A secret to a great grand opening is creating an enticing atmosphere, one that will pull people into the salon,” says Mae Hare, owner of A Place for You in Encino, Calif.” The rest is establishing objectives, planning carefully, and attending to all the details.”

Establishing Goals and Objectives

Before you invite the mayor to your ribbon-cutting ceremony, first determine your main goals and objectives.

Do you want to expand your customer base by attracting new customers? Introduce new technicians, services, or products? Stimulate business? Let the community know you are there? Cement relationships with existing clients?

 If your objective is to shine up your salon’s image, a party with the mayor and other local dignitaries might be exactly what you need to fulfill your goal. But if you want to lure old clients back into the salon, mailing a personal invitation to visit your shop along with a coupon would probably yield the desired results.

When Hare opened her salon, her first objective was to draw old clients to her new location. To get their attention, she sent each one a personal letter. “The letter invited our clients to come see our new salon,” Hare says. “It included a map to our new location, assured them we had excellent parking, and was signed by me as well as the other technicians.”

To achieve her second objective- reaching new clients- Hare created a classy two-color brochure with photographs of the salons, manicure and pedicure areas, a detailed listing of all its services, and a statement of its sanitation procedures. “We’d budgeted about $3,000 for our grand opening,” Hare said. “But after careful consideration, we felt our money would be better spent creating a professional-looking brochure that would promote our classy image and help us stand out from the other nail salons in our area. Target-marketing the brochure to 5,000 people within our mailing areas was more cost-effective than hosting a one-time party.”

In lieu of a large splashy party, Hare served bagels and cheese and gave a small bottle of lotion to every client. “The direct mail piece was big success,” she says. “We still receive calls about our brochure, which we mailed last December. It succeeded because we knew who our target group was. We establish objectives for all our projects so we know what type of promotion will work best – a party, a mailing, or another attention-getter.”

Creating a Theme

“Without a theme, a party isn’t special and memorable,” says Janice Mercuri, owner of The Nail Cottage in Malden, Mass. “People like something different, and celebrations that focus on a particular theme will stick in their minds for a while. It’s something they’ll talk about, and in the process, they’ll spread a good word about your business.”

Mercuri designed the theme of her salon’s grand opening around the name of her new salon. “My main goal was to reach new clients,” she says. “So I carried The Nail Cottage image into my grand opening celebration by hosting a Sunday afternoon tea.”

Mercuri found the theme party so successful that she’s now planning one for her anniversary celebration.  “I’m thinking of a Spanish theme,” she says. “I’d like to have a Spanish singer and Spanish decorations.”

Hare choose a French theme for her first anniversary bash because her salon’s birthday falls on July 14 (Bastille Day), which is France’s Independence Day. “Our goals were to thank existing clients while attracting new ones to the salon,” Hare says. “To fulfill both objectives, we decorated the salon with posters of the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame, and other French scenes. We ordered red, white, and blue balloons and flew the French flag outside our door, along with a hot pink and white flag (our salon colors) with our business name on it. We served croissants in the morning and pastries in the afternoon and created ads inviting clients to our French birthday party.”

While Hare staged her anniversary celebration during business hours, Mercuri preferred to host her party on Sunday, from 2p.m. to 4 p.m. “It seems people are more relaxed on Sundays,” Mercuri says. “You’re not interfering with business hours or Saturday evening plans, Two hours is just the right amount of time. It’s short enough so you’re not killing a person’s entire day, yet long enough to satisfy people who are bored Sunday afternoon and are looking for something to do.”

Budgeting Wisely

After you’ve established your goals and objectives and decided on a specific theme, the next step in planning a successful grand opening or anniversary celebration is to prepare a detailed budget.

There’s no sense in planning a $5,000 grand opening when all you can afford is a $200 one. Determine beforehand the amount of money you can realistically afford to spend on food, decorations, advertising, rental equipment, entertainment, etc.

“Start with a wish list,” Hare advises. “Go down the list and make phone calls to see what everything costs. From there, eliminate ideas that don’t fit into you budget. For example, when we planned our French birthday party, at first we wanted to serve lunch with quiches and other French foods. But after figuring costs, we discovered that wouldn’t be possible to serve lunch and stay within our allotted $3,000 budget. So we decided to serve croissants in the morning and pastries in the afternoon.

Downsizing the menu also allowed Hare to throw the party all week long, instead for just one day. “This way we got to keep the decorations for the entire week,” she says. “Also, we could celebrate with the $400-plus client we see each week, instead of with a smaller number that could attention only a one-day affair.”

Mercuri planned her tea party to fall within her budget. “I wanted to have elegant invitations,” she says. “So I spent a couple hundred dollars on Victorian-style cards with gold lettering and a delicate of flowers. Then, because of the printing cost, I had to do a lot of the catering and legwork myself to stick to my $1,000 budget. But I did it.”

Mercuri says savvy planners can throw a memorable party for even less than $1,000. “You can always find ways to cut corners,” she says. “For example, you can make a champagne punch, which cuts down the amount of champagne you have to buy and tastes just as good. You don’t have to be extravagant to be elegant.”

Even salon owners on a budget of a few hundred dollars or less can celebrate their grand opening by creating flyers and offering clients an extra-long hand massage or a free bottle of lotion or polish at the end of the service.”It’s not how much you spend on a grand opening but how much enthusiasm and interest you create,” says Yvonne Avery, owner of Naughty Nails in Arlington, Texas.

Avery created an innovative mailer that would draw people into the salon.”I found these black card-board tubes and stuffed them with confetti, coupons, a flyer, and an emery board, “she says. “When you opened them, everything popped out. It was a very successful way to introduce clients to my salon.”

Avery also printed hot pink flyers, which she placed on cars, in supermarkets, and everywhere else she could think of. She even hired a few kids to hand out the flyers at the local mall. “On opening day we had champagne, cheese, and fruit,” she says. “About 100 people crammed into my small shop, which I decorated with a big banner and black and lavender balloons.”  

Teresa A. Manix, owner of Puttin’ on the Glitz, in Metairie, La., created a mailer and held a grand opening-all for a few hundred dollars. To save money on postage, she created postcards with her logo and a $5 coupon printed on them. After having invested most of her money in quality equipment and products, she didn’t plan on having a grand opening party. “My mother insisted my business had to start out right with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening celebration,” Manix says. “And with the help of family and friends, I was able to host a party I’ll never forget.”

Don't Let them Get Away Without Giveaways

“Clients love to leave the salon with something in their hands, “says Janice Mercuri, Owner of The Nail Cottage in Malden, Ma.

Other salon owners agree that giveaways often bring new clients into their salon. For her grand opening, Mercuri gave away eye pencils in brown, blue, or charcoal gray and little bottles of polish. Avery, who sells perfume samples to new clients. Hare handed out little bottles of lotion during her grand opening and anniversary celebrations.

Besides giving away specific items, Teresa Manix says, you can endear yourself to the community and gain clients by volunteering your time and services. “I have a degree in social work and volunteer at Social Services,” she says. “I’m also a case reviewer for the foster care review until. I belong to many local womens’s organizations. The mayor is my client and I build integrity by attending community functions, where I get to know the main players of our business community- and they get to know me.”

Mae Hare gives to the community by sponsoring special events, such as the toy drive she hosted a Christmas that benefited a local home for abused and abandoned children.

How to Balance Your Goals and Theme With Your Budget

Manix’s grand opening is a good example of how salon owners can stretch their dollars. “My family, friends, and clients knew I didn’t have a lot to spend,” she says. “So my brother donated a honey-baked ham and turkey breast. My Mom and a neighbor got together and made party sandwiches, Jambalaya, and meatballs. They also made a big slab cake with the salon name on it. I made a huge bowl of punch and we borrowed tables and chairs. It was low-budget but high-quality.”

Mercuri shouldered most of the responsibility for her grand opening herself. “I knew what I wanted to have done.” She says, “And I’ve been to enough teas to know what would be expected. To cut costs, I decorated tables with leftover fabric from my salon’s custom-made country curtains. I went to the bakery and had them make me yellow, pink and blue breads- the color or my salon. Then I went to the warehouse and bought a large quantity of shrimp and chicken and made the salads myself.”

Mercuri also ordered a few sheets of angel food cake from the bakery. She then arranged peaches and strawberries on little squares of the cake, so they looked like mini-truffles, and topped each one with whipped topping. The morning before the tea, she and four friends stuffed the colored breads with shrimp and chicken salad and made delicate little sandwiches. For entertainment, a light-jazz player performed in a tuxedo Balloons, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and champagne rounded out the afternoon’s entertainment.

For her up-coming anniversary celebration, Mercuri is budgeting another thousand dollars. “I’m saving for my next party by scraping a little bit off the profits each month,” she says. “It would be nice to hire someone to take care of all details, but when you’re starting out, you usually can’t afford to do that so you have to rely on yourself, family, and friends. It’s also important to be realistic about your budget and not eat into the capital, or you’ll doom your business from the start.”

Dealing With the Details

Once you’ve balanced your party idea with your pocketbook, it’s time to create a list that includes every small detail- up to the minute that people walk through the door.

“I don’t like to plan things way in advance,” says Mercuri. “But once I’m in motion, I don’t stop. First I get a big notebook and break it into sections, such as food, entertainment, and decorations. That way I have one place to write down price quotes and other necessary information.”

Hare suggests keeping an updated list or file to help you stay focused and organized. “If you have a list, you really get things done,” she says. “If not you tend to be scattered. I’ve found it’s best to work out one problem before you go on to the next. Don’t move on to decorations if you haven’t finalized plans with the caterer. You can’t do A without first completing B, and you can’t do C without completing A and B. It’s a lot of work the first time around, but if you keep all your notes in one place organizing the next celebration will be a lot easier.”

No matter how well you plan, there are often a few details that are overlooked. “I was outside watching the deacon cut the ribbon on my salon,” Manix says, “when I realized no one had brought the camera. It was sitting inside the shop while we were outside making memories.”

Mercuri discovered that when you plan a grand opening is important. “I opened my doors in June,” Mercuri says. “It was a mistake to hold a grand opening then, because many of my clients were attending graduations or were away on vacation and the town was really dead. So for our up-coming anniversary celebration I’ll wait until fall - right after the children are in school - so more people will be in town. I’ll also make sure the mayor can join the celebration. This will draw more people a generate media interest.”

While salon own admit that grand openings and anniversary celebrations are a lot of work they all agree they worth it. “Besides the memories and the pleasure of seeing everyone enjoying themselves, grand opening really gave  my business a good jump start,” Mercuri says “I haven’t had to go into my pocket since the day I opened – my business has taken care of itself. Everyone should have a grand opening celebration followed by birthday parties that celebrated your salon’s success, year after year.

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