By: Maddie Poteat
Behind the scenes of owning a salon and spa
I would wager a healthy sum that the majority of you reading this blog post know what it’s like to sit in a salon chair. However, I predict that the majority of you can only imagine what it’s like to actually own a salon and spa. With more than 10 years in the business of running salons and spas, Darcy Michalek, the owner of Garbo’s Salon and Spa, lets us have a peek at the ins and outs of salon ownership and management.
Take us back...
More than fifteen years ago Darcy and her family found themselves in Omaha, Nebraska after having recently moved from Longmeadow, Massachusetts. With an impressive resume filled with C-level leadership roles and a handful of different industries, Darcy found herself contemplating an interesting offer – the opportunity to purchase a salon. Fast forward a few years, Darcy managed to take the purchase of Garbo’s Salon and Spa at the Oak View Mall and turn it into four successful locations that employ more than 140 talented people.
Now with four salons to her name, Darcy and her team of managers are busy making sure they’re providing best-in-class services to their clients and helping their stylists, makeup artists, nail technicians and estheticians learn and grow all while balancing all the other tasks of running a business. It is in fact those other tasks that we, as the people in the chair and not behind it, tend to overlook or forget when we think of what it takes to own a salon.
Why did you want to own a salon?
“After having worked for a handful of large companies I started looking for great business opportunities that would allow me to own my own business. My desire to own my own company and my love for having my hair and nails done made idea of owning a salon and spa very appealing.”
To be clear, you don't do hair?
“Correct! Most people think it’s strange when I tell them I am not a stylists but I think having the business background that I do benefits me. To be a business woman first allows me to be more strategic in my day to day. I can draw upon my past experiences and find new ways to apply what I have learned from them in this market. However, I can’t stress enough how important it is to me that all of our managers are stylists themselves. Having that knowledge really helps bridge the gap and pick up where I leave off.”
We can imagine running four salons is a lot of work - what does your day to day look like?
“I can’t say I have a typical day-to-day schedule but I try my best to complete all my administrative tasks and paperwork in the mornings and then schedule my meetings in each of the locations in the afternoons and evenings. I’m constantly running supplies to each of the locations as well. Somedays I’ll need to visit all four salons in one afternoon while others days its only two or three… With that being said, I try to take advantage of the time I have in my car when traveling to one salon or the other. I utilize that time to check in with members of my team who I haven’t heard from in a while or to make other business related phone calls (all hands-free of course!).
Since I do travel often between the salons, my team always teases me because most days it looks like I’m living out of my car! I have boxes piled up in the trunk and the back seat, paperwork in the front seat and, if I’ve had time to stop for lunch that day, a takeout bag somewhere near me!
Since our salons are open seven days a week I am typically also working seven days a week. I want to be available to my team whenever I’m needed so they know they can call or text me at anytime.
Recently we have been doing more interviewing than normal. Our guest services team is growing and we are always on the hunt for amazing team members so interviewing has become a day-to-day agenda item as well. I personally love interviewing and do my best to be the first person from Garbo’s a potential team member meets. It gives me a chance to really get to know the person before welcoming them into our family.”
Do you manage the salons yourself or do you have help?
“Thankfully, I have help! Each salon has a Salon Manager who is also a behind the chair stylist. In addition, each salon has an assistant manager or desk coordinator that manages the front of the house. I am truly blessed to have such an amazing team and do my best to say thank you to them as much as possible. Our readers should definitely know who they are:
Village Pointe: Sherri Mahoney (Manager), Susie Knezovich (Assistant Manager, Head of Guest Relations), Crystal Millerd (Assistant Manager)
Regency: Tom Sena (Manager), Juliana Montane (Assistant Manager, Head of Guest Relations)
Midtown: Audrey Reinhardt (Manager), Adam Podraza (Head of Guest Relations)
Oak View: Amber Meir (Manager), Melissa Losole (Assistant Manager), Ricki Rockwell (Head of Guest Relations)”
What is the biggest challenge you face as the owner of Garbo's Salon and Spa?
“The biggest challenge I face is staying personally connected to all of our team members. As we’ve grown and added additional locations, it has become more and more difficult to spend quality time with everyone. I don’t have time to hang and chat about the more personal things like I used to and I really wish I did. We are now at 140 employees! With so many amazing, talented people working for us it makes me cherish the time I have with each new person we add during the interview process. I enjoy getting to know them on a personal level before they ever set foot in the salon.”
What is something our readers don't know about you?
“Hmmm… Before I became the owner of my first Garbo’s location I used to work for a division of Jones Wear in the fashion jewelry industry. I worked in Sales, Marketing and Inventory control for more than 15 years – five years in Phoenix, five years in San Antonio and five years in New York City. Once my kids were a little older we decided to move back to Nebraska so we could be closer to family.”
What about Garbo's Salon and Spa excites you most?
“I am most excited about the growth we have seen with the company and the opportunities that lie ahead. Because our brand has grown so large I envision us leveraging our size and starting to have more of a national reach in many areas of our business. Did you know we currently ship our Garbo’s Professional product all over the country?
I’m also excited about the opportunity to develop new products for different markets and creating new partnerships and collaborations with other business owners. I personally love being a small business and love working with other small businesses as well.
I also love how personal our business is and how transformational it can be. It always excites me that we have the opportunity to transform people’s lives on a daily basis.”
We hear there are some big and exciting things coming down the line for Garbo's this year - can you give us a little sneek peak?
“We have so many new things coming your way! Last year around this time we launched our new social media accounts and I personally love what our team has created. Looking forward to the rest of this year we are setting our sights on developing a few new products for a market we’ve never worked with before.
We are also working to partner with another local business in Omaha to bring new services to the salons. We should be announcing that partnership soon!
Next month we will be introducing 12 new products to our Garbo’s Professional line and we are working to re-vamp our loyalty program. We sent out a survey last month asking our clients where we can improve and that was one of the most asked for items.
Other than that we have two BIG announcements coming in 2020 but I am going to keep my lips sealed on those for the time being :)”
We always love hearing from our owner, Darcy! I was lucky enough to snag a few minutes while she drove from one salon to the other to get her thoughts on the questions above. If you have other questions for Darcy regarding salon ownership or being an entrepreneur please let us know in the comments.
Thanks as always for reading!