By Vicki Ikeogu
St. Cloud Times, Minn.
Opening a business can be intimidating. The sheer overhead costs of heat, electricity, water and plumbing alone can scare off some potential business owners whose passion is to make a living doing something they love.
However, for independent stylist Amy Licht, stumbling upon a venture that took away some of the financial barriers to opening her own business was an opportunity to have control over her schedule, her life and her bottom line.
“I’ve been a booth renter for several years,” Licht said. “It was time for a change.”
So when the chance presented itself for her to take a leap of faith, Licht seized it.
That chance was Salons by JC.
Salons by JC
A franchise based in Texas, Salons by JC allows independent stylists to open and rent their own salon suite.
Unlike the common practice of chair rental, Salons by JC allows the stylist to rent their own salon inside of a multimini salon building.
“With a chair (rental) you are bound to their products. You really don’t get to pick how you spend the day,” said Andrew Horton, co-owner of the Waite Park Salons by JC.
Salons by JC offers entrepreneurial stylists the chance to open their own salon, be their own boss and have the freedom to customize their craft, without having to worry about building operation costs.
“I’ve been in franchising for about 15 years and have seen a few of these types of businesses open in Minnesota,” he said. “There is no competition in this area. And it’s a huge market for the industry.”
After signing the lease for the property located at 132 Division St., early last summer, Horton and his business partner and father Bert Horton began renovation of the building.
Each Salons by JC has a customized look and feel. With plans sent from the company, Bert Horton, also the general contractor, used local companies to complete the project.
The renovated building has 36 suites. The front desk is staffed with a concierge from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. six days a week. Renters pay about $150 a week for their space; the rest of the money they make is theirs.
The Waite Park location has six renters so far, with plans to fill the remaining units by the end of spring.
“We are providing an opportunity for other people,” Andrew Horton said. “We take away 95 percent of the hassles.”
“There are just so many barriers to entry,” Bert Horton said. “Some can’t find space, for some building out is too expensive. So here, the financial benefits are good and can lead to a higher quality of life.”
Each suite comes furnished with a sink, storage cabinet, a shampoo chair and a hair cutting chair. The rest is up to the stylist.
“There are not a lot of ‘no’s’ when it comes to this,” Andrew Horton said.
The Hortons allow the stylists to paint, bring in furniture or even knock down a wall to create a larger suite. Each room has heavily insulated walls so each salon can have the privacy it needs.
Along with the furnishings, each renter has the opportunity to utilize services such as StyleSeat — an online booking and management site — and FanClipper — an online service geared to helping new stylists brand and market themselves. Individual stylists have the option to learn about different payment systems.
While the current clients in the Waite Park Salons by JC have a focus in hair, Bert Horton said they have built rooms for nails, skin care and massage.
Each type of service suit has different sinks and ventilation, Bert Horton said.
“It’s a very flexible model. For us, it’s rentable square footage,” Andrew Horton said.
“It’s awesome. It’s like having our own salon without the overhead,” stylist Sarah Kotzer said.
After working together the past few years, Kotzer and Licht decided to go into this business together. Sharing a suite, both women have the opportunity to work opposite shifts and are able to accommodate their regular clients.
“You make your own schedule and you get to do your own thing,” Kotzer said.
“It allows me to be more flexible and there is much more room for growth,” Licht said. “And my clients love it.”
Licht and Kotzer opened up shop in early January and both said the change has been right for them.
“Business has been good,” Licht said. “It is equal to what I had. And I love having a secured building.”
Licht and Kotzer can have the flexible hours they need to accommodate their family life.
“You can just come in whenever you have clients,” Licht said. “Most of the time I work two to three days a week.”
“You have the freedom, you can make more money. Essentially, you are the boss. You’re in charge,” independent stylist Angel Hubbard said.
Coming to Salons by JC from a commission-based salon, Hubbard has been receptive to the potential her suite can bring her.
At her old salon, Hubbard would make on average between 45 and 60 percent of a service she would do. The rest, she said, would go to the salon owner.
As her own boss, Hubbard now has the liberty to use products she likes, something that will help her out with her other dream.
“One thing I would want to do would be to become a platform artist. To perform at hair shows and become an educator.”
With the freedom to use and experiment with a product line she is comfortable with and loves, opening a suite at Salons by JC made perfect sense.
“I love the concept. I love that you have the freedom to decorate, to run your own salon within a salon basically,” Hubbard said.
“If they’re not successful, we’re not successful,” Andrew Horton said.
Once all 36 units have been filled, the Hortons said they hope to take on a fairly absentee role. By keeping a concierge on staff to address stylists’ concerns, Andrew Horton will be able to focus on opportunities to expand Salons by JC.
“I do see another Salons by JC opening in Central Minnesota. Whether it is in St. Cloud proper, it depends,” Andrew Horton said.
But both franchise owners feel this business idea is revolutionary in the salon industry.
“This is the way of the future,” Bert Horton said.