storage and an employee break/lunch room area. The employee/client restroom and your office also should be located in this area.
Any retail products you sell should be displayed in the reception area and placed near the cash register for easy access. The shampoo area is usually located toward the back of the salon and is equipped with shampoo sinks (either free-standing or affixed to the wall) and chairs.
Each station should also have a “back bar,” or cabinet, for storing products used in the salon, like shampoos, conditioners, and deep-conditioning treatments.
Naturally, these should be the same products you sell in the retail area, and your stylists should be trained to discuss each product used with the client as a way to spur sales.
If you decide to include spa services as part of your salon, then the overall layout of your salon should be created by a professional designer or an architect.
That’s because unlike a hair salon, which tends to be a large open area with few partitions or walls, a spa needs to be somewhat compartmentalized.
However, if you’ve worked in or visited enough spas in the course of your career, or you have good visualization skills, you may already have a good idea of how you want your spa to look.
In that case, it may be possible to work with a draftsperson to draw up plans for the spa and then hire someone to build the space for you.
Spas are usually divided into a series of rooms that are used as changing and showering facilities, treatment rooms, consultation rooms (for discussing treatment options and post-treatment care), and so on.
The consultation room may also be used as an office when not in use by an aesthetician and a client, although we’ll assume you will have your main office in the salon area.
There also should be a retail area that’s separate from the hair salon’s retail area (so customers aren’t confused or distracted by products that don’t relate to spa items). If possible, incorporate a supply room into your spa area.
If that’s not possible, spa products can share storage space with salon products, but strive to keep them separate and organised for easy accessibility. Separate treatment rooms are needed for wet and dry services.
While good overhead lighting is needed in treatment rooms both before and after services are rendered, it should be softly diffused.
Adequate ventilation is also a must, as is hot and cold running water so aestheticians can mix dry products or dampen towels during treatment without leaving the room.
Finally, the treatment room should have its own sound system, on which relaxing music or nature’s sounds should be played. No rap or heavy metal!
5. license required to operate a beauty or cosmetic clinic in Tanzania
If you really want to make this business to the highest level possible, then you have to legalize its existence by registering the business with the Register Business Registration and License Agency (BRELA).
Registering as a Business Name with BRELA
is enough at this stage if you can’t afford to register it as a Limited Liability Company (LLC).
Also, watch out for the rules and regulations guiding professional salon and cosmetics business in Tanzania to ensure that you are not operating against the law.
Make sure you abide to the rules and regulation set out by TMDA and TBS.
6. How to attract clients
You don’t need to spend a fortune to market your small business, but you need to work out an affordable strategy. Like any business, you should have a good, solid business plan.
The business plan should be a complete and detailed description of exactly how you intend to operate your proposed business. The plan should have a detailed marketing plan so that you have a clear understanding of the operations and goals of your business.
Strategies that you can use are varied and before undertaking anything, decide who your target market is.
Canvas the area and establish what services other salons offer and see where you can add value or a service they haven’t considered.
Partner with other health and wellbeing organisations
Collaborate with a nearby hairdresser by offering a discount to their clients. You can return the favour by referring your clients to the hairdresser. You can use this principal in many different ways.
Take a small ad in the local community newspaper. Offer a discount or a free item so that you can measure if the ad has worked for you.
Online bookings give your salon or spa a web presence and allow your clients to book with you, 24/7.
Trade your products
You can trade your product so that you can get a beauty editor to write an advertorial to get your business into the public eye.
This kind of advertising can be very helpful when you have a tight budget.
Send an SMS to customers telling them about the business and inform them that upon booking any of your services they can take advantage of a discount or offer a small gift.
Consider joining the Tanzania Cosmetology Association that offers a number of benefits to members, the most important being credibility and professionalism. Members also receive updated and continual education; regional functions, seminars and workshops; professional support; pricing and costing of treatments; and salary structure advice and more. Attend networking events in your area as well. If you need to find out about events, your local Chambers of Commerce will point you in the right direction.
Start a database
As a Beauty Salon owner, your database is an asset worth its weight in gold. It is always cheaper to keep an existing client happy.
It costs anywhere from five to eight times more to gain a new clients as opposed to retaining clients.
Happy clients will tell their friends and colleagues about you which in turn will become new business.
There is no better form of advertising than “word-of-mouth”.
Send promotional material, thank you cards, birthday wishes and emails to clients on your database, even if the base is small. The personal touch works wonders.
Host an event
Hosting an event is a great way to gain “face time” with customers and prospects as well as to get your company name circulating and to get the information you need to build a database.
Other media options
Enclose your brochure, ad, flyer etc. in all your outgoing post. It doesn’t cost any additional postage and you’ll be surprised at who could use what you’re offering.
Leave flyers at a friendly pharmacy or hairdresser and if you can, do a mail drop to homes and business in your area.
You can employ students to walk through the neighbourhood to drop flyers into to post boxes.
Giveaways work well
Provide a free item to a client when she spends above a specified amount on beauty treatments or skin care products. The Gift with purchase could be anything from facial serum, a salon voucher, to a mini fragrance oil.
Offer businesses in your area packages which they can offer as incentives to their staff.
7. Hiring the right staff to work in a spa or beauty salon
One of the more challenging aspects of being a salon owner will be hiring and retaining good employees.
This can seem like a daunting task, not just because both of these responsibilities can be very time-consuming, but also because there’s so much riding on employees’ skills.
After all, your employees will be the front-line representatives of the business you have lovingly and painstakingly cobbled out of little more than some loans, some ingenuity and a lot of “shear” determination.
Their ability and talent, as well as their attitudes and work ethic, will influence every aspect of the business, from client retention rate to the bottom line. Here’s a rundown of the salon and spa employees you’re likely to need for the day-to-day functioning of your new business.
You’re an employee, too, so you’re first on the list. Your day-to-day responsibilities will include overseeing operations, making sure customer service is a top priority, making financial decisions, checking salon product and retail product inventory, handling personnel matters, hiring new staff, and assessing employee performance. All of this is in addition to providing salon services if you’re a licensed, practicing cosmetologist.
(Cosmetologists are often the stylist of the salon help clients improve on or acquire a certain look with the right hairstyle and hair colouring, manicured nails and more).
While it may be tempting to try to undertake all the management tasks of the new salon yourself rather than hiring a salon manager, try to resist the urge. Unless your salon is extremely small, the price you’ll pay for a manager’s salary is worth it.
The manager can handle myriad tasks like paperwork, record-keeping, employee scheduling and purchasing. He or she will also oversee salon maintenance and handle facility management issues. This person should have the authority to act on your behalf in your absence long-term success.
This is the person who shampoos clients’ hair while the stylist is finishing up another client. He or she may also fold towels, sweep up hair clippings and provide other general assistance around the shop.
Often these assistants are newly qualified hairdressers who are looking for experience in the industry, or apprentices who haven’t yet completed enough hours to become a fully qualified stylist.
In addition to greeting customers as they arrive, the receptionist answers the phone, books appointments, gives directions, cashes out customers and performs various other customer service duties like making coffee or even hanging up coats for clients.
As previously noted, the manicurist may be part of either the hair salon or spa staff. This professional provides services like manicures, pedicures and acrylic nail application and tipping and must be a qualified beautician.
This is one of the most skilled people on your spa staff. Beauticians must be qualified through a credible training institution so they can provide services like facials, waxing, massage and other specialty body-care treatments.
Quite often this person also does makeup consultations and application, especially if there’s not room in the budget to hire a dedicated makeup artist.
Although a beautician can provide many massage services, a massage therapist has a higher level of training and additional expertise.
This person provides hair removal services and needs a credible qualification to practice this process.
The independent contractor is a person who is not on your payroll but provides certain services in your salon, including hairstyling and manicuring.
This type of business arrangement most commonly occurs when a cosmetologist rents space from you (known as booth rental) but is responsible for everything from buying his or her own tools and supplies to paying taxes on earned income.
8. How to decide which services to offer at a spa or salon
The range of services is truly dazzling, but basically, aesthetic services offered at a day spa fall into three categories: Skin and body care, hair removal and makeup.
(Technically, there is a fourth category – nail services – but as we just mentioned, nail services have crossed over into the beauty mainstream and are no longer considered just a spa service, however, when offered in a spa setting, nail services tend to be higher priced than in a salon.) Skin- and body-care spa services include:
- Facials and body exfoliation (which may involve the use of salt glows, body polish, enzyme peels, and body masks like mud or paraffin)
- Massage (full body massage, facial and/or hand/foot massage)
- Wraps and packs (used to combat cellulite and reduce water retention)
- Hydrotherapy treatments (whirlpool baths etc)
- Body tanning (self-tanners and tanning beds)
- Hair-removal services include:
- Waxing (face, legs, arms, bikini, back and underarms)
- Eyebrow arching
- Makeup services include:
- Cosmetics application
- Colour analysis
- Eyelash tinting
9. Equipment vs. profitability
When determining which of these spa services to offer, it’s important to weigh factors like equipment cost against potential profitability. For instance, you may want to offer hydrotherapy in your new day spa.
But hydrotherapy services require the greatest outlay of cash for equipment and facility development. So it might be a better idea to limit your spa services initially to massage (which doesn’t require as much equipment) and/or facials.
Should a wet room be included?
Another important factor to consider when deciding which spa services you’ll offer is that many of them require a wet room.
This includes the hydrotherapies mentioned above, as well as any body masks, exfoliation treatments and other body treatments that must be rinsed off after application.
Even if you decide not to offer hydro services when you first open, you should at least plan to include a wet room in your initial plans or you’ll always be limited to “dry” services – unless, of course, you move to new digs or expand your existing location.
10. Offer packages
Because the concept of a day spa implies a day of pampering similar to what you might enjoy on a spa holiday or a cruise ship, it’s common for spa owners to offer packages of services.
Generally speaking, packages should consist of at least one or two complementary services, or in the case of hydrotherapy treatments, one hydro service and up to two “dry” services.
Spa industry insiders recommend offering half-day packages that run about three hours and full-day, five-hour packages that include 30 minutes to an hour for a light lunch.
11. What to include in a spa or beauty salon’s website?
Just as you’ll access other companies’ websites for information about their products and services, you’ll want both prospective and repeat clients to be able to find you in cyberspace.
Your website will be crucial to your marketing efforts and can be used for everything from posting your hours and driving directions to selling salon services.
Spas come off particularly well in a cyber tour. Well-decorated private treatment rooms can communicate a feeling of soothing relaxation even on screen, while suggesting that a resort-style oasis of serene tranquillity is no more than a phone call away.
Because your Website is virtual advertising that’s available on demand 24-hours a day, it’s important to spend a fair amount of time considering what it should say.
The best way to determine content is by thinking like a customer and answering the questions you think he or she would have when searching for a new salon or spa. Here are examples of the kinds of questions a prospective salon/spa customer might have:
- Do you provide initial consultations? Is there a charge?
- Can you give me the same hairstyle as (name of celebrity)?
- What’s the latest look?
- Are your stylists experienced? Where did they study/train?
- What do your services cost?
- Do you sell gift certificates?
- What hair-care product lines do you carry?
- Which credit/debit cards do you accept?
- Where are you located?
- What are your hours?
- How can I reach you?
- Are your spa employees licensed?
- Are your masseuses male or female?
- Are hydro treatments better than massage?
- How do you sanitise your equipment?
- How long will my treatment take?
- What do you charge?
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For an industry that offers such specialised services, it’s amazing how much information there is in print and in cyberspace about both the hair salon and the day spa industries.
The Internet is an especially rich source of background information, business tips and marketing know-how, much of which is posted by people who are themselves in the industry. The training covers:
- Business Planning
- Customer care
- The Marketing Plan
- Financial Planning
- Costing and pricing
- Stock control
- Strategy plan
- Business performance
13. Insurance – talk to a professional
Insurance should be an important consideration when planning a Spa or hairdressing salon.
The decision to purchase insurance can be a tough one because many new businesses are on a tight budget.
The business owner must make decisions regarding what he or she can take a risk on and what to pass on to the insurance company.
At the very least you want to make sure that your personal liability is covered by some form of business insurance because you are offering a service to the public.
Ignoring this may cost you everything that you have worked for and earned. Talk to a professional. There are many conditions and exclusions that are applied to business policies.
It is therefore important that you discuss your policy with your insurance adviser to ensure that it meets your needs. Get as many quotes as possible.