Independent Beauty Businesses Thrive Under One Roof

By Tracy Maness Houston Chronicle

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A salon complex in Houston that opened just 13 months ago is expanding. The location has been great for entrepreneurs who want to avoid overhead costs of owning their own salon and clients who get a one-stop shop for all their luxury beauty services.

Houston Chronicle

MY SALON Suite, which is located in the Braes Heights shopping center on Bellaire Boulevard, started out with 30 suites last January. The suites are rented out to independent professionals including hair stylists, cosmetologists, massage therapists, nail technicians and more.

MY SALON launched its soft opening for the expansion the week of Feb. 19 and now has 68 suites ready to serve residents from Bellaire, West University, Southside Place and beyond.

The expansion increased the salon's upstairs space from 6,000 to 14,000 square feet, said Aaron Gillaspie, president and CEO of the Willis Park Corporation, the parent company that owns the location.

In December, WPC opened its first San Antonio location Salon Plaza, and Gillaspie said the corporation plans to have 10 salons in the Houston and San Antonio markets by 2020.

Two new MY SALON Suite locations are scheduled to open in The Woodlands in March and Pasadena by mid-summer. All of the salons are franchises.

Gillaspie said the Braes Heights salon has had a waiting list of beauty professionals wanting to rent space since the first month it opened and that he tends to be selective when it comes to who he allows on to his team.

We are very picky about making sure that we get the right people, and we help them succeed," he said. "We don't want to get people that don't have the same mission, vision and values as us of wanting to be great entrepreneurs in a professional environment."

He also said because the location's average salon owner has more than 15 years of experience, renting a space at MY SALON Suite is something some professionals would have to work toward.

"We always say it's like hotel. Just because you have the Waldorf Astoria, the Holiday Inn and the Super 8, doesn't mean you should stay every time at the Waldorf Astoria," Gillaspie said. "From a buildout, this is definitely the luxury in the industry. While we want everyone to strive to get here, we help a lot of people out of school to find the right places, this might be from day one be a stepping stone that they have to get to."

Gillaspie said before he got into the business world, he used to be a teacher and a principal and that he enjoys being able to help people. He said his business offers a lot of support for a lot of support for the salon owners that lease there.

"I believe that's what differentiates us-we're all about the education side, supporting these people, bringing in outside experts. I know for instance that I know a lot about a lot of things, but I'm not a master of a lot of things. But I have a connection to people who are. So we bring in finance people at the end of the year to help them put on seminars about CPA work. We bring in color specialists to do classes on color, on massage, on aesthetician," Gillaspie said.

He said MY SALON Suite spaces are 40 percent larger than ones at most competitor salons and come with luxury features like granite countertops, three stations, custom built-in tool racks and cash drawers, ECOHEADS shower heads that offer 40 percent more power using 30 percent less water and more.

According to Gillaspie, after the first year, 90 percent of the salon owners have signed new leases for three years. Sabrina Khan, owner of West U Eyebrows & Beyond, had her own salon before and said she signed the new three-year lease because she appreciates having her own business but not having employees.

"I love being my own boss. Nobody tells me what to do. I just come in whenever I want to and leave whenever I want to. [Before] I had several employees. It was a lot of work. It was a lot of responsibility. Here I don't have any of that," she said.

Khan said when she came to MY SALON Suite, she had no clients but now she is doing well with her business.

MY SALON Suite salons across the nation raised money to help the salon owners during Hurricane Harvey. Since the location is on the second floor, no physical damage occurred, but the stylists lost income from not being able to work during the storm. Wyatt Christopher Salon Owner Wyatt Christopher said depending on how many other damages the salon owners had incurred, the they were each cut a check for a week's worth of rent.

Christopher said he enjoys being an independent owner while getting the chance to learn from other salon professionals around him.

"I get to create my own schedule and everything in a nice environment where it's not just me," he said. "They're people around me that collaborate with each other, but you still have that independence, which I love."

Gillaspie said many clients come to the salon for one thing and realize how convenient all the other services are."

"They come here to see the stylist who's doing their hair. They look across the hall, and someone's doing nails. So they go get their card. Now they're coming here for hair and nails," he said. "Next, they need a massage and they currently go to a competitor and realize they can do it all in one. There are people that come here and spend their entire day here and don't leave because they're getting three or four different services from independent owners.


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