The co-founders of BriAry Hair Studio talk about how they adopted a new business model to achieve success in the hair salon industry.

Talia Horta (left) and Cristina Batista (right) were hair stylists working in a typical salon setting: one large open room where each stylist was an employee of the business. This led to vast employee turnover, as stylists would eventually gain experience, want more autonomy, and open up their own salons (using the same model as their previous employer). Wash, rinse, repeat.

So when Talia and Cristina opened up shop, they revolutionized the old model. Rather than renting out chairs to stylists (as was tradition), they gave stylists the opportunity to design their own studios by renting out entire rooms. This gave their employees what they wanted most: a sense of genuine autonomy. It also reduced turnover and led to more cooperation within the business—a difficult task in the competitive hair salon industry. Here they offer their tips for other small businesses based on their experience.

Tip #1: Be innovative

At the time that BriAry first opened, no hair salons in Connecticut were allowing stylists to set up their own studios. Talia and Cristina knew that this was a trend in other parts of the country, they understood its appeal, and they capitalized. The BriAry model gave stylists their own room, book of clients, and space to manage themselves. Having a differentiated business model allowed them to attract highly-skilled stylists, and their business quickly grew.

They admit that it wasn’t easy, but as Talia says, “When you live in fear, you can’t grow. We saw the buzz coming and wanted to be the pioneers of this new concept.”

Tip #2: Evolve your business practices to fight turnover

The pair knew that in order to overcome the turnover problem of the old model, they would have to make it attractive for employees to stay. So they started coaching each of their employees on an ongoing basis on accounting, marketing, branding, and presentation. Even in the new studio model, it was very rare for hair salons to offer these services, and it helped them retain employees that otherwise may have left.

To combat the inherent competitiveness of old-model salons, Talia and Cristina also imbued their employees with a sense of cooperation. “What we represent is helping women in business,” Talia says. “It’s like a fellowship here—everybody has their own doors, but we all help each other out.”

Cristina agrees, “We turned it into an atmosphere where as long as someone is under our roof, our business is still growing.”

Tip #3: Don’t let obstacles stand in your way

The building where BriAry currently resides wasn’t even for sale when the duo purchased it several years ago. “We just approached the gentleman and said we really feel like this is where we need to be,” Talia recalls. He was not open to the sale at first, but they were tenacious. After several discussions, Talia and Cristina convinced the owner to sell. That was two years and several renovations ago.

At the end of the day, Talia and Cristina are proud they can be role models. “We’re both moms with two daughters,” Cristina says. “We wanted to show them that they can accomplish anything they set their heart to. We wanted to be in charge of our own destiny, and here we are.”

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