Solo Artist

Monica Byrne, Master of Her Own Domain

Victoria Wurdinger | November 15, 2015 | 12:06 PM
Monica Byrne says she “sets a level of expectations” to get 100% of her clients to re-book before they leave.
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At Monica Byrne Studio, balayage can be fashion-forward or traditional, depending on what the client wants.
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Old-school skills allow Monica Byrne to address uneven curl patterns with spot perms.
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Monica Bryne’s clients want soft, natural looks that make them feel good about themselves.
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When Monica Byrne built-out a private studio in her own back yard, she had to attract clients closer to home. Not a problem for this outgoing master colorist.

The day Monica Byrne met Tom Dispenza, a colorful spark was ignited. Bored  with perms and asymmetrical cuts, she started “playing with color.” Fast forward to today and Byrne is an American Board Certified Haircolorist (ABCH) and a Chromastics master colorist, who has a private clientele and acts as a mentor in her state’s cosmetology apprenticeship program—for free. “The criteria is the same as that for an accredited school, only it’s twice the hours,” says Byrne. “I owe my career to a great mentor, so I do it to give back.”

A few years ago, Byrne decided to go solo because she was working in the salon of a “non-present owner, who was hurting everyone’s reputation.” Since she and her husband owned their home and property, she checked local and State regulations, of which there were plenty, and eventually built-out her own studio with a private entrance and separate parking. The biggest plus: she has zero overhead at Monica Byrne Studio in Falmouth, ME.

Building-Up the Build-Out

With her studio in place, the next challenge was how to re-build a clientele. Byrne’s previous salon was too far away to expect many clients to travel to her new location, and her area is filled with islands—many people take the ferry and don’t even drive. So what did she do?

  1. Sent “by invitation only” notices to clients she thought might go the extra distance. About one-third did.
  2. To replace the other two-thirds, she targeted local-community clients she thought were a good fit (women between the ages of 35 and 65 who were in the workforce), and personally introduced herself. “I started at a cosmetic dentist’s office because women who will get cosmetic dentistry will get haircolor,” says Byrne. “Haircolor is also cosmetic.”
  3. Visited businesses with female employees, introduced herself and handed out cards. Some offered a discount on cuts if they were booked with color, but color itself was never discounted. “While my professional expertise was important, I believe my relaxed, confident manner was equally so,” she says.

Byrne understood what her clients-most-likely wanted: a setting that balanced professionalism with the comfort of knowing they would be heard and taken care of. “I call it emotional sweat pants,” says Byrne of her comfortable yet not too-casual environment.

Today, with about 200 clients in her steady database and a slew of snowbirds who return in summer, she says her regulars come back every four weeks: “As part of the check out procedure, I tell them when to pre-book, I don’t ask them,” says Byrne. “I’m very proud to say that 100% book the next appointment before they leave.”

Byrne’s clients are now friends who know one another, which she is keenly aware of when she re-books them. After all, small communities can be gossipy, and not everyone loves everybody else.

Explains Byrne, “Forget that clients want one-on-one time—they also like a space that feels energetic, but want to know that what they discuss stays private. I control all aspects of my books, so that if two people are in the studio at the same time, they are a good fit. If someone wants a time that might overlap with the wrong person, I say it’s not available.”

 By booking clients when she wants them, Byrne still has time to teach at the ABCH Energy Summit, and at local classes for Carabito Cosmetics & Beauty Supply. Between teaching, seeing clients and mentoring apprentices, she still plays with color techniques on mannequin heads, which surprises her clients. “When they say, ‘why are you doing that, I thought you knew it all,’ I say no, you never do,” says Byrne. 

But what she does know is that now, she controls all aspects of her life. That’s why she still has time for all the things she loves, like cooking, gardening and playing with her three dogs. “I feel like I live on vacation; I enjoy every day,” adds Byrne.

Educational Must: The ABCH Energy Summit

Surprise Add-On: I don’t do chemical straightening, but a lot of curly haired women have varied curl patterns. I tap my old skills by offering spot perming, and a lot of women come to me for that now.

Best Use of Social Media: Befores and afters on Instagram

Favorite Tool: My rollerball hair dryer

Price for Cut and Color: $115

Online Learning: I Google any new technique I hear about. It’s always a new name for an old technique, like hair painting and balayage.

Top Money-Saver: Control your inventory; buy just what you need.


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