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What I wish I knew when starting my beauty business

Photo by Adam Winger

Making mistakes is a part of the beauty business, as any great stylist or nail technician can tell you. But there’s nothing that a second coat of polish—and advice from seasoned pros—can’t fix. For the 5,000 new beauty businesses opening their doors this summer and many more growing their business post-pandemic, there’s nothing more valuable than the wisdom of your own community. Hear from beauty industry business owners about what they wish they knew when they were first starting out.

Victoria Gasparro, owner of The Party Nail

Accent nail salon in Mount Vernon, New York

  • “Know your worth and price your services accordingly. Not every client is meant for you, and that is perfectly okay!”
  • “Go with the spa chair! If you are questioning dry pedicure or investing in a spa pedicure/massage chair, there is a high return on investment. Clients love the fact that they can be massaged during the pedicure, and that is one less task for you! Two services with one stone is a WIN.”
  • “Less is more! Start small with your salon opening supply list. You will tweak supplies and brands as you go. You don’t want to stock up initially on items that you will like or will not use.”

Clinton Jones, owner of Magnum Opus Hair Salon

Urban contemporary hair salon in Arlington, Virginia

  • “Don’t allow the experience to be so transactional. We are in a very unique position—we are physically in contact with our clients. The power of touch is enormous. We also have a captive audience for as much as two hours, sometimes even more. In the beginning, I saw myself rushing away from my clients as soon as I could. The energy it takes to stay engaged in constant conversation is frankly exhausting. I would leave work to go out and unwind with a cocktail or enjoy music, talking to friends or even total strangers all night. Then I realized I could have the same conversations with the people I see everyday, and it would give me valuable information that I could use to improve my business. I get all this time to build relationships with our guests, and that is the most valuable thing I do everyday. It’s worth more than selling an item or getting paid one time for a service.”
  • “You can delegate tasks and duties to others, but at the end of the day, everything is your responsibility. However, taking responsibility for everything doesn’t mean you have to do everything. You have to create a system where you can check on everything without doing it all!!”
  • “I hired this one young lady. I would tell her what I wanted her to do, and she would respond with the things she was willing to do. What! Then she would also suggest other tasks she could do. I was so frustrated and confused because I just wanted my requests to get done! It was basically my way or the highway. But the thing is, she was contributing in important ways—doing things I hadn’t even thought about. So I let it play out, and I ended up getting so much more than ever was expected. Look for alignment! Put people in places they see themselves, and they will do way more than you can ever ask or tell them to do for you.”

Nicci Levy, founder and CEO of Alchemy 43

Aesthetics bar specializing in cosmetic microtreatments with four locations in Southern California and New York City

  • “It’s more than okay to ask (lots of) questions. You’ll never look silly for wanting to gain a deep understanding about all aspects of your business.”
  • “Not everyone you come across is going to be as committed to your business/vision as you are. It’s your first priority, but that doesn’t mean it’s everyone else’s. Respond accordingly.”
  • “You can plan for every possible outcome and still be unprepared for things that get thrown at you. Obstacles are part of the process. Just keep at it!”

  • The Party Nail

Ashe and Christin Brown, owners of Full Spiral Salon and Pura Luna Apothecary

Hair salon specializing in curly and natural hair and apothecary in Santa Barbara, California

  • “Don’t start an unhealthy habit in your business that you feel like you have to continue to feed because then you’ll have to shake everything up and create whole new patterns within your life in order to make it work for you. It’s really just taking a look at what your values are in your personal life and applying that to your business.”
  • “In the beginning, I wasn’t willing to be open to receive the support people wanted to give me. And I think that’s a control thing for a lot of entrepreneurs. We just want things to be done right, so we do it ourselves. But if you can receive help—even from family, whatever—rely on it. Don’t feel like you have anything to prove to anybody. All you have to prove is that you are able to delegate.”

Jackelyn and Monica Madrigal, owners and founders of Color Me Chula

Hair salon and esthetician in Fresno, California

  • “Be relatable and be transparent. If you’re small and local, people want to know who they’re supporting. You can’t please everybody, but you can find your crowd, and you’re gonna attract the kind of people that you want.”
  • “You don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to be good at every service that is listed under your description. Because, as a stylist, I was like, ‘Okay, I have to know how to perform haircuts. I have to know how to use clippers. I have to know how to do color.’ I felt so much pressure. 

    Then I realized salons or stylists in other big cities either do just cuts or they do just color, and they’ll tag team with other people or they can afford assistants. So now I pick and choose. You’re just going to focus on this, and that’s okay. As long as you’re happy and you have sanity, stick with it.

    It helped talking to stylists that I look up to because I was feeling a lot of guilt turning people away. All you have to do is just refer them to someone else. Maybe that’s somebody else’s passion—help them make their coin. There’s enough business for everybody.”

Naheul Hilal, owner and founder of Iris Tattoo

Tattoo and piercing shop in Miami

  • “The power of consistency!”
  • “Name and reputation mean nothing if you don’t live up to them. We launched a business enterprise a couple of years ago that had nothing to do with our core business, hoping we could rely only on our name and reputation without being as thorough as we are in our area of expertise, and we paid the price with failure!”

Khane Kutzwell, owner of Camera Ready Kutz 

Barbershop in Brooklyn, New York

  • “I wish I would have paid more attention to gaining product knowledge. I didn’t pay (real) attention to truly learning about products until a couple of years into my business.”
  • “I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to get and keep barbers. I really thought it would be easy, but it’s a bit hard. I have a core set of barbers now, but it’s still hard to find people. I would have done a lot more advertising and a wider search in the beginning. ‘If you build it, they will come’ is not always the case. You have to market like crazy.”
  • “The most valuable business lesson I learned is how important it is to not only go hard for your business goals but also create social goals, and go hard for those as well. Burnout is REAL… and not fun. Self care and time off is so necessary for sustainability. Also, diminishing relationships due to workaholism can be hard to recover. Recognize it now, and do something about it before it’s too late.”

Alex Bradberry, founder and owner of The Sparkle Bar

Full-service makeup studio in Scottsdale, Arizona

  • “It doesn’t get easier, you just get better. Yes, I know… everyone says this, but it’s true—new levels, new devils, but the previous stages and phases are the lessons that equip you moving forward.”
  • “Community. Find it. Connect. Get plugged in. There’s a reason packs stay together. There is strength in numbers, and similarly on this entrepreneurial journey, having the support of others endeavoring in the same direction will be integral.

    You don’t have to do it alone, and with the power of social media and being able to virtually meet with anyone, anywhere, there’s no reason not to extend some olive branches and make some new business besties.”
  • “Mentorship. There are some things that only the school of life can teach you, and while some things you need to experience, the beauty of mentors is that ideally this is someone who in some part of their life has been where you’re looking to go. You can’t follow someone who has never been to where you’re aiming to go, so be discerning, but as you build and grow, identify people in your community who might serve in this capacity.

    My mentors have helped me navigate everything from the personal to the professional. If you don’t have anyone who fits the mentor bill, podcasts are another great way to immerse yourself in conversations that add value and speak positively in your life.”

  • Pura Luna Apothecary

Slideshow photos from Yelp Business Pages

Looking for more? Check out these five free things beauty-related businesses should set up on Yelp.

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The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.