Hairdressing Business: The Pyramid of Success

The story of a stylist's rise to the top of a small city's hairdressing pyramid of success: The case of Marcel Mancini.

On the world stage, the peak of the pyramid of success, as reported in Harper's Bazaar, is topped by such hair stylists as David Mallet of Paris, Ted Gibson of New York- the resident hair stylist on the television show 'What Not To Wear'- and Tracy Cunningham of Beverly Hills. But every city has its own top performers.

The population of the trade area of Windsor, Ontario is approximately 300 000. Within this total is a fashion-conscious, recession-proof niche of potential clients for a budding hairdressing career. While the base of the pyramid of workers serving this niche, based on income, is broad and populated with entry-level employees, some making minimum wage, the pyramid's peak in a trade area the size of the Windsor Region has 6 to 7 top performers. I interviewed one of them, Marcel Mancini, in the hair care unit of Refresh Day Spa on his day off. I walked away feeling that if anyone wanted to make a career in hairdressing they ought to hear his story.

Growing Up in a Barbershop

Marcel's parents are the owners of a hairdressing salon and barbershop in Amherstburg, a small town south of Windsor. He remembers sweeping the floor of his parents' shop at a young age. In addition, on a regular basis they took he and his sister to the trade shows in Toronto.

One might assume that Marcel got the idea of being a hairdresser from his parents but the truth is it was not always his first choice. He liked school, particularly the sciences and industrial mechanics, and considered going into the tool and die trade. But finally, at age 18, with money from his parents, he decided to attend hairdressing school. He was cutting hair on the second day of class and while at the school experienced a defining moment; a customer paid him the student-cutting fee and included a dollar tip. He was off and running.

Developing a Career

Marcel has always set goals and watched the numbers. Early in his career, for instance, he asked his father how much one could make as a hairdresser and received a shrug of the shoulders. Marcel took the gesture to mean there was no ceiling. At that point he set his goal to get into a downtown salon where the action was. It was the 1990s and the Americans were flooding across the border to take advantage of their inflated dollar. After an entry-level job at a salon called the Mona Lisa, in 1994 at age 20, he progressed to Salon 510 on Pelissier Street in the heart of the downtown and there began to build up his client list.

Barriers to a Career

All business has its peaks and valleys. With 9/11 the American trade in the downtown area dwindled and salons closed or moved. The owner of Salon 510 leased a more suburban location beside the day spa Estetica, and Marcel joined him and continued on. Over time, with his clientele list growing he seemed to be back on track. But things changed suddenly. At the end of one business day the owner announced that he could no longer handle the stress anymore and was quitting, that day, that moment. And another benchmark in Marcel's career began to emerge.

Marcel, with a client base but no place to work, became an entrepreneur: he saw a thriving business that still had a talented crew but needed a captain. In short order, he contacted a corporate-lawyer friend, secured the location, assured the staff that he had a handle on things, negotiated with a liquidation company representing the bank to keep the equipment and with the Mall owner for a no-competition clause, and then reopened the business as Salon Mancini. He was age 23.

As the owner of his own business, Marcel rented out chairs to others, looked after his own clients, developed his own proprietary practices for the flow of the customers including rebooking, and looked after the operational aspects such as payroll and taxes. But the post 9/11 recession meant working harder for the same results.

Estetica eventually moved to the more affluent eastern part of town and was replaced by Refresh Day Spa. The new owner then approached Marcel about incorporating the hair salon into the spa at a time when he was ready. After all, he now had a loyal client base and would be able to focus on cutting hair, working at shows, and pursuing other interests.

Competition

A reality of small businesses is that owners train staff who sometimes leave, open their own business close by and compete for clients. When I asked Marcel what he would do differently if he could go back in time he admitted he would be more discretionary when sharing his ideas. But, he was also quick to point out that, if you are compassionate, fair, calm, and most of all good, you will attract and keep clients: And to be good you need to keep up your skill set; that is why Marcel attends and works at shows, stays fit and healthy within a normal lifestyle, and keeps outside endeavors to a minimum in order to keep his focus.

Potential Incomes

A reality of the business is that the average income for a hairdresser is likely close to $14 000 annually. However, if you have the desire, determination and expertise of a Marcel Mancini, generating a six-digit income is not beyond the realm of possibility. But you need to focus and put in the time, like giving up two hours on your day off to be interviewed.


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