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Business Observer Friday, Oct. 6, 2017 1 year ago

Strands of Success

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The rent-a-suite salon model trend has been building for a decade. One area couple, a new entry, sees room for growth.
by: Ted Carter Contributing Writer

Hair styles aren't the only things changing in the cosmetology business.

Take the way people make money in it.

Not too long ago, cosmetologists got trained, licensed, took a salon job and gave the owner a cut of what they made. Today, many are breaking away, opting to go solo through a co-working space style model of renting a salon suite from a larger entity. The model eliminates, for a large part, the struggle individual stylists often face to raise money for overhead.

The trend has had some traction across the region and nationally for the past decade or so. Beauty industry consultant Cyrus Bulsara, president of Professional Consultants & Resources in Plano, Texas, estimates that of the 224,555 salons in the United States, 37% to 40% of them derive revenues from either chair, suite or booth rentals. Also, many top salons affiliated with major manufacturers such as Redken, Aveda and Matrix, have recently closed or been converted into rentals, Bulsara adds.

In Bonita Springs, the mantra of “every stylist an owner,” recently attracted entrepreneurs Jacey and Justin Lee. The husband-wife team believes their offering, J. Lee Salon Suites, will succeed in the marketplace with more suites, and by offering tenants better services. Competitors the Lees will go up against include My Salon Suites and Salons by JC.

“We want to empower salon professionals,” says Justin Lee, a New Jersey transplant with a background in engineering and advertising. J. Lee Salon Suites, a 45-suite salon facility in Bonita Springs at 24888 Tamiami Trail, is expected to open by early November.

“It's a way for them to be independent,” Justin
Lee adds of beauty professionals in the region, “and run their own businesses.”

Jacey Lee, a Kentucky native who opened Salon Dejay in Bonita Springs in 2010 and another one of the same name in 2015, is leveraging her relationships with stylists and other beauty professionals in the region to fill the suites at the 9,400-square-foot J. Lee Salon Suites. Spaces will range from 100 square feet to 230 square feet, and start at about $240 a week.

Features include a large break room with a washer and dryer and a pair of outdoor terraces. A beauty products store is also planned.

Jacey Lee says the couple expects they will need to lease half the suites to break even. They hope to entice new tenants with two free months of rent and the option of lower rates with two-year leases. “Our goal is to be very competitive” on pricing, Justin Lee says.

J. Lee Salon Suites will supply furnishings such as a styling chair, towel cabinet, shampoo bowl, color bar, sink and hood dryer. Jacey Lee estimates the additional furnishings and equipment will run the stylist about $500.

Customers who arrive at J. Lee Salon Suites can go directly to the suite of their stylist or await their appointment in the lobby. A greeter will eventually be hired.

Jacey Lee expects many of the stylists will bring a roster of clients. “It is highly recommended, and with our business model, most of them will have a current following,” she says.

Even though the salon suite trend is established, the Lees believe their timing is still right for the venture. A September Salon Today magazine survey of salon managers, for example, found that 48% of them lost stylists to a rent-based salon or salon suite in the last three years. On average, they lost 3.17 staff members, the survey adds.

Money — or the prospect of earning more — is as much a factor in the departures as independence, the Lees say. “They'll make way more money than they would if working for somebody else,” says Justin Lee.

For the Lees, the main challenge, so far, has been to keep preparation for J. Lee Salon Suites on schedule. Hurricane Irma slowed efforts but work is back on track, they say. They declined to say how much they are investing in the project. “The build out, that will take care of itself,” Jacey Lee says. The main thing, she adds, “is getting the word out.”

(This story was updated to reflect the correct spelling of Justin Lee.)

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