How to start a beauty salon/spa

Thinking about launching a business in the lucrative beauty industry? Check out our start-up guide here...

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What is a beauty salon?

Industry analysts claim that beauty salons have performed well during the recession; a 2009 report from market research leaders Mintel found that only one in 10 women had stopped going to the salon to save money during the downturn. Furthermore a number of recent trends, notably the increasing number of men seeking specialist health and beauty treatment, have provided real benefit to salons up and down the country.

According to a study commissioned by the International Spa Association, the number one reason clients give for visiting a spa is relaxation and stress relief. So it’s important to realise that beauty salons and spas are about more than good grooming, massages and waxes. For some, they are a kind of modern-day sanctuary.

As well as providing top-notch beauty treatments, you have to put effort into making your salon a place people want to go to unwind, and be prepared to offer great customer service to make everyone feel welcome.

With top beauty schools and a large talent pool from which to choose staff – as well as steady consumer demand – the UK is a great place to set up a beauty salon or spa. British beauty therapy standards are recognised as being among the best in the world, too. If you’re prepared to put the work in, your spa or salon could really make a name for itself.

Who is starting a beauty salon suited to?

Usually, salon owners have a wealth of experience in the beauty industry and are fully-qualified beauty therapists in their own right.

Kim Ford, chairman of the British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology (BABTAC), an independent industry body, comments: “Generally, the people opening salons are beauty therapists. It’s essential that the person is qualified in this area if they’re going to be delivering treatments themselves.”

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Many salon owners will also have management training to enable them to effectively manage the business and their team of staff. But whether they have management experience or not, beauty therapy know-how really is key.

Lorraine Fletcher of Atelier Salon & Spa, Redbourn, says she doesn’t know how someone could run a spa or salon without it: “Anyone can set up in beauty therapy,” she says. “I just don’t know how well you would survive if you’re not experienced enough in the industry to know what you’re doing.”

However, if your background is not in beauty, you don’t necessarily have to rule it out. It is possible to employ a beauty therapist as a day-to-day manager to make up for any shortfalls in specialist knowledge. Kalpana Gurung of the Himalayan Day Spa, Chiswick has done just that.

“My business partner, who is my aunt, is a beauty therapist; I’m from a management background,” Kalpana explains. “We teamed up and we decided to set up a spa together. I don’t think you need to be from a spa background or beauty therapy background, but it helped a lot that she had experience.”

If you do not have a beauty background, you need to ensure the staff you take on are sufficiently qualified, as Kim explains. “If you’re going to open a salon and employ someone, it’s essential the therapist you employ is qualified to at least level three in beauty therapy or holistic treatment.”

Beauty therapy expert or not, the owner of a start-up salon must have unflagging people skills and stamina. Beauty is a service industry. You need to be prepared to put in long hours and settle with very little return for the first year or two.

Depending on how busy the salon is, where your business is situated and how many staff you need to pay, it may take a while before you recoup what is likely to be a hefty initial investment. In other words, you really need to love what you do.

Ready to get started? Find out everything you need to know about how to start your own business here.


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