When Julie Jardine-Bianco moved from California to Minot, North Dakota, building a business from zero wasn’t even the biggest test of her career commitment.
Color specialist Julie Jardine-Bianco has been renting her salon space for less than two months, but she’s already overcome several major obstacles. Ask her which was more difficult, getting reciprocity in a new State or building a business in a town with fewer than 50,000 people, and she says, hands down, getting reciprocity was harder—it took 1½ years.
“In California, getting a cosmetology license requires 1600 hours of school, while North Dakota requires 1,800,” she explains. “I also had to prove who was with a birth certificate, get my high school records, and obtain affidavits from my former salon employers to prove that I had worked at least 3,000 hours.” (There are special Masters License or work-hours requirements to be a renter in ND.)
Licensed since 2004, Jardine-Bianco had always worked in commission-based salons, first at 50/50, then at 60/40, which may be in indicator of how difficult it is to get employees in rental-friendly California. When she moved to North Dakota, it was securing those employer affidavits that took the most time, she says. So, what did she do while waiting to restart her career? Network and keep up with education—two strategies that paid off in spades.
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Minot’s largest employer is Minot Air Force Base, a natural place for a military spouse like Jardine-Bianco to start meeting people. After all, her husband’s transfer is what landed her in North Dakota. But she had a better idea. She signed up for Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes, started making friends and enlisted a few as unofficial “clients,” so she could try out new techniques on them. They got many compliments on their hair, but couldn’t recommend her until she was licensed in the State and open for business. She also worked the military circuit, welcoming service wives who were new to the area, dropping off meals and visiting new babies.
But her best move was to go online and learn every new technique she could. She followed and posted on Facebook’s Hairstylist Education Forum, kept up with Shannon Keel (AKA The Hair Do Chick) and Mags Kavanaugh, and watched videos from Guy Tang, Candy Shaw and Sam Villa. She boosted her business know-how by following salon business consultant Carla Jones on Periscope.
Her next challenges were to determine her costs and how fast she could build business, take out a small loan to get started and find an affordable chair to rent. “I had to run all the numbers to be sure I’d be able to run my business long enough to build a clientele,” she says. Finally, she found what she was looking for—a separate room she subletted within a salon and named The Colour Room. Two other stylists occupy the other rooms, and while the trio does not discuss prices with one another, they work cooperatively to keep common areas clean, and all recently contributed to remodeling and painting.
Starting out with just five clients from her class, Jardine-Bianco built to 30 clients in just under six weeks. How did she achieve a six-fold client increase so fast? Quality work, great service and a smart referral program, she says.
“I really take my time to get to know each client through a thorough consultation,” says Jardine-Bianco. “We discuss their hair likes and dislikes, needs and wants. They love having one-on-one personal attention. Also, I give great hair—my style is honest, classic, and clean—and am honest about what I can achieve.”
To get business booming, she also offered $40 off the next service for every three referrals. This got her nine new clients straight off the bat, and several other clients are just one referral away from reaping their rewards.
While you won’t see a lot of wild colors and ombrè on the locals, Jardine-Bianco says they love naturally highlighted looks, which made all that balayage practice pay off.
“I’ve seen a lot of stylists who feel defeated, but I say you should never give up on your dream,” adds Jardine-Bianco. “If you’re starting over in a new city or State, my best advice is to get involved with your community and network on social media by posting photos of your work. People notice good work and will talk about you if you make them feel important.”
Best Money-Saver: Stocking up during sales at CosmoProf stores.
Best Add-on Service: A brow wax, which can be done while the color is processing. Also, because it gets very cold here, I see a lot of dry scalps and recommend Moroccan Oil Treatments
Advice on Pricing in a Small Town: When setting your price point, research the local demographics, decide who you want your clients to be and set your prices accordingly. My ideal client is a woman who takes care of her hair and wants a sexy, classic look.
Favorite Products/Tools: Olaplex! It’s science-based, and it works. I also get lots of compliments from clients when I use Kenra’s Silkening Mist on them; it smells so good. As for tools, I’m in love with the BioIonic One Pass flat iron.