Solo Artist

How To Build a Rental Business at Lightening Speed

Victoria Wurdinger | March 15, 2016 | 9:02 AM
Monna Bianca says it took a year to get her own natural Level 3 hair to this super blonde. “Blonding keeps clients coming back.”
Photo By Monna Bianca Photo 1 of 5
Monna Bianca studio at Salons by JC is a peaceful oasis where no service is rushed.
Photo By Monna Bianca Photo 2 of 5
Balayage is Monna Bianca’s most popular service.
Photo By Monna Bianca Photo 3 of 5
Younger clients who want wild color mixes are a must for a growing business.
Photo By Monna Bianca Photo 4 of 5
Every cut looks better with balayage, says Monna Bianca. Here, her color treatment showcases twists and turns in the style.
Photo By Monna Bianca Photo 5 of 5

When Monna Bianca moved from a salon in Chicago’s Lakeview area to a far-flung suburban Salons by JC suite, just one client followed her. What she did next was risky, but it paid off fast.

After nine years as a stylist, Monna Bianca realized she had to spend more time closer to home with her three children. All in a three week period, she quit her job at a commission salon, rented a Salons by JC suite in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and started driving business to her new The Monna Bianca studio.  

“I took 100% risk,” says Monna, who goes by her first and middle name. “I’d just gotten my tax return and that’s what financed me. Almost everything I did involved Facebook, Yelp and the Salons by JC owners, who are just amazing.”

Monna’s 4 Steps to Success

1. First, Monna set up a Yelp account and a Facebook business page, which she hadn’t had before. Then she began posting photos of her work on both, and on Instagram. “I offered 50% off for those who would book in the first week, and 50% off for a friend who came in with the person,” she says. “It was a time-limited offer, and I had a plan for what to do next. Before each person left, I pre-booked her next appointment, set her up with retail and asked for a referral.”

2. When any client visited for the second time (usually in 6 weeks), she asked for a Yelp review. At this point, she says, the client knows she loves her hair and will happily supply a positive review. Also, Monna began discussing pre-booking during the consultation, because now she could plant a seed early on by asking how the client’s hair was behaving and if she thought she needed to book sooner next time or not. “This avoids rushing everything at the end.”

3. Naturally, Steps 1 and 2 should be tweaked as you go. Monna’s best referral reward is $25 off the next service for clients who make referrals. Rewards are cumulative: anyone making three referrals between appointments gets $75 off her return visit. About 25% of Monna’s clients take advantage. Also, she learned that the best Facebook posts were photos of her haircolor work, and the best times to post were at 9 a.m., 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.

“Positive Yelp reviews got me many new clients,” she adds.

4. Work your support systems. Monna says Salons by JC offers tons of marketing help, such as Chamber of Commerce connections that led to renters doing services for 100 local women; back-to-school events, during which stylists can pass out cards and explain their specialties; holiday suite parties with special guests and the January New Year/New You event, which attracts new clients and solidifies existing relationships.

Of course, all these tactics hinge on a strong ability to retain every client who walks in the door. “I help all my clients feel comfortable and cared for, and I strive to nudge them out of their comfort zones,” says Monna. “I help them transform, so they love who they are even more.”

After nine months, Monna has met her goal of seeing about four clients a day, five days a week, while freeing up her family time. She charges on the high end for her area: $200 for balayage, $65 for a base retouch and $65 to $75 for a cut, depending on the hair’s length. (All her services include blow outs.) And, with clients ranging in age from 19 to 60, she says she has what all stylists need to grow a business: gray-coverage clients, young people who want fashion colors, and those who want higher-end balayage.

"I didn’t do this to work like crazy all day; I did it to have more time with my family,” she stresses. Her next step: hiring an assistant who can eventually grow into her own business, then hiring yet another and helping her to the top. “I’m all about having an impact on people’s lives,” says Monna.

Must-See Hair Show: ABS in Chicago and the Major League Barber Midwest Super Barber & Stylist Expo. I prefer female clients because you can’t charge men as much, but I want to learn more about men’s cutting for my personal growth.

Favorite Online Education: YouTube videos: Guy Tang, Sam Villa, TiGi.

Best Add-on Service: A color glaze, for $28 and up

Favorite Tools: Premiere brushes! I need more, they are so perfect for soft balayage applications. Also, EmBee Meche re-usable foil alternatives. They take time to clean but they’re worth it.

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