Wendy Bélanger may make salon ownership look easy—after all, her two businesses, Influence: The Salon and Identity: The Express Bar, are thriving in Calgary, AB. But that's come after a whole lot of trial, error, and learning the hard way.
"We all start out with the best intentions and soon realize the magnitude of work and hustle it takes. It’s one of the hardest things to do, yet don’t give up … for some it can be the most rewarding," Bélanger says.
“These are some of my biggest lessons in my 20-plus years as a salon owner. Ones I will stand by and am happy to share."
1. Just because you’re a good cook doesn’t mean you should own a restaurant.
"This is true in so many different industries. We do something for long enough, get really good at it, and the next thing people ask is, 'You’re so good and busy, when are you opening your own?' It’s kind of like the second you get married, and people start to ask when you’re going to have children.
"Owning a salon is not just about doing hair. It’s a full-time job and commitment. Just because you’re good at the craft doesn’t mean you should take on the business side. Don’t lose sight of why you love what you do. We are creatives; the business end is a whole other animal. It’s OK to say, 'This isn’t for me.'"
2. It’s never about how, it’s more about who.
"When making a big decision—like starting a company or taking a deeper plunge into business—it’s easy to get caught up in how to make it happen, and where to go for more education and information.
"But often the things we’re looking for are already things someone has done before us. We just need to stop and ask who we need to get in front of. Who can I ask for support? There are resources and people out there that have the answers, and we can learn from them. Just ask for guidance!"
3. In order to be a great leader, you need to get people to follow you.
"Often when you ask somebody why they opened their own salon, they say it was because they were tired of working for someone else who 'didn’t get it.' They feel like they put in their time and now want to be the leader.
"That isn’t always the entrepreneurial spirit. Just because you're the owner doesn’t mean people will follow or respect you. 'People don’t leave jobs, they leave people.' It's something to think about,
"Make sure that if you're asking others to come and invest their career and future with you, that you have thoroughly thought out what kind of culture and environment you want to create, so that others can decide if it’s the right fit for them."
4. You won’t always get it right; give yourself some grace.
"No one ever gets inspired from those who get it right 100 percent all the time. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes. It’s OK to admit at times that you didn’t nail it.
"Just be accountable, humble and authentic. That makes you relatable."
5. Find other like-minded people, and don’t hold your cards so close to your chest.
"There are so many entrepreneurial groups to join where you will find other people in the same boat as you. If you feel like you have to hold your trade secrets to yourself, you’ll find yourself on an island and end up alone. A true leader doesn’t mind sharing their secrets and knowledge, and learning from others."
Above all, she says, push through any fear and doubt in order to follow your own vision. "Take time to think about what’s missing in your career and what you wish you had more of, and create that for yourself.
"Be a trailblazer who's not afraid to build a culture or a vision that could change the beauty industry. We are waiting for people like you!”