By Leah Fletcher
Philadelphia’s African American salon owners and stylists understand the benefits of business networking can provide with everything from starting a business to expanding one. Strategically they have begun to meet with colleagues and industry professionals, and then cultivate those relationships knowing they may help to build a strong, resilient professional community.
Many are meeting on a monthly basis with the networking group called goSmallBiz.
Nearly 75 salon owners and stylist meet the first Monday of each month to gain information on the planning and proper management of their businesses. The trend, according to James Yancey Hunter, III, one of the group’s conveners, is fueled by the realization that black hair care services present viable business opportunity.
“Black beauty salons have long provided the black community with professional services and are no longer relegated to kitchen and basement fronts,” explained Hunter, who is CEO of HeadZ Up, a company specializing in organic product systems. In fact, the health and beauty aids industry (hair, skin and cosmetic products and services) is nearly $60 billion, according to Hunter. He estimates that one-third of the beauty manufactured in the United States and imported into the country are purchased by African American consumers.
Business networking may seem intimidating at times, but the benefits of regularly investing in professional relationships far outweighs any feelings of awkwardness along the way, explained Kim Williams, a goSmallBiz, consultant, who has partnered with Hunter to present viable workshops that address the issues of staffing, bookkeeping, marketing, maintenance and repairs.
The impetus for the networking group is to provide the information and resources that will catapult the group’s members to higher levels of business operation and earning power. Hunter believes to do that requires information and discipline. Admittedly, he noted that some salon owners and stylist struggle with self-discipline, which is critical for the entrepreneurial-style beauty industry. “Without setting clear expectations for managing their time and budget, many slip into an attitude of showing up and filling a quota for haircuts, perms, colors, shampoos, and more, with little thought about how much money they are earning, what their supplies cost, or how they might reinvest their earnings,” explained Hunter, who has held executive positions at beauty industry giants such as Revlon.
“Hair stylist, nail technicians, estheticians, and barbers with a desire to succeed financially need to look beyond the hourly wage offered by most salons, day spas, resorts, and even medical offices, in William’s opinion. “Setting goals for tips (“I’ll have to service X number of clients to earn to earn a 20 percent tip”), selling products (“My goals is to be top seller of the month”), and reinvesting revenues into marketing and promotional materials (business cards, brochures, websites, advertising) are tools that will take any emerging stylist or skin care consultant to the next level:” explained Williams, began in the industry with Dudley Hair Products, said.
Williams, an industry veteran with over 25 years experience, pointed out that other financial considerations include income, booth rental fees at the salon, whether the stylist provides his /her own products or tools, and how to account to the IRS for income earned as an independent contractor. And more importantly, she said, industry professionals must develop not only their artistic talent, but also their aptitude for business.
“Networking can provide them with the knowledge and access to a range of skills necessary to function more effectively in their chosen profession” she added.
Hunter believes one of the most obvious benefits of business networking is that of professional advancement. “Networking gives you access to people and members of your business network may be able to connect you with job openings or professional services that will enhance your business,” explained Hunter.
Both Hunter and Williams agree that business networking may also serve as a source for continued learning and education. “Through professional contacts you can learn about advancements in the field and industry development. Learn through relationships in your professional network, such strategies as long-range planning, purchasing time management. Hunter also recommends that beauty professionals work outside their career field, which allows for the development of creative and innovative ideas.
“Members of your business network can be a rich resource of professional guidance, said Williams, “Whether you are facing a career change or business expansion, your professional contacts can give you insight and advice regarding the business resources and options available to you, she added.
Business networking can provide opportunities for problem resolution on both the professional and personal levels. Your business network, Hunter explains, serves as ‘a cadre of consultants you can call on to help you deal with difficult issues.” These individuals, he believes, can help connect group members with the information and the resources to solve a problem. For example, he pointed out that “members of your network can recommend everything from business contractors and consultants to professional conferences and training”
Rewarding relationships may be one of the greatest benefits of business networking, explained Williams, “The person you befriend in the neighboring salon may become a beloved mentor, and that person you strike up a conversation with at a community fundraiser may become a life-long friend.”
In short, goSmallBiz, Williams believes will foster networking relationships that will help its members continue to learn and grow both professionally and personally. What such networking groups ultimately do she said “is to stimulate creative ideas and encourage members toward their goals, as well as provide welcome companionship along the way.”
For information about upcoming goSmallBiz events, you may contact James Hunter Yancey, III, at 347-882-6403 or Kim Williams at 401-301-5589.