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.