Solo Artist

The Other Social Network

Victoria Wurdinger | December 15, 2015 | 1:45 AM
Corrine Mathison learned lot about business in her previous position at a medium-sized chain, where she managed, then taught advanced-stylist Redken color and trend haircutting.
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Mathison’s suite at My Salon Suites is large enough for her to double book around color processing times—nearly 80% of her clients get color.
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Keeping up with trends allows Mathison to have clients from three different generations, which is a must for maintaining a thriving business.
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Twenty-three percent of Mathison’s clients are men, who are extremely loyal. They are usually referred by the women in their lives, and consistency is key to keeping them, she says.
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Corrine Mathison used what mentors taught her, client relationships and referrals to build and maintain her business. She doesn’t even have a Facebook page.

Corrine Mathison, a renter at My Salon Suites in Roseville, MN, named her salon the unisex and easy-to-remember “Hair Forum.”  In her 30 years in the business, she’s been a commissioned stylist, a salon manager and educator (for the once-large Hair By Stewarts chain), and a renter. And what she’s learned she says, is to get in early on whatever is new, mind your mentors and don’t move locations too often.

“This is my third location in 30 years,” says Mathison, who began renting 19 years ago. “I’ve been here for eight months, but every time I moved, nearly 100% of my clients followed me.”

That enviable loyalty comes from consistency, professionalism, a strong educational foundation, and not moving too far, geographically, she notes.

While Mathison says she doubled her income her first year as a renter, she only moved to her My Salon Suites location 8 months ago, because her previous rental salon closed. Suites are the up-and-coming thing in the industry, she says, and she looked for a near-by location, a large-enough space to accommodate two clients at once (she double books), a good security system and a front seating area. “I also love the software system, “Rosy,” which we get at a discount,” she says. “It saves me a lot of time. I had thought it would be a challenge to have no receptionist, but the software simplifies booking, automatic appointment reminders and numbers-tracking.”

With about 276 clients in her database and 218 regulars who return every 4-6 weeks, Mathison also has a 90-95% pre-booking rate. All this is the result of what she learned early on: that it takes a village to succeed in business.  

Working The Human Network

Being able to create and keep a large clientele starts with education, and Mathison has a masters license in trend cutting and coloring. “Learning the basics well and keeping up with the trends is extremely important in this industry,” says Mathison. “I have clients who range in age from 80 to pre-teen, and you can only do this if you stay current.”

What else she learned that fueled her success:

  • Choose one color line and learn it well. “If can’t cover gray, it isn’t the color line, it’s because you aren’t doing gray coverage properly.”
  • Get a great mentor. Whether you are a commissioned stylist or a renter, mentors matter. Mathison says that one thing her previous rental-salon owner taught her is that you should never discount services—only discount products.
  • Master business skills. As a salon manager, Mathison learned to be organized and spend smart. She buys color inventory twice a year during big sales and keeps extra products at her home, bringing them to her suite as needed. Also, watch out for shipping costs. “Renters can place smaller-sized orders as a group and share shipping costs,” she notes.
  • Remember that clients are your walking billboards and a strong business is built on referrals. “I never had to ask for referrals, says Mathison. “Mothers will bring in daughters and teens will bring in friends if you show up, keep it professional and take your work seriously. Also, in a salon, be nice to co-workers’ clients. If a stylist moves out of the area, their clients may think of you.” (And, they’ll easily find you if you haven’t moved around too much.)
  • In addition to maintaining great relationships with clients, keep your client contact information and even color formulas in a safe place. Even as an employee, Mathison kept this information in a safe in her home, in the event the salon had a fire or a major computer crash. When you are talking about your livelihood, protect it the old-fashioned way. 

Mathison also stays community-involved through the American Cancer Society’s Look Good Feel Better program. While it is not the place to promote your business, it’s a rewarding way to give back and use your skills, and program has a great need for licensed stylists. She’s cut back on her usual monthly classes due to her recent move, she says, but she hasn’t changed her educational goal to attend at least two shows a year, to keep up with spring/summer and fall/winter trends. Attend local classes, and you’ll not only keep up with what’s new—you’ll meet a network of potential mentors the truly social way, face to face.


Inside Scoop:

Must-Attend Education: The Redken Exchange

Fav Online Education: Modern Salon magazine’s website and various YouTube videos

Best Color Technique: Right now, I love foiling different ways. You can get so many looks by varying sectioning and placement patterns.

Best Money Saver: Using my software system to book clients. I don’t let them book online themselves because I know when I can fit someone in, and who and how to double book.

Best Add-on Service: Olaplex

Favorite Tools: FHI Heat flat irons and dryers.

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