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This Small Salon Might Be The Next Big Thing

By Cody Pierson Date 11/04/2012  

“Talking Shop” is series of posts focused on small businesses, their challenges and their successes. Just a little inspiration, motivation and education we thought you might like. You can read the previous entries here.

Some people have always known what they wanted to do when they grow up, but most of us figure it out along the way. For Renee Michelle, it was a little of both. She’s always done her friends’ hair, but decided to study biology with the intention of becoming a physical therapist before returning to her first love, which is hair and makeup. Now she’s running Dyehard Beauty Studio from her home in Dyer, Indiana while juggling family and a second job. She’s a case study in going it alone and has big plans for the future.

She’s been running her one-woman show for 14 months now, but she hasn’t always flown solo. She got her start working at a Paul Mitchell salon in Chicago after graduating beauty school in 2003, but decided she needed something a little closer to home once she was pregnant with her son. She spent the next 7 years working at salons around northwest Indiana, while also finding the time to get certified as a Nursing Assistant. Early last year she decided to take the plunge and open her own salon.

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It feels kinda homey.

Balancing Act

The most obvious challenge was balancing the needs of her family and the dream of owning her own shop. The most obvious answer was to bring them together and start small, which she did by setting up shop in her own home. She currently serves about 30 clients per month working on Saturdays and doing the occasional remote booking. She specializes in coloring and hairstyling, but added airbrush makeup so she could be a true triple-threat.

The Personal Touch

Rather than focusing on traditional marketing, Renee has opted to slowly build her “best book” through referrals and exceptional service. Since she doesn’t expect too many walk-ins to come knocking on her door, she has time to meet personally with every new client to get a sense of what they like, want or need. It’s time-intensive, but she gets a lot of repeat clients.

She’s confident that she’ll continue to grow her business, since she knows first-hand how frequently clients try new salons and how powerful a good recommendation can be. Of course, there are business challenges other than getting people in the door. Luckily, her Monday – Friday job as an administrator at the University of Chicago has taught her some of the accounting and other skills she needs to run her own business.

Thinking Long-Term

She may be brushing up on her accounting skills and growing her client-base, but Renee also has ideas for where she wants this business to go. Her original concept was a traditional, multi-chair salon, but she’s started thinking a little smaller. Working alone, or with a few choice partners, will allow her to keep offering the personal service she loves as well as maximize her on-location bookings.

The goal is to work weddings, TV shoots or other opportunities that call for full salon treatment on the move. It’s a less saturated market, but breaking into it calls for a unique blend of networking and marketing. Like everything else she’s done, this will be a slow burn, but it has a lot of potential.

Going For It

Renee is still learning a lot of the lessons that go with owning your own business, but the lesson everyone can learn from her is that there’s always a way to make it work. Whether you’re just getting started or have been working for a while, you can always decide to go for it.

-Cody P.

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