Coral Lahiani is unstoppable. She’s a serial entrepreneur—hairstylist, salon owner, educator and owner of the Coral Lahiani Institute for Advanced Cosmetology and the Coral Lahiani Master Class Series. She’s focused— she’s been wielding shears and brushes since she was four years old. One of her earliest mentors was Bernard Johnson of the Ultra Sheen dynasty. For years, she’s been sought after by Chicago’s top professional African American women, from U.N. diplomats to politicians to on-air news broadcasters. She’s adaptable. Her career has thrived in top salons and now, she’s caring for her A-list clients in her own private salon suite.
But one aspect of the business has continued to elude Coral. “Retailing has always been a challenge for me,” she admits. “It’s a balance between what clients need, what’s trending and what stylists are recommending.” That’s not all. It’s difficult for a suite owner to stock a lot of inventory. Because Coral’s clients come to the salon for cleansing and conditioning, they primarily purchase maintenance and styling products to use at home, but manufacturers aren’t often willing to sell portions of a line. Coral’s very particular about the products she uses and recommends, and as a result, she tends to choose a wide variety of items from a wide range of product lines. “My greatest success,” she shares, “is when I can isolate pieces to carry the best from each line for my clients.”
Now Coral has discovered what she sees as the solution to her retailing dilemmas—the “answer to her prayers.” She has enrolled in the Amazon Local Associates program for salon pros, which allows her to create an online destination for clients, “stocked” with all the items she wants to offer. Here she offers her insights and expectations for this new phase of her business.
“At first I was skeptical,” Coral admits. “And nervous. But things are changing and the entrepreneur in me saw great opportunity in this disruption. This could be the freedom I’ve been looking for. Freedom from stocking inventory, investing in lines. It makes sense to me to have a platform where I can send clients and increase my revenue. And I wanted to know how this would impact the industry. I discovered Amazon is putting the pro first. There is a screening process to make sure you are a licensed professional. That put me at ease—they are maintaining the integrity of the industry.”
Was it Difficult to Enroll?
“It was really pretty intuitive. As a business owner I’m used to working with some robust salon software systems. This is much easier. I just followed the link to the storefront and opted to apply. Once you apply there’s a three-day waiting period while Amazon verifies you’re a legitimate business owner. Then you go online and decide which products you want to sell. Before onboarding your products, you design your own page. You can make it look like your own website, which I think is cool! Then the last step is to share your page.”
Were You Satisfied with the Product Selection?
“I was very pleasantly surprised. My focus is highly-textured hair and I was impressed by how much research they did on this subject. They even have a curl key! Amazon offers quite a few of the products I like, and they’re also open to suggestions.”
How Will You Promote this Program to Your Clients?
“I created an email blast that I sent to my own mailing list. I put a lot of information in the blast and I plan to talk to all my clients about the program when they come into the salon. I may get some samples of products I’m interested in, test them in the salon, and if a client likes them, I’ll steer them to my Amazon page. I’ll check social media to see what’s trending.”
Any Advice for Other Stylists Who Plan to Enroll in the Amazon Local Associates program?
“I would tell them it’s a great idea! I’d also advise if you’re going to apply, take an inventory of all the products you’re currently using and recommending—what’s on your station and at your backbar. I took photos of everything and that helped me when I was categorizing. Put those products on your page first.”
What are Your Hopes and Goals for This Program?
“I can see this freeing me from having to stock retail at all. Plus, there is an interactive component that allows me to talk to clients on the platform and recommend specific products to specific clients. I’d like to turn those recommendations into a blog at some point. I also plan to evangelize to other stylists—I’m already coaching them and doing workshops on the program. I feel like I’m a pioneer—this is a new frontier! I can make it what I want. And it all means additional revenue for my business.”