The Kismet Collective is an example to inspire many beauty professionals who would love nothing more than to open their own salon but fear the many obstacles that must be overcome. So we talked to Nicoletta Gauci, Roxanne Schreiber, and Daisy Quimby about their journey.
The story of the Kismet Collective starts like this! “Once upon a time Roxanne, Daisy and Nicoletta found themselves working together at a salon in Burbank, CA. But at a certain point all three agreed that they should set out on an adventure all their own. And so they did!” Indeed, the story of of these three friends and colleagues sounds a lot like a fairy tale, maybe ! And just to switch things up a bit, there was even a Fairy Godfather who helped them to work the magic that would become a bright and spiffy salon all on a very tight budget and a dream!
When Nicoletta wrote to me about her new venture opening the Kismet Collective, I thought it would make a great story that might also inspire other salon pros who aspire to opening their own business. And the moral of the story is: Yes! You can!”.
Tell us a bit about how you all met and decided that Kismet would be your future.
Roxanne Shreiber, Daisy Quimby and I met at different points in our careers. I was Roxanne’s educator at Paul Mitchell the School 13 or so years ago while Daisy and I met in 2021 during an impromptu brow and lash appointment. By 2021 all 3 of us were working at a salon located in the Magnolia Park area of Burbank, CA. As our lives and careers evolved, we realized we wanted to do something a bit different while maintaining the good working relationship we had nurtured.
Why did you choose Kismet “collective” as opposed to other organizational business models?
Most salons have a hierarchy model. Whether you work on a rental or commission basis, you have an overarching owner and a pyramid of artists. Instead, at the Kismet Collective we wanted everyone to be on an even playing field. When everyone has a common invested interest, they all put in more effort. From a business perspective, we had to become partners in order to form an LLC and establish financials like a lease and bank accounts.
So those partners created the systems the salon follows. Then the team had to review everything before anyone signed on. However anyone who joins the team is able to become a partner provided they make the same investment and have the necessary qualifications. The artists who preferred not to make that level of commitment joined as renters. Others joined on a sliding scale commission basis with the intent of growing to rental. As a result, their level of commitment establishes their ‘voting power’ at the quarterly salon meetings where all important decisions are made. When someone has a great idea it’s never a hard ‘no’. Instead usually it’s a ‘Let’s bring it to the team’, followed by ‘Can you own this task?’. This erases the burden from falling all on one person’s shoulders.
How did you decide on the location – price, demographics, convenience?
General location was easy! We wanted to stay in the vicinity of our existing clienteles and lives. It’s easiest to grow a clientele in the community where you live, play and work. We knew the area had many, many low to mid range priced salons, but we wanted to position ourselves as mid- to high. This meant we needed curb appeal and a slightly more elevated location. So we weren’t going to take it unless it met 90% of our check list. This meant is had to be within budget. We hunted daily and looked at 10-20 vacant properties, learning a lot about build out costs along the way. After two failed attempts, I serendipitously found what would eventually turn into Kismet on a Sunday morning on the way to a Girl Scout booth!
What kind of budget were you working with?
Because our LLC was brand new, we had no credit. Moreover, the economy is not readily lending to start ups at the moment. So we had to work with what we had. Our budget for the build out (all equipment and furniture
included) was $30,000.
Where did you draw inspiration for the Kismet Collective and what outfitters did you use?
Our first inspiration stemmed from our organic-shaped wavy mirrors and a desire NOT to have full-length ones. As a stylist, staring at your whole self daily can do a number on your body image. Plus, clients don’t love it either!
Lighting became our second most important factor, we have all worked in SO many salons were the lighting impacted our ability to work. We focused on day light and natural soft LED lights. We also decided to backlight all of our mirrors.
Thirdly, we decided we wanted a neutral palette. We definitely wanted to avoid the harsh black that seems to be all too common in hair salons nowadays. We all know that dark cool colors absorb light and we wanted none of that.
And for the furniture and details?
Once we decided on our color palette, the group chat went wild! There was an exchange of thousands of messages with images of chairs, mats, shelves, colors, sinks, stools…you name it. We took inspiration from Bergdorf’s, Nieman’s, Saks Kids, Homary. We were gravitating towards a combination of 60’s and 70’s color palettes and psychedelic organic shapes. We wanted something with a touch of retro, a touch of class, and a lot of functionality.
The challenge was that most of our inspo was insanely out of our budget. After all, the most of our money was
clearly going toward plumbing, electric and equipment (in that order). So we had to get resourceful. This meant tons of hunting on apps like OfferUp, sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
Tell us more about Richard Schreiber’s input in designing the Kismet Collective decor and floor plan.
Richard Schreiber is our honorary ‘salon dad’. In reality is Co-owner Roxanne Schreiber‘s dad. He came in on the day we signed our lease and measured every nook and cranny of our slightly irregular 2,000 sq ft. He then proceeded to take our inspiration and transform it into reality through his designs. He had a fulfilling career as an Art Director Guild Member and Emmy Award winning Set Designer. Then he found himself having to field our crazy ideas AND work an insanely fast turn around of 1 month to stay on budget!
He collaborated with Jamieson Winans at Global Entertainment Enterprises. Together they created all of the amazing details you see at Kismet. From our drip shelves, to our arched holographic doorways. He even enhanced many of our second hand finds, like the salvaged yellow entertainment center that became our color bar.
How do you especially focus on clients’ needs at Kismet?
One of the fun elements that were really important to us is our co-working station. This was something we knew we wanted no matter what space we ended up in. The landscape of what a normal 9-5 looks like changed so much during Covid that most of our clients started bringing their lap tops to the salon during their appointments. But it also meant they needed somewhere to work comfortably! This inspired us to create a desk height area with rolling chairs where our clients can not only process, but where we could even apply colors or style if needed. It has been a HUGE hit.
We also offer guests a variety of beverages to make their experience as complete as possible and really add to the hospitality. Although many salons have gotten rid of their front areas, we favored having a consistent common place where guests go to be checked out. To our advantage, this also creates a system to end a service… AND book a future one!
What else did you do to optimize the floor plan and work flow?
For one, we don’t assign stylist stations, we have medical rolling carts that a stylist brings to their desired spot for the day. This maximizes the space in the salon and also lets a stylist’s energy dictate where they feel like working that day. When it comes to our color bar, it’s a communal station. Artists fill their case with what they need that day from their locker and then transport it back at the end. Our color mixing and formulating happens in front of the clients so they can see the ‘magic’.
Our two special babies were our esthetician rooms. It was really important to all of us, and especially our co-owner Daisy, to feature these services and give them a special private area. Beyond hair services we now currently offer brow microblading, lamination, waxing and tinting, eyelash lifts and tints, lip blush tattoo, facials, lymphatic contouring and many more services to come.
What about sustainability – especially in construction supplies and recycling?
We tried incredibly hard to be as sustainable as possible. First and foremost, nearly everything you see at Kismet (except equipment) was either purchased second hand or made from salvaged materials that were remnants from the set design shop. Anything that had to be disposed of was done so through our local buy-nothing groups where people needed items for their own projects (including all of our many, many boxes). Other things were recycled. Of course no one is perfect so our build out did create some waste, but we tried to keep it to a minimum.
Under your transparency policy you say that the Kismet Collective wants to change the “narrative and structures of existing hair salons”. Can you be more specific about how you think salons should be organized and managed?
There is so much secrecy in the salon ownership and management aspect of our industry. Prices for commissions and rent are set without any context and decisions are made without consulting with the team that they will impact. So we offer complete transparency. At Kismet all of our Excel spreadsheets are available for any member of the team as read only. They know exactly what our build out costs were and what our monthly budget looks like. They see where their rent goes and where retail sales go.
They also have full access to their books. In this way they can edit their own schedule and pricing. It doesn’t matter whether they are rental, commission or hybrid. We trust that each individual knows what is best for them. If they need help we are here to offer financial or business coaching. We want everyone to be as booked and busy as THEY want to be not as WE want THEM to be. We are a team of artists helping each other have the career we each want to have.
As partners we divided up the main responsibilities based on our strengths. I handle Finances and Marketing as the Business Director, Roxanne is Salon Director, and Daisy is the Esthetics Director.
…….. And they all lived happily ever after at the Kismet Collective – where art & heart became a successful salon business!