Guest blog: what I learned from launching my first salon

Katie Hardy opened her first salon, Refresh Beauty, in Bolton in March. She tells us about the highs and lows of opening the business and the lessons she learned from the experience

After five years out of the industry, I made the decision to get back into beauty last year. I’d worked in beauty for seven years before that but to ensure I was fully up to speed I got a part time job in a salon as I felt like I had a lot catch up on. 

I knew I wanted to open my own business though, so I started to do some research to make sure I stood out from the crowd and offered something new and innovative. I attended trade shows to get new ideas and also made a wish list based on my previous experience. For example, having a website with online booking was something I always wanted. I think it takes away any insecurities people may have about calling up or popping into the clinic. It can be difficult for clients to admit that they’d like some help with a particular issue and they often don’t want to be overheard booking an appointment.

When looking for a site, I must have viewed about 15 premises in the Manchester area. My initial idea was to be in the city centre as it’s vibrant and easily accessible, but none of the available options met my expectations. I wanted somewhere with parking, which isn’t easy in Manchester. Also, rent is high in the city centre, and I soon found you get a lot more for your money when you venture outside the city.

In August 2015, I came across Newlands Medical Centre and I knew straight away it was the right environment for me. It had a welcoming and laid back atmosphere that seemed to fit my needs. Had I been in the city centre, people would have popped in on their lunch break or between errands, whereas I like to spend as much time as possible with my clients, so they feel unrushed. 

I was so excited to find this location I just wanted to get my business up and running. Unfortunately, at that time there was no room in Newlands but I was persistent and eventually Dr Brian Newman, called to let me know something was coming up soon. In mid-February 2016 I signed the contract on a suite within the medical centre. We have a reception that is also used as the consultation room, a treatment room and our own bathroom.

As a new business, it’s fantastic to be in a medical environment, but in years to come I would love a shop front - once I've built up a client base I think it would help me stand out from the crowd.

I decided to go down the advanced treatments route. I’d come across 3D-lipo at Professional Beauty 2015.Their machines offer a selection of the latest non-invasive weight-loss technologies including cryolipolysis fat freezing, cavitation, which is a low-frequency ultrasound wave for fat melting, and radiofrequency for skin tightening.

I knew I wanted to work with this brand as these treatments are non- invasive, innovative and a reasonably new concept in beauty salons around the UK. I knew this type of treatment can often kickstart people to start eating healthily and working out. At the moment I offer just 3d-lipo and Skin Base microdermabrasion treatments but I have plans to introduce more non-invasive treatments in the very near future.

I’m running the business single-handed but plan to hire staff soon. For me, it’s not just about making people look good, I want them to feel good too and any staff I do hire will need to share this passion.

One of the main challenges I’ve faced since opening was clients being put off by online bookings as they were concerned about the security of paying via a website, which was the only way I could accept payments.I had overlooked one of the most basic things you need in place when running a business – the option to pay by different methods. I overcame this by installing a card machine in the salon.

My priorities have changed since opening. I initially wanted the most beautifully decorated salon with all the trimmings but now I have everything in place to run a successful business: a website, innovative treatments, top-of-the-range equipment and a clean, fresh salon where my customers will feel at home.

That said, my future aspirations are to enhance the aesthetics of the salon so that Refresh really sticks in clients’ minds when they leave to create a talking point for them and their friends.