Business for salons is similar to many money-making businesses, but abides to drastically different laws than any other industry. In the U.S., there are federal laws that salon owners have to respect, and state laws that salons also have to respect.
As years have gone by, there are industry professionals, like Joel Warren, who are thinking of ways to stay within the boundaries of the law, while using technology to further advance their business.
“Salon business hasn’t changed; there was a receptionist, manager, assistant and commissioned hairdressers,” says Joel Warren, cofounder of Warren Tricomi and founder of a unique, new concept in beauty, retail and service. “When I went out into the marketplace, I didn’t see anything like The Salon Project.”
The Salon Project is a revolutionary salon, where professional retail exists in an inclusive world, while consumers experience a service by beauty professionals in the same space. Now, envision that setting taking place inside Saks on 5th overlooking the City. Yea. This idea is most definitely a good one.
The Salon Project is a high-end professional sanctuary where consumers can go browse the most innovative professional technology while receiving their preferred service ALL in one visit – and Keratin Complex is available for the summer heat. The Keratin Complex Smoothing Treatment leaves your hair healthy and in great condition especially after color and is now part of The Salon Project!
The professional haircare has been in the industry for years as a successful brand, and found a groundbreaking business model created by Joel. Keratin Complex begins with keratin protein, the proven ingredient that helps make hair smooth, manageable and youthful-looking. From their signature Smoothing Therapy—the award-winning keratin hair treatment that started it all—to the launch of Color Therapy, a full collection of keratin-enhanced professional hair color, Keratin Complex is redefining what it means to be an leader in silky smooth manageable hair.
Joel Warren is revolutionizing the salon business and we focused on his latest business venture so others can find alternative ways to provide their clients with the best possible products!
Tell me about this complex project and how it all got started for you?
“The Salon Project is more of like a retail store surrounded by high end services. When I started talking to Saks and started figuring what I wanted to do and where I wanted to take the direction of the salon business and I saw all the downfalls that were happening and the short fallings of what was going on internally in the salon and also, just the way the salons are run.“
What was so wrong with the current business model?
“I just said to myself, there’s gotta be a better way. This can’t be the only way to run a business. I really wanted to have something more in the realms of like Blue Mercury, Sephora, ULTA, I guess. But, more high end atmosphere.“
Tell us about your new adventure with Keratin Complex!
“Yeah, it’s great. well, it’s a lot of different aspects to it. One of them is that we are carrying Keratin at the salon. You know, pretty much our exclusive Keratin brand. And now, so, we’ve been doing smoothing treatments throughout the whole summer. We just started two, three months ago and you know, everybody loves the products, we’re doing a lot of promotions.“
Okay. So, luxury was a big component for you?
“Yes, absolutely. I’m creating a new category of business, where you’re having high end services done surrounded by the most incredible retail available. And that you’re getting the best advice from the best people that you trust. So, most people talk to their hairdresser about all different kinds of beauty things but most hairdressers are restricted by what’s inside their salon. Whereas, we have numerous brands that I don’t there’s a better arrangement of high end beauty anywhere in the world, besides my salon. I don’t know where to go to do that, ULTA has certain things, Sephora really doesn’t do consultation hair care.“
And what does that mean?
“I help incubate people, ’cause a lot of hairdressers have different products and ideas and I’m really about incubating brands. I mean, that was my real passion, to be honest. If you wanna know, it’s really about incubating brands and building my own brands.”
- Okay so, when you’re a hairdresser, how do you end up getting value, you know, in your work?
- “The only way to get real value, I’m talking about making real money, is to have a brand, a hair care brand. Or a tool, or a product, okay? But, who’s gonna help you do that, how are you gonna do it? Where are you gonna go? It’s a very, very hard path to find. So, what I’m doing is, I want brands in my place, ’cause I’m a retailer, I’m not just a hair salon. So, I’m inviting all hairdressers, with brands to showcase them, at my place. So, when we open up Manhattan, the flagship’s gonna be on the 10th floor of Saks Fifth Avenue, which is like, incredible space, all windows.”
It is something unique. When did that connection with Saks take place?
“Well, I signed the deal like two years ago and then the development of opening up the stores and we opened up our first one about four months ago, in Long Island, which is really outdated but you know, it’s like, we’re building the plane as we’re flying it here. But, really, I’m like watching every little aspect of what’s going with the salon and I’m bringing a lot of technology into the salon business.“
“I eliminated the front desk. When a client comes in, a hostess greets them, brings them to chair, at the chair is an iPad, on the iPad the client can check in, check out, can look at products, can shop.“
Wow, so, it’s almost like in the Apple store, when they do everything on the iPhone, they pay, they do everything? It’s kind of like that?
“It’s like you took a high end hair salon, Apple and Sephora and smushed them all together. What we’re doing now, is also, we’re developing an app where it all happens on the client’s phone. Next stage, which will be happening, probably, the beginning of next month. Client should be able to come in, go on their phone, be Uber-esque, make their appointments, sit at the station, get all their hair done, all their beauty services done. It’ll all come up right on their phone, they can check out right on their own phone.
Well, I owned Warren Tricomi. And, I watched my business, you know. I watched a business, that was super profitable, slowly over time, as we grew and booked more money, we made less money. So, I was like, what’s going on here. How could this be? So, I really started studying the infrastructure of salons and I started realizing where a lot of money was going and where our shortfalls were. And then, what was happening, was because of those shortfalls, and this happens in all salons, you have to cut back. You have to cut back on services, on soaps because you can’t have that many people there take care of your clients. when you came in, the receptionist was doing everything, they were greeting the clients, checking them out, answering the phones, trying to sell the retail. They would get overwhelmed and then when the clients came in, the hairdressers had less assistance and less help and they were getting overwhelmed and they couldn’t do the retail. The whole experience became more of a chore than luxury.
Yeah so, what happens internally, in the salon, is that there’s a lot of friction going on. So, the hairdressers are mad at the receptionists, the receptionists are overwhelmed, the clients are upset with the hairdressers, who are… and there’s all this stuff going on and what I’ve done, is now, say okay, I’m gonna eliminate that whole thing.“
Okay. So how is The Salon Project different?
“It gives hairdressers control over their whole business. So, at their station, they are actually able to book their clients, check their clients out. And what I also did, in Long Island, was I built a station with a sink at it. So, if a client came and there was no one there to do a shampoo, the hairdressers can do it right at their station, without leaving. Each station is its own salon, if you wanted to break it down like that.“
Tell me about how you came up with this workflow and technology?
“I think this is the only way the industry grows because of the way the infrastructure, the government, the labor department, all the things that we’re now faced with. Where 10 years ago, when you ran a salon, you didn’t have to deal with it. You didn’t have computers, you didn’t have anything tracking. You didn’t have interest rates from your credit cards, you didn’t have accountants and lawyers and then you didn’t have to worry about doing promotions – PR could do it, and you can afford a PR agent. Now you have so many, different things going on that are so expensive, at the end of the day, the salon owner doesn’t make any money. And this foundation you’ve built upon, this expense to build the salon is so unbelievable these days. You know, by the time you’re doing getting outta your lease, if you’re even, you’re lucky.
A lot of the hairdressers are getting frustrated working at salons, splitting their money and then realizing, why am I doing this? I’m nothing but frustrated in this salon, let me go do my own thing and isolate myself.“
In terms of the technology that you’re using behind the chair, the self serve, self pay situation, is this something you developed on your own?
“Well, we’re using a system and we’re working with the owner of it, and it’s called Salon Biz. There’s a lot of different booking systems out there but my real thing that I was looking for was a retail system. Something that I could scan the products on and then they come up on a ticket. That was something that was really important to me. So, when the hairdressers are sitting at the station, and this was really also a big part of what’s going on at the salon, is that salons don’t sell products. They don’t sell products ’cause they’re not built correctly. So, the retail is nowhere near the hairdressers. The front desk people can’t do the job and sell the retail and the hairdresser can’t get to it, when they have back to back clients. I put the retail, right next to the stations.“
Okay, so each station has its own retail space?
“Yeah, in a good way because the clients wanna know what to use. They do to CVS or Duane Reade and they’re buying stuff that they have no idea what it is. And no one’s there to help them. You want a hairdresser to have options, you don’t want people getting bored, and what’s great, is that, one of the things that really has come about, is that we have the most advanced education system that any salon could, possibly have. Because, we have all these different brands. So, one week I have Oribe’s team in there, the next week I have Living Proof, one week I have Bumble and Bumble, and the other week I have Keratin Complex. It’s an ever rotating educational calendar within the salon. So, the hairdressers are getting trained, but not only that, we have makeup lines coming in. We have skin care lines coming in. So that people are becoming beauty experts, where they should be. That’s what they go into this business, ’cause they like beauty.
I mean, I could go on and on because one of the things that I think is very frustrating for some people, not all. Is that when you meet somebody and you’re a hairdresser, you know, hi, how you doing, and you talk to them and you invite them in. They come in and you’re a colorist, right? You talk to them about their whole look. You know, I want you to have blond hair, I want you to have hair, wavy and long and this and then, you do their color and then you give them to the stylist and the stylist has their own ideas and the stylist talks them into getting bangs and a bob. And, you don’t see them, they come back and they’re looking at you and it’s like, nothing that you thought of. So, their creative control becomes limited by being departmentalized a lot, as well. And then it’s confusing for the clients also because they’re like, who’s the boss?“
Clients are receiving mixed messages.
“A lot of mixed messages. And I’m telling them, buy this shampoo, buy this conditioner, buy this product for your hair. Then they go into somebody else and they’re telling them something totally different. Then they get to the front desk and they’re like, forget it, I’m just getting outta here. You know, it’s like, who do I listen to? So, there’s a lot of things going on with the way that salons are being run, that I’m like, this is not right. This can’t be the best we can do.“
So, it was more… it was also based on the client’s journey, you know?
“The clients are coming to this salon and they wanna be able to talk to somebody, that really is an expert, you know, incredible services, get taken care of. They’re paying good money, you know, the experience has to get better. A lot was based off of the journey of the client.“
Tell me a little, bit about, in terms of who can access this and how can stylists get involved?
“So, stylists can get involved by contacting me: Joel@thesalonproject.com. We’re rolling out across the country in Saks Fifth Avenues. So, right now, we’re in construction in Boca, Houston, Manhattan salon, we have Long Island built. We have a pop up downtown in Brookfield Place, which is a really cool event space. And then, I have 10 locations across the country that we’re opening. It’s fun and it’s exciting and it’s different and it’s new and every day I learn something new, when I’m there. We’re all… everything’s coming together, like right now, at the first one, Huntington Salon, it’s like really getting so smooth. It’s kinda scary watching it work.”
Yeah? It’s a very seamless transition?
“Yeah, so when I see the clients come in, sit down, get their hair done and right at the station, checking in, checking out, paying for everything and the hairdressers are doing it and they’re like, I don’t have to chase after a front desk person, and this and that. And, the colorists are putting in their pricing and they’re coming up and it’s really great when all the dots connect. I just like making people happy and when I see people that are frustrated and working and, I think it’s a micro chasm of the business, that this country really should have. If you took the President and say, what do you want in a business? He would probably describe the beauty business, okay? Multi-gender, multi-ethnicity, you know, creative, service oriented, make good money. It has every aspect of the perfect business. And yet… it’s not perfect. We don’t have lobbyists as hair salon owners ’cause there’s not one big business. You know, it’s a lot of little small businesses.“
Can you give me an example?
“So, when all these governmental restrictions came in, with the labor department… you know, I’ll tell you a story. I had an assistant who was just in love with the business, worked her butt off and because of what’s going on with minimum wage, she could only work 35 hours a week. Because, if she worked more than 35 hours a week, I’d have to pay her time and a half. So, start paying her time and a half, you know, I’ll get killed. So, I literally would have to send assistants home and bring in new ones, in order to keep the salon running properly.
I’ve tried to figure everything out, there’s no work around, like I said, it’s a micro chasm of the perfect business and it should run that way and it’s with mostly people that are happy and creative so, it should be a great vibe when you walk into the business and everybody should have a great time and that propels making money. Because when clients come in and it’s the ease of coming in and getting your hair done, you look great, and the person that’s doing it, happy and not frustrated. It’s like, perfect.“
By Alejandra Acuña