Imagine owning and running your own salon, but without the large upfront costs, risks, and overhead associated with opening a traditional salon, the troublesome employees, and all the salon drama. Enter the salon suite — your own mini salon that you lease or rent in a building of similar individual salons. You have the key to your own space, and therefore can set your own prices, service menu, and business hours.
The suite rental trend, already ubiquitous in the southern and eastern parts of the U.S., is now exploding in the west. According to a study conducted by Professional Consultants & Resources, a consulting company that specializes in the salon, spa, and cosmetics industries, 35 % to 37% of U.S. salons can now be described as salon suites or booth rentals. That number is expected to grow to 50% by 2015.
“My first time seeing the salon suite concept was in Dallas in the late 1990s,” says salon business coach, Micki Wright. “It was very unique, and I would say it slowly spread to the East Coast and further West. By the early 2000s, there were a few locations on the East Coast, often offered by chain salons, but within the last five years there are more options provided by both private parties and chains. I recently conducted a class at the IBS New York and was surprised to learn that many people in the Northeast had never heard of the concept.”
Cyrus Bulsara, the president of Professional Consultants and Resources, told SalonToday.com that salon suites are an attractive alternative to traditional salons. “They are offering a pleasant, individualized ambiance at competitive prices, plus personalized one-on-one services that draw and retain clients.”
A Variety of Options
Many variations of the salon suite concept are currently available to beauty professionals. Some suites, such as My Salon Suite, Sola Salon Studios, and Phenix, have become large, established franchises, while others remain small and independently owned. Most salon suites have a receptionist and reception area that can be used by all of the renters and their clients; some have other common areas, such as a shampoo bowls and/or dryer area, and some offer free advertising and continuing education classes to their tenants.
My Salon Suite, which will have more than 100 locations open by the end of 2015 and more than 250 open by the end of 2016, furnishes each of their nail suites with granite countertops, stainless steel sinks, a spa pedicure chair, a mani/pedi chair and cart, a nail table, and paid utilities, including water, electricity, heating, a/c, a security system, and Wi-Fi. “All tenants have access to a vast support network and industry-leading experience,” says Ken McAllister, CEO. “Even though My Salon Suite tenants are in business for themselves, they are not by themselves. We provide customizable marketing tools and a step-by-step checklist to help you get your business off to a good start.”
Phenix Salon Suites, another franchise that offers similar amenities, was established in 2003; the Sola Salon Studios franchise was established in 2004 and today has more than 200 locations nationwide. Social Salon Suites, located in Glendale, Calif., is an example of a successful privately held salon suite enterprise, and founder/owner Rosey Ibarra has no plans to franchise. “With salon suite franchises, I feel that the personal connection can be diluted and lost between the owner/landlord and the individual suite renters. I prefer to develop a more personal connection with my business associates.”
The Advantages of Suite Renting
In addition to lowered risk, there are a number of advantages to renting a salon suite. At My Salon Suite, beauty professionals have the flexibility to work their own hours, set their own prices, and personalize each private suite with the furnishings, decor, and paint color that reflects their style. “Suite renters are also able to offer clients their own preferences in retail products, while reaping 100% of the profits,” says McAllister. “And by not having to pay commissions to a salon owner, running a business in a My Salon Suite environment can be one of the most lucrative decisions of a beauty professional’s career.”
Nail tech Kris Kiss, owner of Couture Nail Studio and Sola Salon Studios renter in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., loves the freedom her suite affords. “I can represent myself the way I like, and as a CND Education Ambassador, I’m able to keep my schedule flexible for other professional opportunities such as teaching, photo shoots, and press events.”
Phenix Salon Suite renter G. Elizondo who owns BlingNailsbyG in Las Vegas says moving her business to the suite in 2013 was the best move she ever made. “I believe it is the best way to have your own ‘salon’ without actually having a full-blown salon, which means having a bunch of overhead and problems! You have free reign on how you want to decorate your space and make it personalized to your own style — it’s so awesome. You come and go as you please and work whatever hours accommodate your kind of business. Although each suite is its own entity, at my location, we have a great family atmosphere and enjoy each other’s company.”
Other perks suite renters appreciate are more privacy for clients, especially male clients who may be self-conscious about being seen in a nail salon. They also enjoy the perception of peers and clients that they are stepping up to further success by being independent. Ibarra says that clients respect and understand that private suite life represents better life choices. She notes that, increasingly, beauty professionals are choosing a better balance — working smarter with less stress, having more creative time, enjoying flexibility of hours (great for mothers), and realizing more profits much sooner in affordable luxury locations.
The Potential Drawbacks
If suite renting is so great, you may ask, why isn’t everyone doing it? The truth is simply that, while you will enjoy increased freedom and flexibility, you are still running your own business and with that comes a lot of responsibility. All of the costs — rent, electric, water, etc., — are usually fixed, but as with traditional booth rentals, the fee is due weekly. The landlord won’t care if you had a slow week. Leases may be difficult to break, and subletting may not be allowed. And then there’s the paperwork.
“Owning your own business always has a lot of behind-the-scenes work,” says Crestlynn Wesig, owner of The Nail Mender and renter at privately owned Salon Suites in the Valley in Akron, Ohio. “Taxes, purchasing supplies, insurance, bookkeeping, etc., can all be very overwhelming if you aren’t disciplined and organized.”
Another potential drawback is that there is very little walk-in traffic in salon suites, which makes marketing for new clients a must. “Most people that are here have established clientele,” says Sola Salon Studios renter Michelle Martinez of Operator Wraps Nail Care in Denver. “The Sola Salon Studios owners make sure that you understand that before you rent your space. If a new tech is a good networker, and can promote herself to fellow tenants, it could be possible to build off of that and become successful in the business.”
One big drawback that Wright has seen in almost every suite she’s visited is that the other suite renters pop in and out of each other’s suites, often without regard for the client who may be getting serviced. Another drawback she has noted is the lack of interaction with other creative people, which makes it even more important to attend classes to stay current or to choose a suite that offers continuing education.
“Renting a suite is not for everyone,” says Wright. “If you enjoy interacting with a lot of people, a more traditional salon setting might be better for you. If you hate paperwork and/or being responsible for everything, a salon suite may not be for you. If you just want to go in, do your clients, and go home (where most things are taken care of for you), it might not be for you. To be successful, you really must have a business plan. Without a business plan of some sort — a marketing plan, a financial plan, some savings for marketing and future expenses, it can be a really tough way to do business.”
Are suites right for you?
Clearly, an ideal salon suite beauty professional is someone who has an established clientele list, a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and the desire for freedom from the limitations of working in someone else’s salon. Ibarra suggests that after about five years of training/working in an established salon, many nail techs can be ready for their first private suite, and that it’s important to start setting some realistic business goals to make the dream happen.
“It has been one year that I have successfully run my own business,” says Nicole Brock, Sola Salon Studios renter and owner of The Nail Nook in Tarpon Springs, Fla. “Every day that goes by, I am more confident that I made the best decision in my nail career. It’s a wonderful feeling to come to work every day knowing it’s what you make it. I would recommend this concept for anyone trying to pursue their dreams with a safety net.”
Ready to take the plunge? Here’s what to look for:
In renting a suite, you’re creating a business relationship, so you want to be clear about what you want. I recommend visiting several different places that are in your desired location, and then considering the following:
Be ready to be interviewed and be prepared to interview the owners/managers as well. This is a place where you will spend a lot of time, (often more time than with your family), and even though you will have your own room, all of these things can impact your daily experience.
Check out the following websites for more information:
My Salon Suite: www.mysalonsuite.com
Phenix Salon Suites: http://www.phenixsalonsuites.com
Social Salon Suites: www.socialsalonsuites.com
Sola Salon Studios: www.solasalonstudios.com