How to Start a Unisex Salon

Women go to salons and men go to barbershops, right? No, not always. If you’re going to open a salon, why not make it a unisex one? You just have to consider the needs of both genders so that you can cater to everyone. 

Want to know how to start a unisex salon? If your answer is yes, then good. We’re about to go over the things you need to think about and do to open a salon that appeals to both men and women. 

  1. Make a business plan.
  2. Find funding.
  3. Pick your spot.
  4. Get legal.
  5. Hire wisely.
  6. Market the right way.

Most of the steps listed above will be the same, whether it’s for a unisex salon or not. However, we’re going to look at some of them in terms of what you might need to think differently about when you’re working toward opening your salon. So, let’s get into it then.

Make a Business Plan

All good ideas for opening new businesses need to start here. You need a good business plan if you plan to succeed at all. It’s one thing for us to just tell you this is something you need. But, what’s in a business plan anyway? We’ll start with that. A business plan includes the following:

  • Your business concept – This should cover what your vision is for this unisex salon. So that means the fact that you want it to be unisex in nature is part of your concept. 
  • Plans for implementation – You need to show that you have thought about what it will take to get your business started. You might not know everything about what you need to do, but you should know some of how you plan to get things going.
  • Details of services – What are you planning on providing to your customers? You need to have a well-laid plan for all the types of services you’ll be offering, as well as any products you’ll sell. This, too, will be somewhere to distinguish that you’re going to offer services for both men and women.
  • Markets – Here’s where you’ll really talk about who you plan to pursue as customers. You can explain how you are going to draw in male and female clientele. 
  • Your background – Present information about your experience as a hairstylist (if you are one) and as a business owner (if you’ve been one). You can enter anything about your credentials here also.
  • Financing needs – Your plan has to include how much money you’ll be needing to find to get your salon started. You need to do some research for this section, as what you put here could affect your credibility.
  • Include brand information – You are creating a brand when you open your own business. Think about what you want your brand to say about the company and put that down on paper in words that are as clear as you can make them. You can even design a logo and a mascot if you want to.

Find Funding

How to Start a Unisex Salon

If you’ve been thinking about opening a unisex salon for a long time, chances are you’ve already been putting money aside for your shop. However, you may not have enough, or you may not have any. 

You can find funding by asking people around you to invest in your hair salon. Go to friends, family, or anyone else who might be willing to lend you money to get started. Keep in mind that in most cases, this will be a loan that you will need to pay back once your shop starts making profits. 

Sometimes you can approach people you don’t know to help fund your business. You can ask one or two wealthy angel investors, and if they believe in what you’re trying to do, they may very well give you the cash you need. A well-laid business plan will help with this method of financing. Another idea would be to try a crowd-funding campaign. This type of business would benefit all kinds of people, so if you can hype your hair salon up, you might get a good chunk of money raised this way.

You can always try to get a business loan from a bank as an option too, but these are usually hard to come by for a startup shop. It can’t hurt to try, though.

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Pick Your Spot

You need to find a smart location to open your salon. Don’t just apply for a lease because you like the look of the building. Think about your salon. Picture what the space will look like. Your business plan should include what the scale of your operation is going to be. You’ll base the location off of that scale.

Remember that you’re trying to cater to both men and women. Think through some ideas of how you could really differentiate spaces for each. Maybe you could have a neutral zone, a “Girls just wanna have fun” zone, and a “Man-cave” zone. Are you going to allow at least a couple of chairs to “the barbershop” side? Those chairs could be designated for haircuts and styles that don’t take very long. 

When you see a space, ask a lot of questions. Find out what restrictions might be put on you for operating, parking, signage, and more. Talk to previous renters of the building to see what they can tell you about the landlord. Do your homework so you can find the right space for your unisex salon.

Get Legal

Any type of business you plan to open will have legal standards that have to be met before you can start operating. Every state sets its own regulations, and some cities will need also. It’s highly important that you check with your governing agencies to see what you need to do to be in compliance. 

If you’re planning to be an owner and a stylist, you’ll have to have your cosmetology license, which you probably already knew. However, on top of that, you need a general business license. 

For salons that are opening in a free-standing building or in a space within a strip mall, you’ll have to obtain a health inspection certificate, as well as a building code compliance certificate. These should be hung up on display inside the unisex salon. 

Some salons are known to offer guests a glass of wine or some other type of adult beverage as a courtesy. Check with regulators if you are planning to do this in your shop. Make sure you’re aware of anything you’ll need to have to grant permission to serve those kinds of drinks.

Hire Wisely

How to Start a Unisex Salon

When you think about hiring, think first of who you want to draw into your salon as customers. The best thing you can do is try to appeal to many different demographics. 

People have various kinds of hair types and needs. You can cater to all of those differences by hiring a staff that is very diverse. Hire people who have experience with older people’s hair, men’s hair, women’s hair, children’s hair, curly hair, African-American hair, super thin hair, and everything else you can think of. Also, hire men and women, different ethnicities, and different ages of stylists.

Check references, or if you’re pulling from a school, speak with the teachers to see how this person was in class. You could even have a new stylist perform a test cut or treatment just to assess their skills yourself. Make sure to also check credentials.

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Market the Right Way

Don’t just assume that people will know that you are opening a unisex salon. If you don’t spread the word, then potential clients won’t necessarily know. Tell your community that you’re opening a unisex salon to provide services to both genders. 

Design your marketing campaign around speaking to both men and women. When prospective customers see your marketing materials, it shouldn’t look as if you are leaning toward one gender or the other. The campaigns should be well-balanced, and there should be elements included that share with each sex what benefits there are for them specifically.

As was mentioned above, hire diversely. If you’re opening a unisex salon, then hire a unisex staff. Believe it or not, that alone serves as marketing for your business. It shows that you’re looking to bring in both men and women. 

While you shouldn’t use marketing materials that sway toward one gender or the other when you are distributing in a co-ed kind of space, it’s a bit different if you’re advertising in a male or female venue.

So, what does this mean? Let’s look at an example. You notice there’s a women’s gym at the other end of the strip mall you’re opening up shop in. You can absolutely make up some more feminine inspired marketing packages and see if the gym will let you distribute them to their customers. Offer a coupon or something that caters to services that are usually requested by women. Do the same kind of thing in any male-dominated space that you might be able to find customers in.

Final Thoughts

Your idea of opening a unisex salon is an exciting one. People will always need their hair done, and it’s a place where people go in feeling one way and many times leave feeling better about themselves. Our hope is that this article gives you more of an organized sense of how to start a unisex salon. 

Start with your business plan, then find the money to put it into action. Next, look for where you want to open your shop. Spend the time and effort to get all of the required legal permits and certificates that you’ll need. Take your time and hire people that will help you to represent your brand and your business the way you want it to be seen. Finally, be mindful of the way you market your new salon so that your campaigns are as effective as you need them to be.

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Related Questions

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Is it wise to offer kids’ haircuts too?

Yes, absolutely. People generally ask this question because the kids’ cuts still take up time but are priced quite a bit lower than an adult cut is. The thing is, if you don’t offer kid cuts, you could lose some of those would-be adult customers because they want to go somewhere they can take their whole family. Kids’ hair also grows quite fast, meaning they’ll be coming back more. Don’t fail to offer children’s cuts. You might rub some potential clients the wrong way and miss out on business opportunities.

What expenses are associated with a hair salon?

You need to consider all of the expenses you’ll be taking on when you open a hair salon. Some are fixed—they won’t change—while others are variable—they will change. Below are lists of fixed and variable expenses that you need to be aware of before you go diving into salon ownership.

Fixed expenses:

  • Rent
  • Phones
  • Gas
  • Education and training
  • Insurance
  • Licenses, permits, and certifications
  • Advertising
  • Subscriptions
  • Equipment

Variable expenses:

  • Towels
  • Capes
  • Stylist supplies
  • Hair dye
  • Tools
  • Taxes
  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Gloves and foils
  • Cleaning supplies

Understand that this is not an all-inclusive list. There are plenty of other costs that you’ll find you have to account for along the way. But as a reference, start by considering these that are usually a part of all salons and then build your list out from there. 

Should I offer nail services as well?

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This is really a matter of personal preference. There are certainly some benefits to doing this. You could gain customers through the lure of the nail technician and vice versa. Downsides could be that you have to allow space for that, there are more legalities involved, and you have to hire someone or contract out to someone to provide those services.

The effort you have to put into it upfront could very well be worth it, though. These two salon functions go hand-in-hand. They will each undoubtedly generate business for the other during the course of the day.

Looking to start your own Salon? Get the documents you need to get organized and funded here.

Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.