Quick note: After writing this post I discovered that the “girlboss” hashtag movement spawned from a brand based on this book and/or this website (which I’ve subscribed to because it looks rad).
This post isn’t about either of those things; it’s about the so-called “entrepreneurs” who use this hashtag while recklessly diving into industries they don’t understand with boundless enthusiasm but zero actual experience. This article was written to serve as a wake-up call to aspiring salon owners who fit this description and as a loud warning to professionals who should avoid these “Founders/CEOs” at all costs.
Listen up, #girlboss #entrepreneur, why don’t you go ahead and put down the selfie stick so we can have a chat? Before you post yet another #motivationmonday platitude to Instagram about your plans to #disrupttheindustry and continue this process of self-delusion to the point that you completely blind yourself to your lack of preparedness, experience, and competence, let me be the first to inform you that a salon isn’t a fashion accessory.
Just because you’ve patronized salons in the past does not mean you have the slightest clue how to operate one.
It’s a real business with real employees who will need real leadership to pay their very real bills. Maybe nobody told you this before (probably because in your extreme arrogance you never thought to ask or research it), but nothing you’re doing is #revolutionary, #fresh, or #unique.
I know this runs counter to what your “life coach” and “brand consultant” are telling you, but you aren’t #disrupting anything.
There you are, in your mid-20’s, your crisp MBA or marketing degree in hand, thinking you can conquer the world and become an instant millionaire. You imagine yourself on the glossy pages of Inc. or Forbes, standing confidently in your “modern, game-changing” salon, every word surrounding your image praising your “vision” and proclaiming you a “force to be reckoned with.”
There you go, pouring over the impeccably designed websites of other Millennial bullshit artists-turned-salon owners, taking notes on their smug, self-congratulatory About pages where they boast their “eco-friendly,” “non-toxic,” “vegan,” “cruelty-free,” “paraben-free,” “gluten-free,” “sulfate-free,” “preservative-free” products and rhapsodize about their “community outreach,” “ethical employment practices,” and “corporate charity mission,” never outright proclaiming themselves the saviors of the industry, but heavily implying it.
The way these #girlbosses tell it, this industry they have no experience in was spiraling into chaos before they came along.
There you sit, with your unblemished credit, opening a $250,000 loan, submitting grant proposals, and/or accepting a quarter of a million dollars from investors, thinking, “How hard could it be? I’m educated and qualified. I can do this!”
You may be educated, but you are certainly not qualified.
Your business plan is printed on glossy paper, contained in a branded folder. Inside, words like “ultra luxe,” “bespoke,” “exclusive,” “boutique,” and “curated” litter every page. You think you know what each of them mean and how they apply to the business, but you’re wrong about that, just like you’re wrong about pretty much everything you think you know about salon ownership.
You don’t want to run a business, you want the bragging rights that come with owning one.
Your grossly misplaced priorities make your intentions clear. You spend your days pouring over logos, color swatches, and furniture, adding so much to your gold-framed “inspiration board” that the weight of those fabric samples and interior design cutouts is about to cause it to rip right out of the wall.
Your goal isn’t to create a great workplace or a sustainable company that provides customers with superior service–your goal is to create a Pinterest-perfect, Instagramable lifestyle, continuously refining and enhancing the online shrines you built to worship yourself and inspire envy in others.
It’s childish, and those of us who actually work in this industry are embarrassed for you.
You’ve done no research. You have no experience. If you did, you would see how tremendously silly you look–like a starry-eyed teenager planning her dream wedding. You don’t care about legal compliance, the needs or wants of real customers, or the fact that the people stupid or desperate enough to accept a job from you will be forced to suffer for your poor choices.
You haven’t even opened your first location, but already you’re preparing your ridiculously unoriginal franchise pitch for a “concept” you don’t even realize isn’t unique enough to justify licensing. It’s a lot easier to design a sleek brand and sell it to other #girlbosses than it is to work hard to grow a business and elevate your employees, am I right? (Pro tip: If it seems “so easy,” it’s either because you have no idea what you’re getting into or it’s a dumb idea. When it comes to franchising “concept salons,” it’s definitely the latter.)
“Entrepreneurs” like you burn hot and fast, cycling into and out of this industry in 2 years or less, once they realize they aren’t the #visionary #businessmastermind they thought they were. They leave bitter and bruised with a legion of disappointed, displaced professionals in their wake, moving onto their next get-rich-or-at-least-look-good-on-Instagram venture–maybe a rustic themed coffee shop with a library of books written by indie authors or a subscription box company that provides “curated” costume jewelry and “exotic” herbal teas. Perhaps instead of following in their footsteps, you’ll decide to stay in what you ostentatiously refer to as “the beauty space” and become some kind of “salon strategy guru,” attempting to teach other naive #girlbosses how to achieve that which you could not, claiming nice chunks of their abundant supply of startup capital in the process.
When that time comes, the veterans of this industry who snickered as you rose and smirked as you fell will still be here, and we’ll remember. We’ll sit around restaurant tables after a long day at a trade show, each one of us shaking our heads and exchanging knowing looks, frowning into our cups when we think of the damage you’ve done to the professionals you’ve burned in the amateurish, lunatic entrepreneurial experiment you designed to serve nothing but your own vanity.
These reckless forays into salon ownership leave real victims behind, a consequence most of you #girlbosses never stop to consider as you’re hashtagging your way to social media fame.
For us consultants, you will be the cautionary tale we tell. Your impulsive follies will be the examples we use when we list the many things aspiring salon owners should never do if they wish to be successful.
You will be the archetype we point to when warning professionals about which employers to avoid.
We will strive to rein in other #girlbosses like you and shape them into respectable, responsible, knowledgeable, competent, practical, powerful employers whose businesses will endure long after their #girlboss enthusiasm and Pinterest passion burn out.
Aspiring #girlbosses, please do yourself and your future employees the favor of taking the time to do your research. Learn what it means to really be a business owner. Salon ownership isn’t easy or insanely profitable–most of the time it isn’t even very fun. People will be relying upon you to provide them with a livable income. These professionals don’t owe you anything but the time you’re paying them for. They aren’t your “partners,” your “besties,” or your servants. They’re not present to “witness your journey” or “support your project.” It’s not their job to make sacrifices in your name.
They’re trusting you with their career and their livelihood. They’re your employees and you are their leader.
Being an employer is a lot of work and a lot of responsibility. If you aren’t prepared to handle that responsibility, if you think salon ownership looks like a “fun, cool, fashionable” hobby, if you have the audacity to believe that you’re somehow capable of running a business you have absolutely no experience in–please, stop now.
Professionals, be very wary of #girlbosses. They’re easy to spot by their impulsiveness, recklessness, and impractical and baseless ideas gleaned from the presentations they watched at the latest “entrepreneur empowerment seminar.” They’ll be enthusiastic beyond measure in a way that may be exciting and contagious, but don’t confuse that enthusiasm for competence.
Ask tough questions and demand meaningful answers that aren’t buried in flashy, obfuscating marketing language.
Seeing a new business come to fruition can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but nothing is worse than being sucked into a doomed-to-fail venture headed by an inept amateur. Every time you move to a new workplace you risk losing a chunk of your clientele. If the exuberant entrepreneur drives her “super fun” business into the ground in the first year (85% of new salon owners do), you’ll be stuck picking up the pieces of your fractured clientele when it’s all over.
I very much enjoyed reading this post, I mean “rant”.
Even though I come from a completely different corner, tech startups, I thought your article was spot on and perfectly described the culture there as well. I’ve seen hundreds of startup founders come and go over the years, documenting their flashy lifestyle on Instagram.
Whether it’s a beauty salon or a tech startup, I think this is the result of people being constantly encouraged to #dreambig and #hustlehard, or whatever they think the word “hustle” means. Everyone’s trying to cut corners. Few people appreciate the hours and hard work that it takes.
Anyways, just wanted to say thank you for this great post.
Ok, you caught me….
Guess I am not on social media enough to know who your referring to. I have noticed though, of what you speak
Hi Vickie! 😀 *waves*
It’s not a “who” necessarily, but more a group of new entrepreneurs coming into the industry straight out of college. They’re my generation, which is horrifying for several reasons. They treat business ownership like a school project and, while they may have great intentions, they tend to focus far more on the things that don’t matter than the things that do. It’s disappointing, lol. 🙁
Yes. So much yes.
Thank you for this.
Oh, this was so spot-on. And hilarious. Thank you for sharing!
Do you have any favorite, trusted resources for learning more about business, particularly in our industry? You warned against things like “Empowering Marketing Webinars” or “Branding Babes Facebook Live” etc. etc. – but I would very much appreciate some solid resources provided as alternatives.
(I do own your book, and it’s been so helpful!)
My preferred sources for business education are law blogs and several other business-centric sites (Forbes, Entrepreneur). I actually have a list of my favorites on my Resources page. I also recommend subscribing to Google alerts for terms that pertain to your interests. I have alerts for terms like, “hair salon,” “nail salon,” “beauty school,” etc. Most of the articles I receive with those terms in them are about new places opening, but periodically they’re about robberies, lawsuits, changes to legislation, and other assorted news that may be useful and instructive to pass along.
As a soon-to-be owner in her mid-twenties who has already put a ton of sweat equity into this industry, thank you. This is everything I want to say to those #girlbosses and more. I have spent the last 10 years of my life working in salons and learning everything I know from cold hard experience. Salon ownership, like any business ownership, is no joke. Sure, some days leave you with a case of the warm fuzzies; but other days you may find yourself scraping gum out of your dryer and snaking out your shampoo drains *not glamorous or instagram-worthy*. I love the salon I work for now (as a manager) and I can’t wait to own it myself later this year. We’ve been here almost 9 years, and if I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen a new “rustic-chic” “boutique” salon open and close in our area I would be posting this comment from a gold-plated castle.
LOL! The “snaking out your shampoo drains” had me laughing so hard, because I can absolutely relate to that. I’ve pulled apart so many U-pipes, holding buckets underneath, pulling clumps of hair out with my bare hands–it’s definitely not glamorous. This comment is pure excellence.
Thank you SO MUCH for this enjoyable knowing commentary. If I had time to sit down and write about the crazy beauty biz, your exact words (and tone) would probably tumble from my brain. As a fellow head shaker I have pretty much seen, and done it all in my 37 yrs in this ‘ugly’ beauty industry.
There are very few rewards being a girl boss and as a spa owner, I can say first hand that it’s mostly frustrating, thankless and heartbreaking work.
I really hope some of these future girl bosses are listening to your keen words of wisdom. Sadly, I doubt any will because there is no room for logic or sound advise when the ego is grossly inflated beyond reasonableness.
I will however, join your cause and share any tid bits of expert advise in the hopes of also helping others not fall into some of the same mistakes I have made along the way. Afterall, I continue to persevere in this business because I choose to humbly serve my clients and help my fellow girl bosses when ever I can, in the hopes to make the beauty biz a little less ugly.
Keep up the awesome work and I look forward to your future sharp witted nuggets of knowledge. Thanks Again!
I agree with literally every sentence in this comment, particularly “there is no room for logic or sound advise when the ego is grossly inflated beyond reasonableness.” PREACH THAT TRUTH.
i loved this post. a few weeks ago, i did something super fun…dumpster dived to fish out a box of product that had somehow gotten tossed. i literally called a girlfriend that night and said, i bet you didn’t know how glamorous owning a salon is.
Wow….your industry sounds an awful lot like the vintage clothing industry. Overflowing with overnight sensations who have no real passion or depth of knowledge on what they sell, but are obsessed with having an ‘editorial’ and ‘curated’ web presence in order to make a money grab.
This mentality seems to be permeating a lot of industries. At this point, I’m thinking it’s some kind of generational thing, where people in my age group (mid-20’s to late-30’s) are emulating certain behaviors and implementing advice from entrepreneurs they admire online. Instagram and Pinterest are fueling it, so I’m not sure it’ll ever go away. :/
I love you. I just…love you