Starting a new business is a daunting experience, especially in today’s market. The costs and risks can seem insurmountable, yet many still have the desire to own their own businesses. This is where salon suites come into play, a growing trend in the beauty industry.
“My location has 26 individual salon suites, where each is furnished as a high-end salon,” said Shalaka Joshi, owner of MY SALON Suite (MSS) in Ross Township. “In other words, my business is equivalent to the coworking space model that you may be aware of, but for beauty professionals.”
Joshi built the 26 salon suites three years ago and leases them to stylists who want to start their own salons and be their own bosses. Each of the salon suites are fully furnished with two chairs and a shampoo station so that a stylist can literally walk in and start a business the next day. And Joshi assists with the formalities of starting a business, such as forming an LLC and initial setup particulars, as well as serving as a liaison for many resources including banks, scheduling programming, insurance, and marketing programs.
In addition to Joshi serving as a mentor, there is also the advantage of having the other salon owners in proximity who can provide support and referrals. “The high density of beauty professionals under one roof brings steady foot traffic from customers that benefits everyone,” said Joshi.
Another huge advantage of the salon suite is the maintenance factor, all of which Joshi handles herself. “If something breaks, we take care of it,” she said.
In fact, one of the stylist who rents from Joshi is a former salon owner. “She said she used to spend entire weekends and nights taking care of things, and now she just works and goes home,” Joshi said.
Like those who rent from her, Joshi had her own desire to start a business. The former computer engineer moved to Pittsburgh with her husband when he received a position at Carnegie Mellon University. “I took the next step of realizing my dream of entrepreneurship by opening this business,” she said. “I was further inspired by the empowerment this business model provides to young beauty professionals to become entrepreneurs, especially women, enabling them to make a difference in society.”
Joshi offers suites for all beauty professionals including hair, skin, nails, lashes, microblading, massage therapy, tattoo artists and Botox specialists. Each professional who rents from her essentially owns their own business, has their own clientele, uses whatever products they want and sets their own hours.
While many who rent from Joshi are beauty professionals with established clientele, some are young professionals who have recently graduated from beauty school, a trend that is definitely growing.
“I am increasingly hearing from beauty professionals that they want to start their own businesses rather than working for someone else,” Joshi said, “and I find great happiness in helping them fulfill those dreams.”
Lauren Mills is a stylist with young children, so the opportunity to rent a salon suite and run her own business provides her with a flexibility that she couldn’t find working for a salon. “I get to set the hours that I want to work, which is the most exciting part of this industry,” she said. “I no longer work weekends unless I choose to go in for a special circumstance.”
A stylist for over 20 years, Mills opened her own studio space in Sola Salon Studios in Cranberry two years ago. “I’ve always worked for someone else, so this is a great way for me to work for myself with less risk,” she said. Since Mills’ husband owns a barber shop, she knows the responsibilities that entails.
“This works really well for me in my life right now,” she added.
Another benefit to working in a suite of salons is the camaraderie and energy the other stylists provide. “I like this setting. We aren’t in competition and really support each other. It is a happy vibe,” said Mills. “Another benefit is that Sola provides an education center for us to attend classes to keep up-to-date on trends and techniques.”
As the owner of Lauren Mills Studio, Mills has her own small, fully equipped studio area that has worked well for her business. “My clients have told me how they love the privacy this provides for them to relax and enjoy the quiet and to be able to unwind during their appointment time without anyone else hearing our conversation or it being extremely loud,” she said.
Mills is quick to point out that while she loves her salon space and all of the benefits, there is still a market and a place for the traditional salon. “There are benefits for both. With my husband owning his barbershop and me doing this independently, I get the whole 360 view of having employees, not having employees, and working for someone else, too,” she said. “All are equally different and have been equally beneficial at different steps of my career.”
For now, renting a salon is a good fit for Mills. “It works out perfectly for my family. When my child is sick, I can take time off, and when I want to go on vacation, I can take time off without feeling guilty,” she said. “The flexibility is great and my clients really support me.”