Startup Beauty Business from Home Case Study: Sarah Janes

Name: Sarah McKiernan

Age: 32

Qualifications: IHBC, City and Guilds, ITEC

Business: Sarah Janes Beauty Salon

Started: Nov 2005

The number of home-based businesses is set to see an impressive growth in 2007, according to a home working expert. According to Jones, the number of personal service companies, such as complimentary therapists will grow by a whopping 50% in 2007 (source startups.co.uk). Sarah McKiernan has been successfully trading now for two years from a spare room in her house in Southampton. She talks to hair and beauty jobs about the challneges she's faced along the way.

Q. What were you doing before you started up your own business?

We had just moved to West Morling in Kent for my husband's job and I'd found part time work in two beauty salons.

Q. What made you decide to start up your own business?

I'd been thinking about it for some time. You know, you get fed up working for other people, the rate of pay. It was after working at one of the salons I got an insight into how much you can earn. I was receiving 60% of the income from every job I did and the owner was getting 40%. I got a really clear indication of what earnings could rise to.

Q. Where did you set up your business?

I set it up in my home, in what the previous owners had as a playroom.

Q. Does it offer all the services that a normal salon would on the high street?

Oh yeh, of course! I offer manicures/pedicures, aromatherapy facials, Swedish body, sports, Thai and Indian head massage, reflexology, tinting and waxing.

Q. How long did it take you to convert the room?

It took two weeks to convert the playroom into a fully fledged salon. I ordered the couch and other furnishings from Ellisons and also got a whole stack of stuff from Ebay.

Q. How do clients react to entering a salon that's inside a house?

There's definitely a client range that loves going to someone's house. Some of my clients prefer going to me as it's more private and they feel intimidated going to a salon.

Q. How much did it cost you to set up?

I never properly added it up, think it would scare me if I did. It probably cost about £5K in total.

Q. Did you have a business plan?

No, that sounds terrible doesn't it? I've been doing it for 14 years and worked in quite a few salons so I've got a good insight into how business should and shouldn't be done.

Q. What was your biggest challenge?

Without a doubt, starting off without a client list was my biggest challenge. Most people go straight from salon to starting up a business. I didn't and it was tough.

Q. How have you built up your client list?

As soon as my treatment room was ready I had 1,000 leaflets drawn up with a 20% off introductory offer. My family helped out and we went delivering leaflets door to door on the estate where we live.

Some of my most loyal customers came from that initial drop, people that knew the estate and could easily walk to me.

Because I'm not a shop front along the high street I also have to advertise the salon otherwise people wouldn't know it was there. I tend to take out small ads in local lifestyle and business magazines. My ads always include an offer that last for one month.

And lastly, I run a referral programme with my regulars, something like a half price pedicure or manicure if they refer somebody.

Q. What's the secret of your success?

You have to love what you do and treat every customer as you did your first one and not with the attitude 'here we go again'. It's all about setting and keeping your standards up.

Q. What qualities are needed to succeed?

You have to have bags of patience. It can take about a year and a half before you feel you're getting somewhere. Bookings can be quite slim at the beginning.

You also have to be calm, thorough and persevere.

Q. What are you most proud of achieving?

I'm very proud of the repeat business levels I've achieved and of my treatment room. Actually I really like my room, it's so comfortable.

Q. Any regrets?

No, none whatsoever. I'm earning more now than I did when I worked in a salon and the benefit of working from home is that you can catch up with housework or valuable 'me time' if you're quiet.

Q. If you had one piece of advice for someone setting up their own salon what would it be?

Be very careful about your choice of products from the outset. It helps to have at leat one treatment available that is unique or unusual.

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