Business Management

Ex-Execs Take to Salon Life

Call them corporate drop-outs or beauty drop-ins, we’d like to introduce you to four salon owners who abandoned the corporate fast track for the rewards of salon life and get their take on the industry.

Most salon owners begin their career in the beauty industry in cosmetology schools, then ply their trade for trade for a time before making the leap into salon ownership, there are also those rare few who have never held a nail file or a pair of scissors prior to - or even after - opening their salon doors. Call them corporate drop-outs or beauty drop-ins, we’d like to introduce you to four salon owners who abandoned the corporate fast track for the rewards of salon life and get their take on the industry.

Angela Cortright

Currently: Owner of Spa Gregoories in Newport Beach, Calif.

Formerly: Worked in Marketing for major hi-tech companies for 20 years Cortright co-owned a CD-Rom publishing company with her husband that eventually went public and merged with her husband that eventually went public and merged with AOL/Time warmer.

Why she left: “The business took its course. It was successful and after the merger it wasn’t the same being part of a huge company.”

Why the beauty business? “I used to get so stressed out To reset, we’d go to spas - this was the early ‘90 before it was really popular when the opportunity came six years ago we said, ‘Why not?”

What skills transferred? “Team building, management, and motivated people so that all have the same vision and are moving in the same direction. Secondly, aggressive marketing Also being comfortable with automation, I set up our computers to be more efficient and handle web commerce.”

What has surprised her most about the beauty industry? “Early on, I was surprised at how colloquial it was. There was little focus among our competitors on profit and loss statements, balance sheets, business forecasts, and the need to really manage. Now it’s becoming more sophisticated.”

Quotable: “I have found nirvana. I’m not going back. This is such a rewarding industry to be in... I’m looking for nail techs. They can make a really good living and go home and have no headaches.”

Patrick Brennan

Currently: Co-owner of About Faces Day Spa & Salon with four Maryland locations

Formerly: Vice-president of Aerospace products Division, Swales Aerospace, where he supervised 130 people in his division

Why he left: He retired in December 2003

Why the beauty business? Brennan had been involved in his salon on a part-time basis for 34 years, as his first wife was co-owner of their first location.

What skills transferred? “First of all, the overall systems approach. A spa operation where you have multiple services interacting with one another can’t be run without coordination and an operating system to make it all work. The more well-defined the processes are, for whatever the business, the more cohesive and efficient the end results are. I was always attracted to the personnel side in my corporate career. I now enjoy the client interaction in my salons as well as staff interaction.”

What surprised him most about the beauty industry? “The rapid growth in the day spa business once it began to catch on in the mid-90s. It’s also always amazed me that the nail care business is as strong as it is. A large part of the reason is the working woman who has come to realize that nail care is important to her professional image.”

Quotable: “The beauty business is not just something that you walk into unprepared. It takes a lot of nurturing to begin a business. Beauty professionals are not necessarily the same as business professionals. They are more creative and emotional. Their creative side requires a very nurturing, supportive attitude from management.”

Susan Dynan

Currently: Owner of Serene-Scape in Marlborough, Mass.

Formerly: Was in management in the human resources field. Prior to that was a general manager of a $32 million division of a privately held company in the employment industry that she helped start.

Why she left. “I left because I wanted to start up my own business, to work for myself, and strive to be successful.”

Why the beauty business? “The times are such that so many people, especially in the corporate world, wear many hats and juggle work, family, home, and friend on a daily basis without stopping to take care of themselves as they should. I wanted to provide a service that would give others an opportunity to relax in a comfortable environment, if only for an hour or two. From a business perspective, this industry has taken off in terms of our facility and our location - in a growing area with little competition - it’s a great investment.”

What skills transferred? “I bring business development/marketing skills, interpersonal and troubleshooting skills, employment and recruiting skills, and a very positive outlook on growth and the type of environment I want to created in our spa.”

What has surprised you most? “In some respect, it is harder to find experienced, responsible, conscientious staff than in other industries. It is a mix between finding the right fit for the spa environment, as well as offering employees as much as you can so it is worth it for someone to come in and start from scratch, because we’re in a brand new, growing business.”

Quotable: “To help someone feel special and appreciated while they’re here and leave smiling is what makes me happy at this point in my life. The corporate world can be such a treadmill and this is so different - for me and for our guests.”

Kelly Hensley

Currently: Owner of ManiPedi Nail Spa, San Francisco

Formerly: An advertising art director and designer for prominent ad agencies like Foote Cone & Belding and J. Walter Thompson.

Why she left: “Advertising ranked in 2001 in San Francisco as a result of the dot-com bust. Many of the accounts I had been working on went out of business. Plus, with 15 years doing design work in some capacity or other, it was time for a change.”

Why the beauty business? “I thought manicures and pedicures were a fun and inexpensive way to pamper yourself, so I opened the salon. I originally thought I’d still be doing design work in a back room off the salon, but I haven’t done any work other that for the salon since the day it opened.”

What skill transferred? “I designed our logo, business cards, our award-winning website. I also designed an attractive, alluring salon interior. With so many years spent in advertising, I knew a lot of people at magazines and newspapers and how to assemble a press kit.”

What has surprised you most? “Advertising has notoriously long hours, but salon work is seven days a week.”

Quotable: “I had trouble keeping up with the volume of customers from the moment we opened because there were no other medium-priced salons in the city. They were either high-end or discount salons. We began expanding practically the same time we opened.”

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