How to Start a Beauty Business

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The fascination that little girls have for reinventing themselves through fashion, hairstyles and scavenging through their moms' makeup boxes carries through to adulthood. If you enjoy helping women of all ages achieve their best look, a career in the business of beauty may be the perfect match for you. Here's what you need to know to get started.

Things You'll Need

  • Business plan
  • Business license
  • Website
  • Start-up capital

Identify the type of beauty enterprise you want. Ask yourself these questions: How much time you can devote to running a business? How much start-up capital do you have? Where will your services be provided? Will you need a staff to assist you? Beauty businesses include: beauty salons, nail salons, day spas, makeup and skin care and fashion consulting. Of these five, the first three require the purchase or lease of a facility plus the requisite equipment. While fashion consulting and makeup and skin care can be done at your home or your clients', the latter is usually in association with the purchase of a franchise or affiliation as a sales rep (i.e., Avon, Mary Kay, Arbonne).

Assess your strengths to be a beauty business owner. If you're already a licensed cosmetologist or hair stylist or have prior experience managing a spa or a health club, you're that much ahead of the curve. While there's certainly no shortage of salons wherein the owners/managers aren't actually on the floor themselves, they still need to know how to evaluate the work of their staff and ensure the quality and efficiency of the work. When it comes to makeup and fashion, keep in mind that you're going to be a walking advertisement for your expertise. You'll need to be well-versed in what's age-appropriate and fashionable in order to sell your products or services.

Research what your selected area of beauty entails (see Resources). Find a mentor who is working in the field you're interested in or take a part-time job in order to get first-hand exposure to the typical work day, the diversity of clients and the energy expended. Research your competition and what your own beauty business has to offer that will draw your clientele.

Develop a business plan that identifies how you will allocate your resources, who your targeted demographic is, what fees you plan to charge, how much you need to generate in sales each month to meet your operating expenses, where you plan to operate and how you intend to market your products and services. A solid business plan is essential to getting a loan. The Small Business Administration (see Resources) can walk you through the process of getting a business license as well as advise you how to register your company name with the secretary of state's cffice and acquire a federal tax ID number. Talk to your insurance agent about the amount of liability coverage you'll need to have.

Design a website for your new beauty business. You can either do this yourself with free online tutorials such as Entheos or work out a barter arrangement with a web designer who's looking for some makeup and fashion tips or a discount on her next perm. The website should identify the products and services you offer, list your fees, share a bio and could even have a beauty blog where you chat about the latest trends or invite Q&A chatter. As your beauty business grows, ask some of your clients if they'd write testimonials for you.

Get the word out that you're open for business. Online printshop services such as Vista Print allow you to use custom design templates or upload your own artwork to postcards and brochures and offer reasonable prices to mail the finished product to selected zip codes for you. Join your local Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizations; these are great opportunities to meet a lot of people and let them know what you do. Network with the concierge staff of area hotels. Hold beauty workshops and provide discount cards to those who attend. Establish yourself as a beauty expert by writing articles for trade magazines and online publications. Always include your company name and website as part of your email signature.

Subscribe to beauty and fashion magazines. Take continuing education classes to stay on top of your game.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you're going to have a brick and mortar operation, make sure that the location is easily accessible to public transportation, has ample parking and is in a safe neighborhood. Consider, too, whether the sustainability of your beauty business is one that relies on walk-in traffic. A makeup salon that's located up a tall flight of stairs, for example, isn't going to attract as many customers as one that is in the middle of a row of shops or in a shopping mall. To generate good will with your business' neighbors, introduce yourself early and offer their employees discounts. If they're happy with your products and services, you can be sure they'll be telling their customers about you.
  • If you take a job in a salon or spa to learn the ropes, be aware that the business isn't going to look fondly on you if you decide to steal its clients when you set up shop on your own. Many of them, in fact, will have you sign a release at the time of hire that declares you will not do this. If you're going to have clients come to your home for services (i.e., a garage beauty salon), make sure that your address is zoned for commercial activities. If you're planning to sell your own line of cosmetics, tread carefully. Even if your homemade recipes are made from all natural ingredients (which need to judiciously list every single ingredient on the label), there are certain states that require approval by the Food and Drug Administration before you can market them to the public. An alternative to this is if you are writing articles and ebooks that tell customers how to make their own at home; the proceeds, thus, would be coming from the sale of content and not actual product.

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