Keeping the College Crowd Polished

Market your services to students and turn them into loyal clients. Read on for tips from salons who've successfully brought students in--and kept them coming back. From advertising in the school paper to participating in sorority events, there's more than one way to go about it.

Salon: Hair Spa

Location: Houston

Owner: Cathy Neben

Attracts students from: University of Houston, Houston Baptist University

College tactics: A section of Neben’s salon is dedicated to Joe Toga, a line of gear specially made for sorority and fraternity members. Neben also donates gift certificates to the homecoming king and queen. She also gives out door prizes through sororities. “College women are more into taking care of themselves now because they know it’ll prevent problems in the future,” says Neben. “They’re sophisticated consumers. They will bargain shop like you’ve never seen.”

Neben doesn’t offer student discounts, but she does advertise in school newspapers and includes coupons. She’s found that word of mouth can work wonders. “Of course you need to advertise your salon, like during homecoming, for example,” she says. “But students will get the word out if your salon offers good services.”

Here, students opt for manicures and pedicures. “They’re into the whole natural, healthy look,” says Neben. Red, pink, and French colors are popular. Funky, bright colors are not. They also love to purchase products, especially polish and scented lotion, says Neben.

Salon: Polished to Perfection

Location: Lakeside, Ariz.

Owner: Michelle Ramoz

Attracts students from: Northland Pioneer College

College tactics: One of Ramoz’s specialties is nail art, and she attracts students with her handiwork. Ramoz offers complimentary hand painted nail art with the purchase of a full set. “Students love nail art. The bolder the designs the better,” she says. “They love to attract attention and show off their designs.”

She does everything she can to advertise her services, including placing an ad on the screen of her local movie theater. Students present Ramoz their ticket stubs and receive $5 off a full set of nails. Students also get a discount if they show her their student cards. She also places flyers at movie rental places, clothing stores, bars, and restaurants.


Salon: Saturn Club

Location: Philadelphia

Owner: Rebecca Wright

Attracts students from: University of Pennsylvania

College tactics: Nothing beats being in the middle of college activity. This salon is strategically located on the university’s campus, right across from the University of Pennsylvania’s law school.

The salon attracts students of course, but it also attracts university faculty. It’s not rare to see a professor getting a manicure while a student gets her toes done at the same time.

The salon has a boutiquey feel to it that’s elegant, but the atmosphere is low key — something students appreciate. The salon does not enforce a dress code and employees usually dress casually in jeans and T-shirts.

Summer months are usually a bit slower since students are away on summer vacation, but business picks up once school is back in session.

To keep students coming back, the salon offers them a 10% discount on products and services. Coupons are also placed in a coupon book that’s distributed to dorms.

Besides natural nail care services, the salon also offers facials and hair services, as well as waxing. “Waxing is really popular,” says Wright. “It’s rare that we have an opening.”

Wright knows college students have hectic schedules, so she gladly accepts walk-ins. She also welcomes requests for products. If there’s a product a client wants that the salon doesn’t offer, she’ll gladly order it for her. Polish is always in stock since it’s a popular item. “Students seem to go for the light, pale pinks,” says Wright. “For formals we sell a lot of neutral pinks.”

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