Solo Artist

The Happy Hairdresser

Lauren Salapatek | December 15, 2015 | 1:36 AM
Brandi Crosson, in a rare photo with her natural curl tamed.
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Half-wall dividers separate the space at Blue Iris Salon in Raleigh, NC.
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Brandi Crosson’s space is large enough to add seating and plenty of retail.
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Crosson say air-dried curls will be big in 2016—or for the many who don’t shampoo daily, curling-iron reshaped ones will be popular on the second day.
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Crosson says the next color trend will be deep Burgundy and red-violet haircolor.
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Brandi Crosson likes short cuts with a little sass and flair.
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After years learning the business aspects of salons, Brandi Crosson realized she was only truly happy when she was doing hair. Her background helped her build business fast.

Ten years ago, Brandi Crosson says she “failed to research the right salon for her,” got disillusioned and went to work for Steven Cowan at Professional Salon Concepts’ The Space educational facility instead of doing hair. There, she learned all about the how to run a salon and manage people. She went on to become a marketing trainer for an Ulta salon, and eventually ended up in Raleigh, NC, as a salon operations manager. But after running a successful salon and doing hair there for a year, she realized the balancing clients and coaching was taking 6 days a week, and she enjoyed working directly with clients more.

A search for a place of her own proved that there are a wide variety of options, from open chairs to hybrid salons to full-fledged suites to salons with half-wall dividers. She chose the latter at Blue Iris Salon, because it combined semi-privacy with the feeling of a salon, and had a downtown location that suited her clients. Also, she wanted to sell her own retail, not just get commission on a rental owner’s—another common option.

“The move was a fast one but I was prepared, and about 95% of my clients followed me,” says Crosson. “Some of those who I had no contact information for found me, but the salon quickly locked-down the client books.”

She started her new solo business with about 70 clients, which she says may not sound like a lot, but almost all got higher-ticket chemical services, primarily haircolor.  Also, the fact she is a curly hair specialist worked to her advantage.

“Almost everyone with curl has a ‘hair history,’ and I am known for wearing my own hair curly most of the time, embracing natural texture and caring about the hair’s health,” she says. “Curly-haired clients are incredibly loyal.”

After 7 months on her own, Crosson has build her base from 70 clients to 150. How did she do that? Systems.

Getting’ Down to Business

The most important thing for renters to know is how to be organized and plan well,” says Crosson. “Know your metrics. A clientele matters, but pre-booking is the most important. Depending on the month, 95-to-100% of my clients pre-book the next two appointments. I explain that it’s not only to their advantage to plan ahead for the days they want, but that it makes services more affordable, because there is not much extra work to do when they come in. Also, doing a good consultation with every client matters a lot. I create a hair plan for everyone, and always ask if they have had any hair challenges since the last visit.”

Well and good, but where did all the new clients come from? Crosson hit her referral program hard, upping the reward ante and subtly encouraging both referrals and Yelp reviews by telling her clients, “The best compliment you can give me is if you write an online review one day or if you send me your friends and family members.”

Her previous reward program gave clients $10 for one referral, $15 for the next and a free cut for the third. Her new program simply gave them $20 off a service for each new referral. Now her business is booming, she’s moved on to a referral-based raffle for a year’s worth of free cuts. The more referrals a client makes, the more times his or her name goes in a vase that she keeps highly visible.

Additionally, with all those curly girls, Crosson has  phenomenal average retail ticket of $74. “Most stock up all at once, so I offer 20% off if they purchase more than two products,” she says.

To keep systems easy, Crosson uses QuickBooks for the Self Employed, linked to her single business credit card and bank account. The software uploads essential information, which she verifies. A Square card swiper allows her instant feedback on her top services (a retouch/highlight/glaze combo), product sales (her top seller is ColorProof Humidity Rx), repeat clients and more. She also uses online booking. Her business activities take just 1-2 hour a week, and the only thing she has to track manually is her referral/rewards program, which she keeps in individual client files.

“My only challenge now is to balance my work and personal life,” adds Crosson. “When my husband and I are together, we both turn our phones on silent. I learned that from him—he owns his own business, too.”


Inside Scoop

Must-See Hair Show: ABS Chicago. I have been obsessed with this show since beauty school. 

Favorite Online Education: Sam Villa. I like to watch his videos in the morning for inspiration. 

Best Business Tool: QuickBooks for the Self-Employed. It makes accounting so easy! 

Best Money-Saver: Square. I can do my credit card processing and keep track of inventory all in one place. 

Schedule: I work 4 days a week. Saturday is my long day and I work late on Thursday.

Prices for a Root Retouch and a Cut: Start at $156. My weekly rent is $175, so in general, one client a week pays the rent. They usually add highlights and a gaze.

Best Add-on Service: Brow and lash tinting. It’s really quick and makes such a big difference in a client's appearance. 

Favorite Products: I’m obsessed with ColorProof. I'm a big fan of the SuperRich Intensive Treatment, Wicked Good Shine Spray and Humidity Rx.  Living in NC, I cannot live without those.

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