We sat down to chat with Beth Pence, industry veteran and co-owner of Shine Salon in Charlotte, North Carolina. She shared her unique start as a salon owner, how they persevered through COVID, and came out better and stronger on the other side.
Tell us a little about your background in the beauty industry.
My family owned Columbia Beauty Supply, which was a very large L’oreal distributor, particularly Redken. I was with Columbia Beauty Supply when we sold to L’oreal, and then I continued to work with L’oreal as a regional sales manager and then a VP of field sales for SalonCentric until 2011.
What did you do once the business sold?
I did some consulting for SalonCentric, and then I did some personal time with my family – I had two young boys at that time. I did a good amount of community work involvement and other activities here with our church and other programs here in Charlotte. My father had gotten very ill, so my husband, Steve, took over the cosmetology school that we owned and managed that but then we had a salon that we managed from a distance at the time.
How did you and your husband end up as salon owners?
During my tenure with SalonCentric, I was traveling quite a bit. My husband left corporate America and invested in a salon with another gentleman named Chip Perry. They went into business together, and then several years later, they sold it. However, we had to take the business back over within 5 years, as we owned the real estate.
We decided to invest in an opportunity around the corner in a thriving area called Chantilly, where we renovated an old building with a lot of history in Charlotte. We moved to the two-story 7000-square-foot salon three years ago. Now we have 12 stations upstairs and 10 stations downstairs with three nail and aesthetics rooms.
“Make every day the best and shine bright every day.”
So what’s behind the name Shine?
So when Steve and Chip owned the salon, it was called Fuze. Amy Swaney was a stylist who came to us before Steve took the business back over. She said, “I really want to come work for you,” and we’re like, “great, but we don’t own the business.” A couple of months later, we ended up taking the business back over. Amy was going through a divorce and expecting her second child, and so we said, “you come, send your staff to us and we will see you after maternity leave.” So, she came to us; her salon had a great name and reputation and, quite frankly, a larger social following. So, we took over the name Shine Salon and continued with that – it was a great decision. It was a new start for all of us, and you know we want to make every day the best and shine bright every day.
How did you and your salon manage when COVID hit?
As we were closing on March 20, 2020, I saw this card for a wellness coach on my desk, and I was like, “okay, this is kind of coincidental.” We could see the stress mounting with COVID, so I reached out to (the person listed on the card), and I said, “you know, everybody’s dealing with this really different right now. I don’t know what’s in front of us. I don’t know what’s in store for us but tell me a little bit about what you do.” She replied, “I’m kind of a coach that helps with anxiety, food, diet, all of those things.”
We decided to hire her and had her do a weekly wellness call with breathing techniques, channeling energy, and understanding how we would manage for the time being and once we came back up. It was stressful not knowing what was in front of us. What I heard from my team, loud and clear, is that they were enjoying the pause. They were stressed about not knowing what would happen with their lifestyle, income, or the whole situation, but they were really trying to enjoy the moment of hitting the pause button.
How did reopening go for you and your team?
Many of our staff initially worked 8-10 hour days, but we decided to go into shifts when we reopened. Because of our space and the size of the salon, we were able to do two shifts and four teams. We had a very systematic way of entering and exiting the building, and the teams did not overlap. Between upstairs and downstairs and the two shifts, if any one group were exposed, we would only have to go down with a fourth of our team.
We really did use our space to our advantage, so we never had to shut down because of exposure – yes, we had some folks exposed, but it was never to the point that they were in the building with others. We had been very strict on our sanitation guidelines.
How did the shifts work?
There is an A team and a B team, and we had 32-hour workweek opportunities, a little more in some cases. So, for example, team A works Tuesday, one long day, and then the rest are shifts. That made Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday shifts. We have tweaked the process a little bit since COVID, but we have found that even the folks working long days are going back to a short day.
How has what you learned during COVID changed how your salon operates now?
What we realized is that the shift is a big quality-of-life issue for us, and we really wanted to make sure that our team, their well-being, and mindset were taken care of during all of this. We have allowed people the balance and quality of life that they are looking for today.
We increased the number of days we were open and provided the hours within the day. So, in most cases, we are working at a lower occupancy rate to make clients feel safe. However, we are still providing the hours to the staff, and we have ramped up our staff since closure. We did lose staff, but we’ve also been able to ramp up our training program and associate program and provide people with the opportunity and hours they need.
The beautiful thing about our space with the hours that we’re open and the shifts is that we’ve become more efficient with our time. Also, it doesn’t feel crazy in the salon even when it’s really busy.
How did your clients feel about their visits after reopening?
We call all of our new guests at the beginning of each week (that visited us the week prior) to ask about their experience, and the number one response we get is, “I felt safe, your space was clean, and it was very relaxing and calming.” So, we try to make sure that we really address that; I think that we all can say that cleanliness and sanitation is the new luxury. So, we really have to make sure that we hold to those standards.
How did your salon software help you with scheduling then and now?
That’s the beauty about Rosy – because we can do everybody’s schedule individually. Our team members can access all of their information and data from their phones or whatever devices. It’s very efficient and works for everyone: nail technicians, estheticians, stylists, staff – they find it easy to use.
Does your salon use online scheduling?
Individuals who have a hard time determining their schedule from week to week need something instantaneously, or they need something when it works for them. Sometimes they may not want to call and be on the phone, so they schedule online.
At this point, we only allow haircut appointments to be booked online. It’s different for the color right now. People have not had color in a long time, and many had home color, so we needed to allow the appropriate amount of time to correct it. If they booked online, there is no way they would know how much time was needed, so we use a virtual consultation (through Snap Snip) to help us determine what needs to be done. Coming back from COVID, this process was a game-changer for us. It allowed us to book correctly and efficiently.
Do you use automated confirmations and reminders?
Yes, we do, but we also call just because of COVID and everybody’s schedule.
How has your checkout changed?
Our checkouts are not any different. We’ve always had busy guests, and in that case, the stylist can go into the back end and update tickets if there are any add-ons. And when the quest is ready to go, it’s a quick checkout.
Do you use suggested selling the features that are automatic from the checkout?
I love that feature, and we have used it before – that’s one of those little things in the software that is unique.
We have an excellent support staff team now, and we have these tickets that we use. The stylists will add the two products they recommend for the guest that day on the ticket then our front desk follows up. So our version of suggestive selling is more on the stylist to make recommendations for the client plus the promotions that we’re running.
Do you use RosyPay?
Yes, we do. With RosyPay, You don’t have to worry about the machine balancing to the system. It’s all there. Also, my husband’s background is in HR, and he is big on security. Today it’s essential to make sure that guest information is the top priority from security, and RosyPay was the only program that we found that allowed us that ability to store credit cards.
What would you consider to be your favorite features?
I’m a numbers person, so I love all the reporting aspects of Rosy. I love their sales analysis reporting. We can look at a rolling three months or the previous quarter for the staff to see their growth. I meet with the employees once a month and look at their numbers, and I love when a stylist sits down and says, “I feel like I’m slow,” and I was like, “well, you do realize that you just had your best month ever, right?”
Rosy lets salons look at it from so many different ways, one from a numbers person and then somebody who is not a numbers person that needs a per unit per guest, versus a percentage of sales – all of that information is provided to you.
The client retention report is great too. It lets us know if we are retaining new guests. The rebooking report goes with retention and ensuring that we can rebook to get back into the schedule. Also, the Inventory and returns report, looking at that one regularly.
The other feature that I love is how the guest finds Shine Salon. Was it a referral by an existing guest, was it a referral from an advertisement we’ve done or was it’s Snap Snip? We can look at the average ticket of those guests. For example, our Snap Snip average ticket is over $100 greater than an average guest. So, it’s really letting us look at where our business is coming from.
I’ve never had an issue with (Rosy’s) reports matching up to sales or matching up to the deposits or matching up from anything from that aspect, and that was not the case with the prior program that we used. So the numbers are accurate, and that’s what I love – you can trust that system from that aspect.
We also love the product reservations feature from Rosy, which is very nice from an inventory aspect.
Does your salon use rewards?
Yes, we do. There is a reward, so for every referral a guest sends, they get $20 off their next service or product, so we use that, and that is a nice treat for a guest that speaks highly of us and sends another client.
How about Rosy’s marketing features?
My goal in 2022 is to really dig into the marketing aspect of Rosy because I feel like that’s a feature that we could do more of. We do the monthly newsletters through Rosy, which is great because the emails update clients, but we want to go further.
What is your business structure: commission or rental?
Mostly commission, but we do have five grandfathered booth renters. At the other property, we were all rental, and we made that change when we moved. Not everybody liked that change: we said we’d never take you backward, but you can switch if you want to switch. But we have hired into the commission.
The decision to go commission was so that we could provide insurance and benefits. We’re starting to roll out paid vacation and other benefits, and then we’ll add more as our business grows and 2022 and beyond.
During COVID, we focused on wellness that year, and this year we’re working on financial stability. So we hired a financial coach to help them understand finances, banking, savings, and insurance. We’re going to be working with an individual to help them begin to set up different, you know, accounts so they can invest, and you know how to do that properly and not have somebody take advantage of their situation. Cause I feel like many people in this industry were never taught how to have your money work for you.
What do you credit for your success?
Listening! I also credit our success to Amy Swaney and helping me listen to where our team is at and their concerns and then trying to help them make it a win-win for both.
How have you and your salon persevered through all of this?
I made many mistakes when we moved into the building, and I’ll take full accountability for that. But every situation makes you stronger, right? You learn from everything, and you get stronger, and you get better. And you know, I feel like I’ve definitely learned as a salon owner through the last three years. I’ll make mistakes, but as long as you learn from mistakes, that’s what you need to remember.
I feel like when we went into a crisis with COVID, Steve and I made sure the team knew that we were going to be okay. We’d say, “let’s take a deep breath, we’re going to use this time to regroup, to plan, and we’re going to become better, stronger, and more as a team coming out of it.”
Our team trusted that we would make sure that they would be safe and that our clients were safe. We were not going to do anything to jeopardize their well-being when we started to take clients. We were more conservative with occupancy and things of that nature, which was our priority, but we were paid dividends for these decisions. And it will continue to be our priority.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for any salon owner that cuts hair and manages the business.”
How has salon management been for you?
Salon management: It’s a lot of people. It’s a lot of emotions. I have a tremendous amount of respect for any salon owner that cuts hair and manages the business. Every day I walk in and say, “okay, what problem am I going to solve today?” You have to walk in every day saying don’t take it personally, but what do we need to do to get better? What do we need to do to help each stylist achieve their personal and professional goals while making sure we provide the best business environments, salon environment, professional environment possible, and helping everybody shine bright every day.
Knowing that people have good days and bad days, we try to give them an environment that allows them to breathe. We have really gotten to the point we have a team that looks after each other, they help each other in highs and lows, and we get each other through, especially this past year and a half together. We have an outstanding team, and it’s all about the team. I’m just helping to move that bus forward… it’s not about me; it’s about them.
Our industry is never going to be a cakewalk. We deal with a lot of client and staff personalities. Our clients have been amazing, but you get one client who can throw the whole chemistry off in the building. I think more than anything as owners we have to be in touch with our staff is today. We have to understand where they are mentally, physically and it’s okay to say, “take a day”, as this has been a mentally exhausting time for so many. This is not a sprint; this is a marathon.
We all thought COVID would be over like May and June, and here we are back again, right? And I just don’t think this will be it – we’re still in it a while before we’re clear on everything…and then there’ll be something else to deal with, but that’s okay. We’re ready for it.
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