Someone once described small business ownership to me like this: It closely resembles jumping out of an airplane and hoping you can figure out how to build a parachute before you hit the ground. And after having spent the last year and a half planning, building, and finally opening the hair salon I’ve always dreamed about, I can unequivocally say, that is bullshit. Most days it’s more like learning how to build the airplane from scrap metal, teaching yourself to fly the thing, getting shoved out the hatch mid-air, and THEN hoping you can build a parachute before you hit the ground.
So what on earth, you ask, would make a person do such a thing? The money? The fame? The glamour? If you define glamour as begging everyone you know for loans and favors and spending Saturday night scraping together dinner out of the random assortment of pinto beans, cottage cheese, and potato chips you have lingering in your cupboards, then absolutely, call me Grace Kelly. This is not an exaggeration. To anyone contemplating small business ownership, here is some advice. Prepare to be broke for awhile. Very very very broke. And not just broke, but broke and carrying an enormous amount of debt. As much debt as the banks will give you, and then some.
So then, why would I do this to myself?
Reason 1: Lets just say I have problems with “authority” and “structure” and “schedules;” just ask my mother. No one has ever referred to me as a “team player”. One of the main reasons I became a hairstylist in the first place was so I could sleep until 11am, and get tattoos on my neck, or whatever. Turns out though, working in a salon means you still have a boss who expects you to follow rules like other bosses—lame.
Reason 2: And this is key, the thought of sitting behind a desk in an office, attending morning meetings, and using phrases like “let’s think outside the box,” literally makes me want to jump into traffic. So clearly the corporate world is out for me.
Reason 3: I’ve never had any trouble being “miss bossy pants,” especially when I was little (again, something my mother can confirm for you). So, turns out this trait is going to serve me well later in life after all.
Reason 4: If I had to spend any more of my life helping someone else execute their poorly thought-out half-assed business vision, I was going to go Kill Bill on someone. As in—our towels smell like mildew, my paychecks are bouncing, and my salon owner just spent the last 3 weeks in South America… Cool, meet my friend Vivica A. Fox, the knives expert. What the hell was I working to give these people half my money for? What was I getting in return besides smelly towels and tired feet?
So there it is, like a lot of other business owners, I chose entrepreneurship out of sheer desperation. Because, given my personality quirks, there is little else I’m suited for, and even less that’s suited for me. Now, that’s not to say I opened a salon purely out of process of elimination. I consider myself a person with vision. I carry the necessary egomaniacal belief that I can create something special and different from all the other salons out there, and a sincere desire to put my own stamp on the industry I’ve spent so much of my life in.
So I embarked on this journey, like a sweet wide-eyed bunny rabbit, all ready to put something amazing into the world, only to be crushed by city bureaucracy, budgetary constraints, and general exhaustion. Seriously people, trying to navigate through the city’s regulation and permitting process to open a brick and mortar business, is nothing short of soul crushing. It’s not for the faint of heart. And everything will cost twice as much as you think it will. This is not just something people say, that shit is real. Sit down and think carefully about every single thing you might possibly need to make your business run, down to the coffee maker and the paper clips. Add all that up, and when you think you have a solid, accurate number—double it. Same goes for time. If you think you can get the project done in 2 months, it will be 4, guaranteed. Also, expect to wake up in sheer terror at least 3 times a week, feeling sure you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life. This is completely normal, and a sign that you are indeed an entrepreneur.
So now that I’ve gotten to this point, built the plane, jumped out of it, started frantically trying to build that parachute, how do I know I’ll be successful, you ask? The short answer is I don’t. The moment I opened the salon doors on our first day I immediately flashed to the Underpants Gnome episode of South Park, in which Tweek discovers small gnomes stealing his underpants in the middle of the night. Claiming to be business experts, the gnomes explain their business plan:
Step 1: collect underpants
Step 2: …….?
Step 3: profit
Yep, despite my years of experience, careful planning, and detailed business plan, on day 1, I felt just like the underpants gnomes. As in, how the hell am I going to do make this work? But that feeling passes. And here we are on day 91, just over 3 months open and I’m starting to see my hard work pay off. My stations are starting to fill with stylists, and their chairs are filling with clients. I lost those parachute instructions in mid-air, but I’m building it anyway.
So here is the answer to the question–why open a small business: Because you have to. Because you literally can’t do anything else. (If you can, do. Seriously) Because you have a vision that can’t be contained in a cubicle. Because you have a special brand of crazy that is both brilliant and not suited for employment. Business ownership is not for the timid, or the easily discouraged. But I think, at least for me, it was the only choice. And despite all the headaches (both past and future), I am genuinely proud to put something out into the world that will have an effect on the lives of the people around me. Revolver Salon is not an industry leader yet, but we’re gaining strength every day. It’s only a matter of time now before my salon empire takes over the world. Or at the very least I can buy groceries again.