Tucked away in a Victorian arcade in the centre of Leeds, and according to Treatwell.co.uk is one of the city’s highest rated salons.* Allertons offers a full range of hair and beauty services that are designed to leave clients feeling well and truly pampered. From hairdressing to makeup to massages and skincare, their full service salon experience has exploded in the three years since it opened. We caught up with Allertons’ Managing Director Nicholas Nicola to find out the secret to his success.
How did you get into the industry?
“I began working in the beauty industry at 18 while I was studying at uni. I started out as a part time fragrance consultant at a department store and eventually ended up working for Clinique, House of Fraser, and Christian Dior. After graduation I became an account manager for Estée Lauder in Debenhams and eventually moved on to Crème de la Mer covering a long term absence. Once my contract ended I took on agency work and eventually decided to set up my own beauty agency, dealing with temp recruitment.”
What prompted you to open your own salon?
“I don’t have any qualifications in business but I always knew I wanted to be a businessman – when I was a child I used to sell toys to my sister! I always knew I would have a shop and spotted the opportunity in Leeds for a full service salon.”
Why did you move venue?
“We ran out of space. We had five hairdressing chairs before and only one treatment room. Now we have 13 chairs, three treatment rooms plus a private hairdressing chair, private nail room and a dedicated beauty boutique.”
How do you promote the salon?
“We’re on a website called Treatwell which is the equivalent of Booking.com or Trivago.com for salons. We’re the highest rated salon outside of London so that’s a big accolade for us. Other than that, we use paid Facebook advertising and paid Google advertising but we don’t advertise offline. 95% of our bookings are online so we don’t feel advertising in magazines is beneficial for us.”
What advice would you give to someone wanting to set up their own salon?
“It’s all about service and having a unique selling proposition (USP). If there’s nothing unique about your business, people may come once and then shop around to find somewhere cheaper. Our clients come to us because there’s a reason to. We’re experienced and convenient. You can come on a bank holiday or at 7 o’clock on a Tuesday night. You can buy perfume and makeup that you can’t buy anywhere else in Leeds. If there’s nothing unique about you then there’s no point.”
As you’ve said, the products that you sell are unique. Where do you source them?
“Largely using contacts I’ve built up throughout my career. Nearly everything we stock requires vetting to allow you to stock it. For many products we’re the only stockist outside of London and we have our own brand of makeup. We currently stock around 20 brands made up of skincare, fragrance, makeup, and hair products.”
What’s your most memorable moment of your career so far?
“Our first anniversary event. We do events twice a year where people can come and receive a free service as long as they buy a product. The first event was packed. Our shop was full for the whole night and clients were spilling out into the shopping centre we were based in. We had to chuck people out at 9 o’clock!”
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
“In the beginning I overspent on things that didn’t need spending on. I saw staff as an expense that could be cut back on and in hindsight I wish I had more staff. In this industry your income is directly related to the number of staff you have because everything is based around time.”
Your personal expertise is in skincare, have you got any tips?
“There’s no shortcuts. You need to double cleanse twice a day. Your routine should have at least five to seven steps to really be effective. You need to use face masks two or three times a week straight after exfoliating too.”
Are there any products you recommend?
“All of our products are sulphate and surfactant free meaning they don’t strip colour or moisture from your hair. Everything we sell is vetted by ourselves and don’t stock anything or offer services that are known to or likely to harm people. The products are either scientific, natural or cutting edge.”
Finally, what’s your favourite thing about owning your own business?
“Building up a brand that nobody has heard of before, introducing it to a city and watching it thrive. That and being my own boss!”
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewee/contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of SME Insurance Services (SMEi) or Jelf Insurance Brokers Ltd.
The information contained herein is based on sources we believe reliable and should be understood to be general risk management and insurance information only. The information is not intended to be taken as advice with respect to any individual situation and cannot be relied upon as such.
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