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5 Things You Should Know Before Opening Your Spa or Salon

By Lisa Starr

Any new business has its challenges, but spas and salons bring a whole new level of complexity to the undertaking. Success is easier if your expectations are realistic. 

If you’re considering starting a salon or opening a spa, you’re reading this at the right time! And if you’ve recently opened your business, you’re probably getting pretty good at juggling various tasks at once. Either way, it’s likely you’ve already spent a fair amount of time planning for your dream business including: 

After conquering everything on this list, you might have thought operating the business would be the easy part. However, that’s just setting the stage for the real show, the show you put on every day when you open your doors. 

In my 15 years of consulting on start-up spa and salon businesses, here are the top 5 things that surprise most new salon or spa owners. 

1. Figuring out finances  

When I’m asked for the single biggest reason for the failure of the majority of new salon or spa businesses, it has to do with money, or lack thereof. Salons and spas are all over the news today, and clients have higher expectations than ever about the facilities. To create a lasting business, you’ll need the funding for a quality build-out and salon or spa design. 

In addition, there are numerous workflow and ergonomic issues to take into account to create a facility that supports the level of business you hope to create. Work with qualified architects and designers and expect to spend a minimum of $200 per square foot to build and equip your spa or salon business. It doesn’t matter if you’re inheriting a space that used to be a similar business or if your cousin Joe is a plumber—building out your unique space is rarely done for less than this amount. It’s a significant expense, but an important one. Understanding the potential costs from the start is critical.  

Check out this post for impactful design considerations for your salon or spa.  

The second financial matter is having enough cash left over to fund your operations for the first 6 to 9 months until the cash flow of the business is at a level to support itself. So, when you’re planning your funding, don’t forget to include this crucial element. Understand what your expenses will be (what will your operating costs be, etc.?). 

2. The realities of leadership 

Technicians and beauty service providers are a unique set of engaging people. They love their work, want to do the best for the clients, and pour themselves into each and every treatment. 

At the end of the day, their vessel is empty, and they rely on their leader to fill them back up. These employees require more nurturing and praise than the average office worker. If you’re not the nurturing type, be sure to hire a manager who is (and make sure you're compensating your spa manager appropriately). 

3. Physical wear and tear 

Beauty and wellness businesses play hosts to customers who hang around for much longer than they would spend in the average retail store. Depending on your service mix, guests can be in your facility for hours. 

In a busy facility, the constant opening and closing of doors, wearing paths in carpets, day-to-day equipment usage, flushing of toilets, etc. means that objects break down, and break, at a faster rate than you might have thought possible. Be sure to have a handyman on call so you can keep your salon or spa in tip-top shape for customers and employees alike. And prepare for the cost of this. 

4. Keys to client retention 

Plenty of clients will respond to your marketing and come to see the new spa or salon in town but getting them to return a second time is an important key to long-term success. It's going to be hard to grow your revenue without good client retention.  

Just having a nice facility doesn’t do it; a well-trained staff capable of anticipating customer needs, effective treatments, wonderful ambiance, and true participation in the community you serve are the ways to earn their loyalty. And, sometimes, you need to remind your customers of the good feelings they get after spending time at your salon or spa with some well-timed emails (it's easy with Mindbody's Marketing Suite). 

5. Bringing your passion

Months of negotiating with builders and licensing authorities, hiring and training the staff, and setting up your marketing plan can wear anybody out. However, at the end of the day, your original passion and vision of what you set out to create have to be what keeps you going. 

Make sure you’re clear on what that vision is. Share it with your employees, re-visit it at staff meetings, and communicate it to your clients. You’ll find your own passion being fed by those around you. The will to succeed is a group effort. 

While starting your own wellness or beauty business isn’t easy, it can be incredibly rewarding. Get a firm understanding of necessary costs. Know who you need to hire and how to motivate them. Realize the realities of much-needed repairs to come. Recognize the impact of client retention on revenue. Perhaps most important? Bring your love of the salon or spa industry and the clients you’ll serve. Checking all these boxes will provide the strong foundation you need to make it for the long haul and grow. 

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About the author:

Lisa Starr Headshot

Lisa Starr


Wynne Business Consulting

Lisa is a frequent collaborator with Mindbody and the Principal of Wynne Business Consulting & Education, which specializes in spa, wellness, and salon businesses and brands. She has over 35 years of experience in the beauty and wellness industry, spending the last 22 years as a consultant and educator helping wellness businesses optimize their operations while providing exceptional experiences for their guests. Lisa is the Task Force Chair for the Global Wellness Institute’s Consulting Initiative, a Contributing Editor at Spa Business Magazine, a regular contributor to global trade publications, and a highly rated speaker at industry conferences. She also offers live spa management courses both online and around the globe. 

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