We are in our new space

April 28, 2009

Wine Tasting
Image by Andrew Albertson via Flickr

I can’t tell you how excited we are to be in this new, luxurious space.  We are all very much enjoying having our own space, and no, we don’t miss each other.  There are still lots of opportunities for us to be together, but with the private rooms, when the blowdryers are all going, you don’t have four hairdressers and four clients screaming to be heard!

We have extra space, so we are actively recruiting new team members.  As you can imagine, we don’t want just any old hairdresser.  It takes a special person to be on the Azarra Team!  We hope to have news to share with you by summertime.  And speaking of summer, we will be having a Grand Opening in June.  I will get a date to you as soon as I get it hammered out.  We will be getting a banquet license for that day, so we will be able to serve wine.  (Yay!)

As to the wine: just to clarify, we are selling bottles of wine for off-premises consumption.  That means you may not consume on the premises.  Got it? And don’t try to talk us into any hanky panky, because doing so could cost us our license.

Here’s the kick: if wine sales make up 50% of our total retail (not services) sales, then we can do tastings.  A tasting is defined as a 2 ounce pour of no more than 4 different wines.  This is really what our customers want, because it gives them an opportunity to sample items before purchase.  Until we get there, you will have to rely on our judgment and suggestions.  Rest assured the staff will sample all the wine on your behalf!  As luck would have it, we have a Tasting Room with a bar all set for when this happens.  So you are all on notice: if you want to do tastings, buy lots of wine from us!

Now, here are some pictures of the new space, but to really get the full effect, you are just going to have to come see it for yourself!  And don’t bother pointing out to us that there are a lot of bare walls.  Art will take a while to collect.  We don’t want to throw things up just to fill space.






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Why we post photos

February 13, 2009


Yesterday I got a comment on the most recent Last week’s interesting hair expressing disappointment that only one of the photos was of a “good” color & cut.  At first I was defensive and irritated.  But after pondering it overnight, I decided that person was just looking for something different than what she found here.

The pictures we post are not intended for glossy style magazines.  Nor are they competition photos to impress the beauty industry.

We put up pictures of the day-to-day, real-world hair we do in the salon for two reasons:

  1. The clients get a kick out of being included.
  2. Potential clients get a chance to see what we really do.

Like many of the things we do in our salon, it works for us.  Other salons do beautiful photo shoots with models to post on their websites and print media.  But that isn’t us.  We are regular folk who do hair for regular folk.  While we occasionally get someone famous-ish in the salon, (remember Sanjaya’s sister?) most of the time the people in the salon are our friends and neighbors.

The work we do varies from classic to avante-garde as do the clients.  Again, that works for us.  This week we had a new client in the salon who chose us specifically because she saw such a broad range of work appear on this blog and she felt that we would be a safe, accepting place for her to visit.  (Believe it or not, some clients are intimidated by the very glossy PR of some larger, fancier salons.)

So, if we fail to excite or inspire you with the photos we post, we completely understand, but we aren’t going to change it.

We think of Azarra as an Improv troupe;  what happens at any given moment depends on who is in the salon.  It might be a drag queen, a novelist, a librarian or a great-grandmother.  And that’s the way we like it.  We hope you do, too.

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Pink hair from Azarra

Pink hair from Azarra

So, this may come as a surprise, but we are not the only salon with a blog!

Vain, a funky salon in Seattle does.  Like us, they like working with fun colors.  Today I read a guest post written by one of their clients about how she balances a professional career and pink hair.

Check it out!

Here are a few shots of some of the work we have been doing in the salon lately.

Fauxhawk by Jonathan

Fauxhawk by Jonathan

I've never really chnaged the color of my hair

Before: I've never really changed the color of my hair

Do you think anyone will notice?

After: Do you think anyone will notice?

I really thought I wanted to be blonde, but...

Before: I really thought I wanted to be blonde, but...

...but this is so much more fun!

After: ...but this is so much more fun!

One day last week our cute FedEx driver brought us an envelope containing a copy of Short Cuts ( a consumer magazine.)  It seemed an odd thing to be FedExed, so I gave the mag to my client and asked her to flip through and see if she could figure out why this was sent to us.

It took some time, because this is almost at the end of the magazine, but she found the reason.

In their Salon Directory, there were two salons reviewed.  Gary Manuel in Seattle, and little old us.

I only have one question.

Who the hell told them we were “warm?”

Zemanta Pixie

You may have noticed that we have been doing a bit of freshening up at the salon this spring.  New shampoo chairs, a new color processing zone and a streamlining of the retail space have all been completed.

If you thought we were done, you were wrong!

The large back wall that is currently covered in multi-colored squares is getting a mural.

Thanks to Rea, a School of The Arts student (who is also our client) we will be getting some lovely original art.  It will probably take the whole summer to finish and I will keep you posted of the progress.  If she’s in the salon working on it when you are there, feel free to say hello!

So far we are in the development stage.  We talked about what kind of items spoke to us and what would work for our customers.  She came back with a few rough ideas.  Here is the one that we selected as our launchpad.

mural art step 1

hotter by the minute

You may recognize this client (although I do try to get just people’s hair and not their faces for blog publication!) from a previous post.

When we first met her, she was recovering from an abruptly ended relationship and was ready to be re-invented.  We cut some hair and introduced her to Elumen and she hasn’t looked back since.

I have been pondering her transformation as a chicken and egg quandary.  Has she become confident and self assured because of her great hair, or was she always that way and that’s why she wants great hair?

If people continually comment on how great your hair is, I would think it would have to help with the self-esteem.

Either way, she’s fabulous and life is good.

Get Some Hairapy – the blog has evolved to become a beast with three heads.

Because of who I am and my interests and areas of expertise, there have been three areas of focus for this blog.

  1. The book: Advice on happiness
  2. The salon: Your own personal chair at Azarra Salon
  3. The business: Advice for small salon owners

I have pondered the idea of splitting the segments into their own blogs, but I just don’t think I have it in me to manage three blogs!

I think that most readers would agree that the one thing that is different is the business segment. The rest of the content is really appropriate for a general audience.

To that end, I have made a new blog called, surprisingly enough, Small Salons. This way I can still get the information to the people who need it without cluttering up the main blog content for those people who have no interest in salon management.

If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to share.  And feel free to join in the discussions on either blog.

Ah, small business ownership.  The Great American Dream.

I talk people out of it all the time.

The biggest reason?  There is less money in it than you think.

The next biggest?  It is more work than you think.

The next?  Just because you are a good hairdresser doesn’t mean you will be a good business owner.

Here is an article for you that gives you some myths and realities about small business ownership.


Myth #1 – Life is easier when you’re your own boss and you own the business.
Reality – Nope. Not a chance. You become the face of your company. Anything that goes wrong, or that doesn’t go perfectly right is 100 percent your fault. You have to fix it. If one of your employees drives your $45,000 delivery truck across a newly poured concrete driveway and cracks it to pieces, you get to pay for it. If your credit manager mistakenly writes down the wrong lien date on the legal paperwork, you get to eat the loss. If you screw up on your taxes, you don’t get to blame anyone else. If someone claims they got sick at your restaurant, I hope you have insurance and a good attorney. You get to pay both of those bills, too.

Here is another with reasons to not be an entrepreneur.


8. Lack Of Reward Begats Lower Motivation – When running your own business, there really is no telling when you will be rewarded or even how you will be rewarded. You may hope for a bigger bank balance or aspire to develop an industry leading product, but that can’t happen without motivation and drive. Becoming an entrepreneur essentially means taking risks in hope of receiving reward, but without ever really knowing when the reward will come. If that’s something you can’t deal with, then starting your own business is not the ideal choice.

Yes.  I know that some people have huge success with their own salon.  But the truth of the matter is that most salons make little or no profit other than the income the working hairdresser/owner generates.  You can read more about this topic in  The E-Myth.

What is the E-Myth?

The “E-Myth,” or Entrepreneurial Myth, is the flawed assumption that people who are expert at a certain technical skill will therefore be successful running a business of that kind.

  • “I want to be my own boss”
  • “I want to make more money”
  • “I want to have have more time to enjoy my life”

Most small business owners assume that owning their own business will deliver on these goals.

It’s a common misconception that because someone understands the nuts-and-bolts technical work, they will similarly understand how a business providing that sort of product or service should function.

If you are hell bent on the idea of going into business for yourself, please do yourself a favor and spend a good year researching the industry and deciding what you will do to be different and to stand out in a crowded marketplace.  Don’t do it because you think the salon owner you are working for is getting rich off of your hard work (chances are they aren’t.)

Here is an article with a very basic checklist for first time business owners.

Here is an article about determining startup costs.

The last thing the world needs is just another salon.

If you haven’t seen Split Ends, you need to catch it on the Style Network (watch some clips here).

The premise? Take two hairdressers from wildly different salons and make them swap for a few days. Sample comments? “There’s no assistant? Does that mean I have to do my own shampoos? But I’ll get my rings dirty!” I watched all of the first season and came away with an interesting observation. Unlike other “fish out of water” shows (The Simple Life, etc.) what makes this interesting is that hairdressers are often “pleasers” by nature. If you throw them in a strange environment, they might piss and moan for a bit, but they will more than likely do their best to adjust and fit in.

This is the only salon-based reality show on which our salon would be willing to appear. Yesterday we were trying to convince Jonathan to audition. If you are interested in spending a week working in a salon that differs greatly from yours, click on over here to get the info on how to audition.

We all know there is business advice available on the internet, but for many of us, we don’t know where to begin looking for the answers.  I found a publication put together by Hewlett Packard that is a collection of advice from online business writers.  Not only is the publication full of good advice, it is a great list of experts (full of links to their websites where you can get even more help!)  I am a big believer in taking advantage of all the free information you can find.

It is always easier to travel the road if you have tales and tips from those that have gone before.

A Letter from the Publisher of Small Business Trends
Welcome to our first—but not last—eBook featuring tips and advice learned from 100 savvy readers.
It was humbling to see the breadth and quality of these reader-contributed pointers. The knowledge of many is far greater than the knowledge of one. No matter how much one person might know, it pales when compared to the wisdom of those who live and breathe the need to go out and get and retain customers every day in order to put food on the table.
I’m reminded of the narrow margin for error under which most small businesses operate. As one reader said, “Market or die! When you’re a small business owner, if you don’t succeed at marketing, your business literally could die.”
And small businesses have to make everything count. As George Langan, CEO of eXpresso (www.expressocorp.com) told me, “When you’re on a tight startup budget, you can’t afford a $2,000-a-month marketing mistake.”
Throughout the submitted tips, I noticed three themes over and over:

1. Simple and inexpensive tools are more popular than complex or pricey approaches.

“Duh!” you might be thinking. “Isn’t it obvious that entrepreneurs and small businesses, being on tight budgets, would favor low-cost approaches?” Well, yes and no. What was surprising is just how many of the tips cost literally nothing but your time. A large proportion of others, such as those that focused on using business cards or blogging, can be done for hundreds, not thousands, of dollars. So don’t be tempted to throw up your hands and say “I can’t afford marketing.” You can.

2. Authenticity, friendliness and relationships matter.

When you count your customers in the single or double digits, as opposed to the thousands or hundreds of thousands, relationships tend to matter much more deeply. The importance of smiling and being friendly was brought up again and again. Doing something nice for others and being yourself were common themes. Most small businesses are NOT about mass marketing campaigns. Instead, we rely on attracting and retaining a relatively small number of customers to be successful. A solo consultant or small Web design firm may have as few as five or six regular customers. For small businesses, investing in relationship building goes a long way.

3. Creative online marketing plays a key role.

We drew tips from those who are active online, so on the one hand you might think that the results would naturally be skewed toward online marketing. And to a degree I suppose that’s true. But I was surprised by the sophistication of the online marketing—especially on limited budgets. Some of the online approaches are very detailed and go far beyond the plain-vanilla “create a nice Web site” type of advice. A number of the small-business marketing techniques represented in this document get into advanced online marketing, including social media marketing.

Read (or print and save) the entire publication here.

The Small Business Administration has come a long way since I first looked to them for help when I started my salon.  Now they are all about the internet and there are LOADS of resources and TONS of information there.  Not a bad place to start if you are in the “Should I open my own salon?” stage of planning.

There is a great article at Small Biz Trends that breaks down what is available and where to find it online.

Remember, there is no reason to feel alone when starting a business.  You are not the first one to do it and there is no shame in taking advice and assistance from people who have blazed the trail before you.  Save yourself some headaches and read up before you jump in, or use their resources to re-focus if your existing business has drifted off course.


I just read a story (with pictures) written by a young woman about her devastating salon visit and her oath to never visit a male hairdressser again.  Objectively I can say that a.) she is percieveing her end result differenly than most of us would and b.) the gender of the hairdresser had nothing to do with what happened.

I want you to read it because it will help you understand that what you see and what the client sees are often different.

This client states that she only wants a maximum of 2″ cut from the bottom.  She also makes it a point during the cut to chat about past cuts that had gone awry where she ended up too short.  When you have a client in your chair that is giving you these signals, please heed them!  Hairdressers have a reputation for being scissor happy and for wanting to chop off long hair.  Please do your best to listen to the client and when they give specific requests, please grant them.  If you think the client needs more length removed, explain what you think and why and then let them make an informed choice.  My favorite technique is to turn them around and use a hand mirror to view the back of their hair.  I show them where the cape can be seen through the hair and suggest that the hair might look thicker if we trimmed it up to that point.  It is often effective.  (I know that to us their is no difference between a “cut” and a “trim” but to many clients there is.  Try to pick up on their cues.)

When they say 2″, I grab my old-school plastic comb from the back of the drawer (you know, the one you used in beauty school that has the inch markings on it) and I show them 2″.  Then, using the comb as a guide, I cut 2″ off the bottom and show them the hair I removed.  Next I ask them if that is OK.  Now we can proceed with the rest of the haircut and the client can relax.

When you meet a client who has already had bad salon experiences, handle them gently.  Talk them through the process so that they feel that they are being heard.

Anyone disagree?

I will be in town the weekend of March 8-10 for a Kadus event.  Any salon owners in the area who want to meet and brainstorm, leave a comment below and I will contact you.  This is the cheapest consulting you will ever get:  just buy me a drink!

More advice for small salons

February 21, 2008

Do you want to communicate with the clients you have and attract new ones?

Get your own blog!

It’s FREE!

It’s easy!

It’s effective!

I like WordPress. Other people like Blogger. Check them both out and see what you think. As I read in Business Week today, any dolt with a working computer and an internet connection can have a blog up and running in ten minutes. There is no reason NOT to. What are you waiting for?

Here’s an example of another salon’s blog.

(If you have a salon blog, please leave the link in a comment so we can all visit!)

Here is a “how to” guide about blogging for beginners.

Here is an article from Wells Fargo about blogging for small business. 

Color drama du jour

February 14, 2008

Today is Valentine’s Day and, coincidentally, the salon’s 17th anniversary. We always celebrate with champagne and chocolates. (Did you know you can live on champagne and chocolate for a day?) Today we also had a little corrective color drama.

Corrective color is the most difficult thing a professional haircolorist does. It requires a combination of skill, knowledge, critical thinking and sometimes luck. I like to think that my success in this arena is due more to my critical thinking than to any other aspect. Sometimes you have to spend a few minutes thinking through your options before jumping into the project.

Here was the problem:

before Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Henninger for The New York Times

Clara Vereen, who runs a beauty shop in Loris, S.C., said of a possible black president, “I fear that they just would kill him.”





I was watching TV this weekend and was excited to hear of
another instance of salons in the mainstream press: candidates in
South Carolina are focusing on salons in attempt to persuade women voters.

Many people believe that women will be the key to this year’s election
of our president. Where better to target women than in the community
space where they can “let their hair down?”

In salons across America, hairdressers are asking their clients “is
there a candidate that excites you?”

Read the NY Times article.

Hairdressers should feel empowered to know that the salon is more than just a place where customers exchange money for goods and services; in many
places it is the seat and soul of a community.

Someone ended up on this blog when they searched for “what salon clients want”.

I doubt they found what they were looking for, but I thought it was a great opportunity for you all to pipe up and tell the salon owners of the world what it is that you want and need from a salon.

If I get enough good responses, I’ll send it off to my friends in the salon industry press so they can pass it along to a wider audience.

Feel free to pass along the good, the bad and the ugly!  We can take it. Besides, you can be anonymous!

Running a small business is less fun than you think. I talk people out of opening salons all the time. When I explain to them the details of payroll, inventory, taxes and the like, all but the most determined think better of the idea. But many of you didn’t ask me before you started your salon. So if you are already in too deep to get out, here are some tips (from my workshop: Getting and Keeping the Clients You Want).

The average salon only keeps 30%-50% of the first time clients who walk through the door.

If you can control who comes in, you can significantly increase your odds!

  1. You need a website. The day has passed where you could put this off. I used to think I didn’t need one because, as a service business, I didn’t need to reach the whole world. The thing is, the people in your community want to be able to check you out anonymously and at odd hours. At the very least, give them some basic info: hours, prices, location, contact info, staff names, payments accepted, products you carry. You probably have a client who can do such things and would trade services with you. Put a note up on your mirror asking “Can you help us build a web page?”
  2. Our salon and our clients LOVE our online scheduling. It cuts down on phone calls and decreases the chances of no-shows (it sends a reminder the day before.) The one we use, Flash Appointments, is very affordable for small salons.  There is an interesting service I have read about, but not tried called Salon Service Central that can take the place of a receptionist.
  3. Every business has a personality. Does yours have a personality disorder? Don’t try to be all things to all people. Not everyone is your target client. I know you think you want anyone with a pulse and a credit card, but you will be much happier (and more successful) if you determine your business personality and embrace it. Azarra is the salon where you can wear your pajamas and cuss. What makes your salon different from the 300 other salons in your town?
  4. Don’t waste money on advertising your target client won’t see. If you are an upper-end salon, discounts and coupons that come in a bulk mailer are unlikely to appeal to your target market. We use CitySearch. It lets you set an advertising cap and we pay what we can afford. It allows clients to leave reviews and we get tons of new clients from it (way more than we ever got from our yellow pages ad which we have now dropped.)
  5. Build relationships with your vendors. They have tools to help you grow. Partner with the ones who can be the most help.
  6. Get an accountant you can trust and understand. It is crazy to think that you can keep up on all the tax rules. If you ever have a problem with a tax agency, you will be glad you have someone who can back you up.
  7. You do not want pissy clients. If a customer is pissy, give them back their money and send them on their way.
  8. Under-promise, over-deliver. Don’t promise the moon if you don’t think you can hit Mars.
  9. Detoxify the staff. Staff who sabotage your goals and vision will cost you more than you will ever make from them. Let them go. You know who is poisoning your environment. Get rid of them.
  10. Live your brand. Once you figure out who you are, be sure that all your materials reflect it. Business cards, menus, website and advertising should all be cohesive and should help prospective customers determine if you are the right salon for them. If you do a better job of appealing to only your target market, then you will be more likely to keep the clients you get.

I read an article this morning in the Tribune that got me thinking.Women in Iraq have to visit the salon in secret, and yet, they go.

When I was visiting my husband’s family in Newfoundland, I was surprised to see that, even in this place whose economy was struggling, an abundance of salons and a large number of women with haircolor that had obviously been done in-salon.

I find it intriguing that women will find a way to have beauty services done, even if it involves financial hardship or actual danger.

What do you think that says about human nature, women, and the beauty industry as it pertains to society?

I have long preached the fact that what I do has value, that the act of helping someone look good has a deeper impact, and that the personal connection that happens between hairdresser and client transcends the physical act of grooming.

Feel free to agree or disagree. I might be too close to the situation to be able to understand. I’d like to hear what clients think.

And hairdressers, would you still do your job if it involved death threats?


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