Making switch from employee to boss opens up opportunities for Naperville salon owner – Chicago Tribune
Business: Elegant Salon & Day Spa
Address: 15 S. Naper Blvd., Naperville
Phone/website: 630-355-9700; www.elegantesalons-spas.com
Owner: Ashley Smith, 36, of Oswego
Years in business? 50 (Smith’s owned the business for five years.)
What does your business do? “We do hair, skin, nails. With that we do color and cut, smoothing treatments for hair, hair extensions. We do manicures and pedicures. We do facials, waxing. We do eyelash extensions,” Smith said.
What’s new? “One of our newest services is permanent makeup.”
What’s that? “Eyebrows, eyeliners and lips. It’s a tattoo. … There are a couple of us here who do that. …Have you heard of microblading? That term refers to the eyebrows.”
How does it work? “We draw a shape on for them and then depending on the style they want, the look, the color, we give them new brows. It’s extremely popular right now. … I’ve seen people if their late 20s up to 82.”
Is it painful? “We use a numbing product that helps.”
Why do you own this business? “The previous owners, Kay and Dale Smith, no relation, owned it for the first 45 (years). … I bought it five years ago. … I had worked here for eight years before that. … They wanted to retire and asked me if I wanted to take over. I was the manager.”
That’s a big jump. What’s different? “I loved every stage of it, but it is all different. I do some services here too. I still see the clients.”
Why this occupation? “I’ve been working at salons since I was 14. I had a work permit. I started as a shampoo girl. By 16, I was working the front desk of a salon in Oswego. I grew up in the industry. I went to Aurora University for a year to be an accountant. I stopped going there and went to Hair Professionals in Oswego. … I really like the interaction with the people. It’s fun and important for me. They’re like family. You hear about their vacations, their kids, their husbands.”
How did the pandemic affect your business? “We had to shut down for two months (in 2020). … Once we reopened, everyone was dying to get in to see us. … They only thing we did in those two months was product delivery. We put it in a bag, dropped it off outside their house. When we came back, we were slammed. Of course, we had to keep a certain distance apart.
“When we were closed, I went on Facebook and said, ‘I’m not going to color my hair until you guys can color your hair.’ I’m about 70 percent gray myself. I was very gray (when we were closed). …Because I’m young, people were shocked how gray I was.”
How many employees work here? “I have 12. … I have stylists who have been here over 40 years. It’s a good place to work. People come and they stay.”
Where do you get your hair done? “Here. Absolutely. … These are hair extensions. We do a good job with hair extensions here. … I don’t have the kind of hair that would grow this long and full.”
What’s your favorite part of the job? “The customers definitely.”
Any negatives? “I don’t like telling people what to do. But I have a really good team. … Paperwork, but I have an accountant.”
Is there a busy time? “The holidays always. And there are certain parts of the summer. Vacations. … Tuesday and Wednesday evenings are hopping in here.”
Why is this a good location? “We had two other salons. They were busy. We have people here who worked at all of them. … We’re surrounded by residential so we really are a neighborhood salon. … Every generation we take care of.”
Do you cut men’s hair? “Yes. Absolutely. cut and color.”
What are your prices? “We’ll be right around where everyone else is. Our women’s haircuts start at $42. …Men start at $37.”
Why do men’s haircuts cost less? “It’s the time we book for.”
Any favorite stories? “Becoming an owner here. I signed the paperwork when I was 30. …. I love this place.”
Do you face challenges? “It’s an ever-changing business. It’s us keeping up with our education, with the industry, (with) what our guests are looking for, how to get new guests to the salon.”
Any future plans? “I plan on staying in this location. Grow our team here. … Two more salons again, that would be fine.”
What’s your advice for someone starting a business? “Get an accountant. … Hire good people to do good things for you. Don’t take on too much. trust people.”
If you know of a business you’d like to see profiled in Down to Business, contact Steve Metsch at [email protected].
Steve Metsch is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.