||BPL: How and why did you decide to start this type of biz?
JS: It was an impulse decision based on the growth of the neighborhood at the time. I loved doing hair and thought that Williamsburgh was a great place to take a shot at going out on my own.
BPL: What were the first steps you took to get started?
JS: I went to the bookstore and took out books on starting a hair salon and on being in biz with a partner. From there I did research on loans for women in business. I decided to go to family for the loan, which I am thrilled to say is over half-way paid back.
When I started the biz, SBA came across my path.
Most of the classes I took pertained to being a hairdresser. Now that I'm a biz owner, there are organizations that sponsor classes that find me and tell me about what they have to offer.
I saw a guy written up for his cuts in Vogue who happened to be hiring assistants. After working for six months there I realized it would be a really long road. So I left and went to a place to learn how to cut hair. Then I worked at a place called Mousey Brown. That was really the place that allowed me to go out on my own.
It is important to know your biz. Get your license. Know how to be a hair dresser. Someone who doesn't have that is more likely to fail. During my time spent working for others, I got to see how other owners run this kind of business.
BPL: What Brooklyn organizations and resources would you recommend to others looking for help and assistance in starting a new biz?
JS: The people of Williamsburgh are great resources – other business owners and people in the community in general. It's easy to get the word out to our community if you have something great to offer.
BPL: What methods have you used to get the word out about your biz? How did you select these methods? Which do you think is most successful and why?
JS: At first my competition was limited. When we opened there were just two hair salons in the area. Now there are 10 to 15 salons in Williamsburgh. Before we opened I saw that Williamsburgh was on the edge of being hot. I saw that shops were opening. Now Williamsburgh seems like it's going through another change. Small franchises are the competition now, but bigger chains are coming in. However, the Beehive has a unique aesthetic that can be branded.
I have been lucky to have my clients do a lot of the talking for me. I feel that offering incredible customer service and finding out how to continue to do that is so important. I love creating an image and brand, and bringing a service to people and making sure that service is consistent. People like what's predictable. They work a lot so they look for services that are there, convenient and affordable.
I did a lot of marketing in the beginning. Initially, I created a biz card that had a cute graphic that caught people's eye. I passed out cards all over the place. I stood in line at the L train in the morning hours and gave a card to anyone who would take it.
The bees at the Hive do "shears and beers" events where we cut hair in a bar and all the money goes to local charities. That has been a great way to get ourselves out there in the community. I have made use of the Onion, 11211 and Citysearch for advertising.
BPL: What is the best thing about being in biz for yourself?
JS: Ultimately the success of your career depends on you. You see the rewards of hard work firsthand, and there's nothing better than that. I can change what needs to be changed without having to deal with levels of business that are out of my control. Everything at the Beehive is, at the end of the day, up to Luisa, my business partner, and me.
BPL: What do you think is the most difficult aspect of being in biz for yourself?
JS: It's a never ending process for the very same reasons that it's great to be in business for yourself. Those same reasons make it more than a full-time job. When something goes wrong or needs to be addressed, I am always the go to person. Sometimes you have months where that seems to happen all the time and then other months are seamless.
BPL: If you were to do one thing differently in starting your own biz, what would it be?
JS: I have been so lucky. I can't say that I would do anything different. Wait hold that thought. I broke a cardinal rule. I hired friends. It's a tough situation when things go wrong and you have to be a boss to a friend.
BPL: What's the one most important piece of advice you would give someone else about starting a biz?
JS: Be organized. Be client conscious. Be fair to employees. Listen to employees. And be optimistic and thankful for the opportunity to create something that is your own and services a community. It's one of the best things I've ever done!
Realize that having your own biz is more than a full-time job.
Be excited. Be willing to gather information from lots of different sources. Be open. Keep at it. Expect to work really hard. You are going to be there. You aren't going to get out of going to work.
Get to know customers. You have to figure out a way that customers can differentiate you from others in the same biz.
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