This is a follow up story for Urban Betty. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hi, I’m Chelle Neff, and I’m the founder of Urban Betty. After ten years in the industry and five years of working in a salon suite, I opened a salon company in 2005. I had one contractor that worked for me in a space that housed over ten hair stations. After six months, I had my first employee. Six years later, I had about thirteen people working inside the salon company (half employees, half contractors). We then moved into a space that was double the size, and after a few months, I phased out my contractors and evolved into an all commission-based employee salon company. We have two locations with almost 60 employees eight years later, and we’re grossing over 3.6 million per year.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
From 2018 to 2019, our salon company grew by 6%. Right now, we are on trend to hit the same numbers as last year, but that’s great because we had to close due to the pandemic for two whole months. We reopened May 18th, and June was our highest sales ever. I think we fit in every guest that we could! It was a tricky situation because I turned off ALL of our advertising to save costs, and we still made more money.
If it weren’t for a local non-profit that helped me with funding, I wouldn’t be here today. I am excited to be that person one day for all the up and coming female entrepreneurs!
In July, I turned our Yelp advertising back on, and we’ve been going strong with creating content for our blog. We’ve also maintained our monthly newsletters and daily Instagram posts. We remained in constant contact with all of our guests during the shutdown to keep them updated on our closing situation and when we planned to reopen. I feel that consistency is what fueled our incredible numbers for June.
I have been working on an Urban Betty product line in the background for the last two years. We are close to the finish line, and I hope to launch it in November of 2020. The line will include a shampoo, conditioner, and mask. It has taken two years because I have been very picky about choosing clean ingredients that work for all hair types.
Most recently, we have started creating hair how-to videos on our Youtube channel. We wanted to create a vessel of at-home videos for our guests who struggle to do their hair.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
How to manage a salon company during a pandemic has been my biggest lesson this year. Not only has it changed how I view entrepreneurship, but our guests have also already accepted everything as wholly changed. We’ve had to cancel their appointments repeatedly and put them back on. They know we have to adapt to sanitation changes, extra time, extra sanitation, and additional training to take all these measurements to ensure safety. To make the sanitation process more fun, I took our logo and placed a mask on her. We had stickers made and put them on all of our sanitation spray bottles. We even uploaded her as our avatar on all of our social media channels.
While we were closed for two months, I had time to think about things and restructure our expenses, and we figured out a way for everyone to win and for our stylists to make more money, jump levels faster, and have higher retail sales! How are we doing that? By implementing a small service charge to each guest upon checkout, we pay stylists up to 20% of that charge. This new protocol helps cover all of our new sanitation processes, our constant over color usage, continued health insurance, and retirement plans. It also helped recover some of our losses during the shutdown. I lost almost six years of business savings in just two months. It was a scary time. If we would’ve been closed for another month or two, I might not be open right now. My heart goes out to all the businesses that have had to close and are struggling to stay open.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I plan to continue to open at least two more locations and launch an Urban Betty product and makeup line. I am open to franchising my brand and continuing to evolve it into a company that consistently sets the standard for the salon industry.
These endeavors are stepping stones to eventually becoming an angel investor for women working on starting up their own companies but struggle with finding capital. I was once that woman, and if it weren’t for a local non-profit that helped me with funding, I wouldn’t be here today. I am excited to be that person one day for all the up and coming female entrepreneurs!
Have you read any good books in the last year?
The best book I have read this year is Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. It was such a perfect read during the pandemic to set my head on straight about my finances. It taught me how to plan for a profit and budget around that based on my income. Most of us spend all of our money and then wonder where the profit went. This book helped teach me to set aside my profit first and then learn how to pay my expenses based on the money left over. I can now look at my business accounts and, with one glance, know exactly where I stand financially. It forever changed my life and relationship with money.
In the last six months, I have become obsessed with the Expanded podcast with Lacy Phillips. She interviews people every week who have manifested great things in their lives and shares her own life story. The first one I ever listened to was episode 61, which is about being your authentic self. I have shared this episode with many of my friends. It forever changed my life. I was always beating myself up for having negative thoughts, feelings, or even saying negative things. In this episode, I learned that it’s NORMAL to feel and say all those things. You don’t manifest from your thoughts and your words. You manifest from your BELIEFS. Read that sentence again; it’s crucial. And all of our beliefs are usually taught to us before the age of 14. She deep dives on how to overcome and reprogram these beliefs to help you manifest your dreams. It’s given me a sense of relief and a plan on how to live my life. I also joined her online pathway, and I’m about ⅓ of the way through it. It’s been beneficial during this stressful time of my business temporarily closing due to the pandemic. It has helped me trust myself and lead with grace. I highly recommend it.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Ask for help! I have two salon business coaches, and I also hire salon consulting agencies. We became a Summit Salon in 2014, and it forever changed the path and success of my business. No one ever teaches you how to own a salon. Most of us do it based on what we learned we liked or disliked from the places we used to work. In 2019, we recruited the High-Performance Salon Academy to teach us how to further our growth and continue to thrive.
The moral of the story is, I didn’t do this all by myself. It took my entire staff, all the clients we served, coaching, mentoring, books, classes, and all other resources that I could find. Like Brene Brown says, “lean into what feels uncomfortable.”
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always hiring stylists, shift leaders, and front desk positions! Right now, we have opened a spot up for an inventory manager. We have become such a large salon company that we can no longer require inventory as a side job for our front desk and stylists. We need a dedicated person to manage our inventory, merchandise our retail areas, and innovate our monthly promotions.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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