There’s a term to describe the times we’re living in: the Gig Economy. The old paradigm of nine to five no longer applies. People are working from home, working on flextime, working as independent contractors. The shift is also being fueled by technology; Uber couldn’t exist in a world without smartphones.
The Gig Economy has come to the salon business in the form of salon suites, an update to the former “booth rental” model. Suites are pre-equipped rentals that offer a turnkey solution to starting a salon business. Sola Salon Studios, a national suite franchise, leases high-end, fully-equipped suites that include all the major equipment needed for a fully-functional salon, ready for personalization via décor and signage. An on-site manager handles facilities management issues like utilities and repairs. Sola owner/operators book their own appointments, set their own hours and prices and choose their own wet lines and retail items.
“We’re giving them that next step up: employee-free salon ownership,” Sola co-founder Stratton Smith said in a Forbes interview earlier this year. “When a stylist makes a move over to our concept, they typically get a 50-100% take-home pay bump. They sell their own retail beauty products, and keep those profits."
Sola suite owners are diverse. Some are fresh from school, wanting to cut their teeth running a business in a small, less risky way before going on to own larger salons. Others are traveling that path in reverse, downsizing after having owned or managed a larger salon for many years. Some are national brand educators who don’t want to worry about the salon while traveling or doing other work, since they can just close up when needed.
Traditionally, flying solo can mean giving up access to all kinds of support, such as continuing education, mentorship and community, but the company says it’s taking steps to eliminate those drawbacks. The recently-launched solaprofessional.com includes video content, educational tips and tools. Many Sola locations also host educational events, round tables and forums to build community and provide better access to ideas and information.
“At the end of the day, we’ve stepped up the game of the traditional salon industry in a way that’s all good for stylists,” co-founder Matt Briger said in Forbes. “The idea to provide people with their own business, that outweighs everything. Our stylists are not contractors, they’re true business owners.”