The Journey of a Salon Owner

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Posted on: Jun 01 2016
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Becoming a salon owner can be one of the most challenging and rewarding career aspirations for a professional in the beauty industry. Rebekah Norrell, formerly an Aveda Institutes South educator, recently invested her passion and dedication to embark on this journey and has shared her experiences with us. Read about her transition from Aveda educator to Aveda salon owner and the gratification she’s found through the successful opening of Salon Norrell Aveda, located in the heart of Tampa, FL.

image of rebekah

What has been your experience with AVEDA Institutes South?

I began my journey with AVEDA when I joined as an educator of the Tallahassee Institute. I then transferred to the Aveda Institute in St. Petersburg, which a couple of years later relocated to Clearwater. I have also spent time substituting at the Aveda Institute in South Florida. I have taught every phase throughout my time there and especially enjoyed teaching the masters classes. I found it rewarding and exciting to see the students begin their career as confident, capable stylists who are hungry for the industry.

What does an AVEDA education mean to you?

AVEDA education is unlike any other. The hands on, real life scenarios cannot be taught in a classroom. The experience of having hands in real hair and on a tight schedule models real salon life. The educators are world-class and work very, very, very hard long days to ensure that the students are set up for success. Coming from the salon as a stylist, then to an educator, and now as an owner allows me to see the industry from different vantage points. What I didn’t understand as a student, I understood as an educator. What I didn’t understand as an educator, I understand as a salon owner.  All aspects of education, technical and practical are very important to the success of a stylist.

What inspired you to open Salon Norrell AVEDA?

The vision behind Salon Norrell AVEDA began when I was talking to a fellow hairstylist/educator turned owner. She was my mentor and cheerleader. It was a lot of prayers and a lot of crunching numbers to make it a reality. AVEDA is a world class brand, with a world class reputation. Becoming a salon owner definitely did not happen overnight. There has been a lot of blood (literally laying tiles overnight), sweat (counting inventory at midnight) and tears (can we pay the bills??) involved in the process. With the support of my husband, my director at the school, and my mentors, I have been able to breathe life into this goal.

Where do you see your salon growing in the next five years?

In the next five years, I envision tremendous growth. We have grown so much in the first six months, I am optimistic for the future.We have raised the spst by $20 and the rpct by $6. I continually strive to understand the needs of my team. My number one goal is a happy staff, which will trickle down to happy guests. As a mother of three young children, Brooklyn 6, Madison 4, and Nicholas 1, I can relate to the daily struggles of sick children, recitals, birthdays, and the other things that having a family entails. My goal for the team is to always know that I am truly there for them. My goal is for them to understand they are more than a number and a chair. Each team member has such unique characteristics that they bring to the table. I know if I continue to nurture the team, it can only grow from here. I am a firm believer that you get what you give.

What is it like being a salon owner?

Being a salon owner is definitely a different feeling. I still feel like I need to call someone if I am running behind schedule. I still feel guilty about leaving work early or not coming in on a Saturday. I not only want to be the boss but I want to be part of the team.  I do have a sense of pride knowing that what we ARE doing is giving 110% and seeing the return on our financial, emotional, and physical investment is very gratifying. It is a 24 hour a day job. There is no real off time. I am constantly checking on the status of the salon even if I am not physically there. I am constantly crunching numbers. I am constantly doing research and trying to learn best practices. I am constantly trying to keep the team members engaged by being their cheerleader and day maker.

What is the biggest challenge of being a salon owner?

The biggest misconception I see is the stigma that salon owners must make a lot of money. Factually, salons have a very small profit margin. Where a guest or stylist may think that the owner is making the other half of their commission, it is actually a marginal percentage.  A LOT of work goes into making a profit. A LOT of money goes into the overhead. Being an owner is not easy but having a goal in mind helps me stay on track.

When I think back to when I was in hair school, I LOVED all things hair! I was fearless and jacked up hair left and right. But through those mistakes I learned amazing things. I learned that I couldn’t be scared to make mistakes. Whether it was in hair or business, where there is no risk there is also no reward.

Do you have any advice for current AVEDA students or recent graduates?

The advice I have for students remains the same as what I would say in class, “Throw some 40 on it. Work fast and talk slow..” Just kidding! Everything will happen as it is supposed to. It is easy to take your eye off the big picture, we all have to start at the bottom, work long hours, long days, sleepless nights. It is hard building a book, don’t give up. You will not start out making 6 figures, but you can if you work hard. Don’t skip on rituals. Make everyone feel like a million bucks. Create goals. Challenge yourself. Surround yourself with people who want the best for you. Everyone gets a bombshell blowout! If you do it for the outcome, the income will follow. The only person holding you back is…you!

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