Building My Bridal Beauty Empire
The story of how a pregnant hairstylist left her salon and started a bridal beauty empire.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been starting businesses. I started offering foot massages to my mom and sister for $1 a foot when I was four. Then there was always the good old fashioned lemonade stands my bestie and I would have, selling lanyards at summer camp, bake sales in the yard, you name it! Suffice to say, the entrepreneurial spirit has always been strong with me and I’ve always known that, one day, I would own a business. I just didn’t know exactly what it would be.
At 17, I made the unpopular decision to go to beauty school instead of going to college. While my parents were supportive, I had worked my entire school career to go to college and felt like every human I knew was doing the college thing and that I may be missing out on the experience all of my friends would have.
While in beauty school, we had to do a project to create our ideal salon complete with a name, logo, business plan, interior design, everything. While doing this project I remember thinking, “I know I want to own a business, but I also know that I don’t want it to be a salon.” While I know that there are salon owners who can churn a profit and run their businesses full time while not being behind the chair themselves, that wasn’t big enough for me. In all honesty, I thought it was generic and unexciting because it has been done a million times before. I felt like I should be doing something a little more “off the beaten path” if you will, since I have always been a bit of a black sheep.
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After beauty school, I worked in a few salons, slowly building a clientele. I even took a stab at waxing, doing nails, skin care, basically if my license allowed me to do it, I tried it! After 3 years of bopping around and discovering where my place in the industry would be, I settled down in a salon in Boulder, CO doing cuts and color. I had my first daughter, had an awesome clientele, became a booth renter and was on a pretty stereotypical trajectory that would make any career hairstylist super proud. It was, however, mundane and it seemed that every single client I had wanted a sun kissed blonde and long layers and that just wasn’t me. So one day after a long day in the salon, a couple co-workers and I were having drinks and started talking about bridal hair and how that was where the money was at. We made some actual plans on starting to do bridal hair on-location and figured out how to make it happen. Well as awesome as the idea was, my friends got busy with their own lives and families, so I told them that I was still going to pursue our little idea on my own.
Over the next few months I spent every free moment I had building a website and writing up a business plan. And when I say I built a website, I mean I built 3 or 4. I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing, so I tried out different website building sites like Squarespace, Wordpress, and Wix and then what seemed like 20 hours a week on Youtube figuring out how to make the website function the way I wanted it to. When I wrote out my business plan, I was really doing it purely for myself, as kind of a super, in-depth goal setting exercise. I had heard that if 90% of businesses fail in the first 5 years, the ones that had a business plan were 17% more likely to succeed. I figured that I needed all the help I could get, so I wrote one. Next, I got some past brides that I had worked with to write some reviews and we were open for business.
Now in our market, there really wasn’t much competition since there were only a couple of people who went out on-location to do weddings in our area, and there certainly weren’t any “companies” that were established that were exclusively doing bridal. Since I was also working in a salon that offered bridal services, I didn’t want anyone to feel like I was being shady or shiesty, so my approach was to always be 100% transparent with them. The only reason it worked was because WedLocks was only offering on-location services and the salon was only offering in-salon services. Because of that, we actually had a really symbiotic referral relationship. When brides called the salon looking for on-location, they referred them to us and vise-versa. It was really lovely and I felt super supported in that first year, which I can’t say a lot of salons would have done that.
The average hairstylist does between 4-5 weddings a year, so I set our goal for the first year at 25 weddings. I thought it would definitely be challenging, but that it also might be doable. In that first year, I did have to start hiring on a few of my hair and makeup friends to help out on the big weddings, but once we had a few reviews up and our website was looking bitchin’, the inquiries slowly started coming in. By the end of our first year we had done a whopping 47 weddings! I couldn’t believe it, my family couldn’t believe it, my friends couldn’t believe it and at the time, I didn’t know ANYONE who was doing that many weddings!
Now the big problem was, how on Earth were we doing to do more? And how much more was even possible? Either way, I thought “What the hell, lets do 100!” So we set the goal for 100 weddings! I started hiring anyone I could find. I was still working in the salon too, and to top it all off, I was pregnant with baby #2! If you are a human being, which I assume most of you reading this are, you probably know that having a baby is pretty stressful. You also probably have heard that having a business is pretty stressful too. I was due in March, which lucky for me, is not prime wedding season in CO, but we still had several weddings on the books while I was on my maternity leave. I had also planned, upon my return, to only be at the salon part time. Needless to say, I had this maternity leave planned to a T! I knew what I had to do leading up to it, I knew who was taking over while I recovered, and what I was doing when I came back. So imagine my surprise when, on my last week before my maternity leave, my salon owner and manager told me that they would no longer be allowing part time booth renters. (Keep in mind, this is an extremely condensed version of the situation.)
"Crumbled before my eyes like the Berlin Wall."
There I was, 9.5 months pregnant, ready to supernova and my perfectly curated maternity leave had just be bulldozed and crumbled before my eyes like the Berlin Wall. I suddenly found myself in a position I never thought I would be in and I had some big choices to make in a short amount of time. Would I find another salon and move my clientele? Should I find a salon suite and go super solo? Or I could try running WedLocks full time and abandon a clientele I had spent the last 7 years building? But the latter option seemed like a pipe dream and one only a rich person could do. But my crazy, handsome, and ridiculously supportive husband knew that this was my chance to give the impossible a shot. So I told none of my clients or my co-workers at the salon that I wouldn’t be back. I didn’t want the shock, drama, panic, or anger to overshadow the fact that I was about to bring another life into this world and I just wanted people to be happy for me. Not to mention the fact that I, myself, was feeling panic, anger, and dramatic and I really didn’t need anyone else exaggerating that for me. Call me selfish, but I really just didn’t need anymore stress on my plate at the time. But hey, at least I had people to cover me while I was on maternity leave! Right?!
You know when Charlie Brown says, “Well at least it cant get any worse,” and the storm cloud comes over, strikes down lightning, and starts pouring rain on him? Yeah, that was me!
A few days after I quietly left the salon, I gave birth to a 9lbs. bowling ball. I spent a good amount of my labor sending out contracts to brides, for which my mom yelled at my husband and me when she came into the hospital room. Me for working while in labor, and him for letting me. To which his response was “What? Like I could stop her!” Any who, the day we all got back home from the hospital, I found out that my right hand, #2 girl, who was taking over all of the weddings while I was on maternity leave, had brought her infant baby and boyfriend to a wedding. Wait, WHAT?!?! You heard me. She brought her 2 month old and her boyfriend to a wedding. No they didn’t just wait in the lobby or go hang out at a park nearby. They came into the hotel room and sat there for 4 hours while a whole team of professionals got 10 girls ready for a wedding. It turned out that this incident was not the first, just the first I was hearing about.
While I am a HUGE supporter of women and especially moms, this was 100% unacceptable. When I spoke with her about the incident, it became crystal clear that she had known that what she had done was not okay and admitted that she had taken advantage of my kindness. Needless to say, she was no longer working for us. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you go back to work 10 days after giving birth! That’s right, I then had no other choice than to go back to work and take over those wedding that she was supposed to be doing while I was on maternity leave. In hind-sight, it was the best decision I could have made. My thought process at the time was, “Will it give me more anxiety to keep someone that I can’t trust, or more anxiety to let her go and deal with a logistical $#!+ show?” I obviously chose the latter, and I would happily do it again. On the bright side, that year we did 163 weddings and blew our 100 wedding goal, right out of the water!
Here we are 3.5 years since we started and we have 20 professionals working for us (including my husband), we will get close to 400 weddings this year, and are looking into expanding into more states. Entrepreneurship is a lonely job, and I say that because people need to know that. It isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it and succeeding at it. Everyday there are a new set of questions, fires that need to be put out, doubts, paperwork that needs to be done, and countless times that I want to (and do) cry. But you know what? I’ve also never felt this fulfilled. And that is what keeps me going.