Entrepreneurial spirit. It’s an “I’ll find a way to get things done no matter what obstacles are in my way” attitude. The emergence and success of “cooperative salons” is a prime example. By pooling their resources, these salon owners are watching their profits grow.


Joyce Noreen, owner and president of BodyShapers For Ladies Only in Bay City, Texas, opened her 6,000-square-foot women’s health studio in January 1990. Initially, BodyShapers offered aerobics, weight machines, and tanning. But Noreen wanted to expand the menu.

“I was trying to think of other services that women could get without having to run to four or five different shops around town,” says Noreen. BodyShapers is now home to eight independent, yet very synergistic, operations: Ladyfingers, ShearShapers Hair Salon, BodyShapers Gymnastics, BodyShapers Aerobics, Memory Shapers photography and video, Electrolysis by Carol, BodyShapers Massage Therapy, and BodyShapers Bodywrap.

Noreen didn’t have to look any farther than her own clientele to find the professional talent she need to grow. “When we started adding new services, it wasn’t really a problem because the person who came in was usually someone I already knew as a studio member,” says Noreen. “Everything was understood from the beginning about how we were going to operate. The manager of the hair salon had been a member of the facility for quite some time. The massage therapist was an aerobics instructor for me and wanted to expand her career. The lady who teaches gymnastics is also my photographer.”

What type of business arrangement does Noreen have with her pseudo partners? “I do it on a percentage basis. It depends on what type of income they’ve drawn instead of putting a burden on them to spend $500 a month for their space, even if they’ve had a slow month. It seems to work out better for everyone. Now, if they have a good month, I have a good month.” This agreed-on percentage also covers expenses for all utilities and common areas such as public restrooms, a waiting room, and a staffed reception area.

While these financial terms might sound a bit relaxed for some situations, the family-like atmosphere Noreen has cultivated allows for some exceptional circumstances. “With us all being women in a small town (pop. 13,000), we’ve become fast friends. Everyone gets along like a big, happy family and we’re all eager to help each other. If I’m busy waiting on someone and my nail tech sees a customer who needs something, she’s happy to help me out. It’s a lot different than being in a big city where things are impersonal. Cooperation and the personalities of all the people have been a real plus for us.”

There are some aspects, however, where each business must act on its own. “All advertising that the individuals want to do, they do on  their own,” says Noreen.

“Although, every few months I’ll put a huge ad in for BodyShapers and list all the other services and their individual phone numbers. If I do that, it’s my choice. I don’t ask them to share an ad with me.”

Each business must maintain its own area, as well. “Anyone who has an individual business, like the nail or electrolysis technician, is responsible for keeping her area clean,” says Noreen.

Mostly, though, BodyShapers is about teamwork. More than 60% of its customers utilize more than one service offering. This stems from the fact that each business is quick to refer new customers to its neighbors. Cross-promotions are also commonplace.

“If someone is interested in Carol’s electrolysis and decides to go ahead with the service, we may give her a discount coupon for a free tan or for one of the other services,” says Noreen.


Carol Lewis, owner of the 500-square-foot Carol Lewis Skin Care salon in Birmingham, Mich., also recognizes the importance of a symbiotic relationship. The shop is home to three independent contractors whose services include pedicures and manicures, facial and skin care treatments, and therapeutic body massage.

“We all speak highly of each other, so our clients usually go from one room to the next,” says Lewis. To make this exchange even more client-friendly, Lewis allows customers to pay for multiple services with one check.

“I noticed in other salons that clients can get totally confused when they have to write one check for their nails and another for a facial,” says Lewis. “We have a computer system that lets them go right up to the front desk and pay one bill. They love that.”

Like Noreen, Lewis charges a weekly fee based on a percentage of the independent contractor’s service sales. Unlike BodyShapers, however, Lewis handles all advertising and cleaning costs.

This all-inclusive fee reflects Lewis’ beliefs on leadership. “There has to be a leader,” she says. “The owner has to be a good example. As long as I’m providing a good example, they follow the right footsteps.”

This might sound peculiar, since technically the people who work at the salon are not Lewis’ employees. That is why Lewis is so careful about whom she rents space to.

“We have such a well-run salon,” says Lewis. “That comes from the interview process and the type of person we bring in. We have a contract so that they’re clear on what we expect, even the type of music we play. Everything has to be consistent with the ambiance of our salon. I want to make sure there’s no  personality conflict that will reflect any negativity toward Carol Lewis Skin Care.” Lewis’ teamwork is paying off – nearly 70% of all customers cross over to another service.

Even though Lewis doesn’t mind sitting in the director’s chair, the salon’s business manager, A.J. Deeds, points out, “Some independent contractors consider it the responsibility of the salon to bring in customers. They’re not aware that they have a responsibility to build their own businesses.” Lewis makes it clear what is expected of independent contractors. Deeds says, “They also are involved in contributing to the actual plans and promotions of the salon.”

Says Lewis, “When we sit down and prepare specials and ads. I get input from everybody. If we do a holiday salon package, we figure a percentage everyone will agree to. If we do a holiday salon package, we figure a percentage everyone will agree to. If we do spring pedicure specials, my nail tech will tell me how much she would like to offer the pedicures for. It’s not me dictating everything.” That give-and-take mentality is what’s fueled Lewis’ success in the cooperative salon arena.


“I don’t say, I’m the boss, do it this way, and that’s all there is to it.’ I’m into teamwork. I’m always asking, ‘Do you need anything? Is anything bugging you? Are your clients good to you? Open communication is important,” says Vernita Gray, co-owner of The Ultimate Salon.

This openness and teamwork approach had facilitated The Ultimate Salon’s Success. The Milwaukee-based operation is housed in a charming three-story Victorian home. Among its cozy 19th-century architecture, Gray, Cheryl Conely, and James Kaddatz eagerly share their clientele and dreams.

Gray own About Nails, Etc!, Conely operates Faces II, and Kaddatz runs Euro Hair Tech. All clients are given a tour of the whole facility on their first visit to The Ultimate Salon.

Says Gray, “I’m located on the second floor and Faces II and Euro Tech are on the first floor. We all share the same clients. I do the manicures, pedicures, and facials. The other businesses do waxing, makeup, and hair care.

Each owner respects what the others do and won’t cross boundaries for new clients. “If I were to do hair,” says Gray, “it would take away business from the hair salon. I choose not to do hair. I just stick to what I’m good at. We all pull together by sharing customers and making referrals. We’re so organized, it doesn’t really feel like three separate businesses.” The three owners equally divide all operating costs, including utilities, rent, advertising, maintenance, and a common receptionist.

Gray describes The Ultimate Salon as a melting pot where clients from all walks of life can feel comfortable. “About 70% of our clients are cross-over clients. They find it easier having everything in one building instead of running to different places to have their hair and nails done.” To make sure their clients receive the ultimate in service, Gray and her cohorts regularly attend educational events. “I go to nails hows, James goes to hair shows, and we always try to bring our staffs. We want to be known as a salon that works together.”

While both rental is a touchy subject in the beauty industry, these salon professionals have demonstrated that independent contracting can be the ideal solution. It allows salons to offer clients the one-stop service they desire without forcing a salon owner to expand beyond her financial or managerial capacity.



Owners/Managers: About Nails, Etc!, Vernita Gray; Faces II, Cheryl Conely; Euro Hair Tech, James Kaddatz.

Services:  manicures, pedicures, facials, makeup, skin care, waxing, tinting, color wardrobe consulting, haircuts, perms, hair color

Percentage of Crossover Clients: 70%

Management Method: Separate businesses

Hours of Operation: Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8p.m.; Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10 a.m to 5 p.m.

Mission Statement: “Believe in what you do and be true to it.”


Owner: Joyce Noreen

Services: aerobics, weights, yoga, gymnastics, tanning, nails extensions, manicures, pedicures, haircuts, perms, hair color, frost, glitz, massage, electrolysis, body wrap, photography and video

Percentage of Crossover Clients: 60%

Management Method: Independent contractors pay owner percentage of monthly gross profits

Hours of Operation: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m to 2 p.m, 4 p.m to 7 p.m

Mission Statement: “Health and fitness are a very important part of everyone’s lives. Your body has got to be able to keep up with your mind.”


Owner: Carol Lewis

Services: facials, skin care, custom-blended foundations, body massage, European pedicures, manicures, nail overlays

Percentage of Crossover Clients: 67%

Management Method: Independent contractors pay owner percentage of weekly gross profits

Hours of Operation: Monday through Friday, 12 p.m to 9 p.m; Saturday 9 a.m to 5 p.m

Mission Statement: “By providing effective, high quality personal skin and body care products and services to prefoessional men and women, Carol Lewis Skin Care will provide recognition and financial security to its people, support to each community in which it operates, and consistent financial return.”

By Tracey Walker. Walker id a freelance writer in Cleveland, Ohio.

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