Membership has its Rewards

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When Darla Di Grandi-Aguilera and her salon partner decided to go their separate ways, she did what she's always done when facing adversity: She turned lemons into lemonade. "Rather than dwelling on the past, I dove head-first into planning my future and creating my new salon, which was going to be Cathedral City, CA's, first day spa," says Di Grandi-Aguilera. Her hiring, training and building plans were moving along at a fast clip, but funding was turning out to be a major obstacle on her newfound path to success. Unable to secure a bank loan, Di Grandi-Aguilera put her entrepreneurial aptitude to work and came up with a creative way to raise the construction funds needed. "I decided to sell charter memberships to my new salon," says Di Grandi-Aguilera. Here, she sheds light on the creative program that she credits as being instrumental in allowing her to transform her 1,100-square-foot hair salon, which earned $100,000, into a 3,600-square-foot space that brings in more than $1 million annually.

 Di Grandi-Aguilera put her creative business idea to work to create a serene space that includes this beautiful reception area.
Di Grandi-Aguilera put her creative business idea to work to create a serene space that includes this beautiful reception area.

SPREAD THE WORD To get the word out about her innovative Charter Membership Program, Di Grandi-Aguilera sent a letter to her network of family, friends and clients, in which she outlined the various levels and details of memberships. For instance, a $1,000 Gold Membership featured a lifetime membership, 25 percent off all salon and spa services and retail purchases, $100 in retail products, priority booking, VIP parking, 30-day billing on all services and retail, and a bonus of one year of unlimited tanning. The $500 Silver Membership included a lifetime membership, 15 percent off all salon and spa services and retail purchases, as well as priority booking and benefits. And the $250 Platinum membership featured a lifetime membership, 10 percent off all salon and spa services, plus $50 in retail products. "In just two months, I raised approximately $20,000 from this first Charter Membership promotion," explains Di Grandi-Aguilera, who says that at the time, she wanted to limit the number of memberships she sold because she wasn't sure of the effect it was going to have on the salon.

Di Grandi-Aguilera, front left, with her team of salon pros.
Di Grandi-Aguilera, front left, with her team of salon pros.

RECOGNIZE AND REWARD Because recognition and acknowledgment were key components in Di Grandi-Aguilera's Charter Membership Plan, she painted the names of the members on her salon/day spa's walls. "This small act made people feel as though they were celebrities," said Di Grandi-Aguilera. "They'd bring their family members in from out of town and take pictures of themselves standing under their names. Plus, they turned out to be our biggest referrers because, again, they wanted their friends to recognize their name on the wall."

REFINE AND REFRESH Di Grandi-Aguilera has continued to revamp the Charter Membership program to suit her business needs. Her latest modification involves changing the price from $1,000 to $2,500 and making the discount only available for services rather than retail. "Even with the changes, I was able to sell another $50,000 practically overnight," she says. "All in all, I can say that enacting this program was the best thing I could have ever done. It made clients loyal to the salon instead of their stylists, the clients feel as though they have a vested interest in the salon, and I felt that I was respected more as a businessperson."