Heather Carr is owner of Sacarrha Salon in Pawtucket, RI. She started working as a shampoo girl in a salon in the 10th grade and attended cosmetology school at Davies Vocational High School before getting hired as a stylist at a salon in Cumberland.
When her husband came across a building for sale in 2006 with a salon on the first floor, the two began exploring the financing to purchase both. But when her current employer caught wind, Heather was fired along with two other stylists.
The owner of the salon for sale, called “T-House of Hair,” took Heather and the two stylists in for two months until the financing for the purchase was approved. Heather and her husband changed the name of the salon to “Sacarrha Salon,” a combination of her initials, her husband’s name (Shawn) and their last name. She was 23 years old at the time.
Since then Sacarrha has blossomed into one of the more successful salons in Rhode Island and New England. A quick glance at their website and social channels reveals a professional presentation with clear, consistent branding and messaging.
I reached out to Heather to learn more about her journey – and challenges – as a salon owner.
Few understand the sacrifices and hard work that goes into owning a salon.
What were the greatest challenges you faced when you first opened? In other words, what kept you up at night?
It was very challenging for me to change everything from how the T-House used to be. We completely gutted and remodeled the entire salon and made it into Sacarrha Salon. The stylists did not respect me as they had been working there for so many years and I was young and wanted to change everything and make it my own.
As I started the renovation process they were very resistant to the change and I unfortunately I had to look for new stylists. I hired family and friends because they were comfortable, but that, too, was very challenging. I dealt with stealing, back stabbing and over-paying commissions that resulted in us never making a profit.
We were then faced with challenges of my husband and I putting in our own money to cover payroll, expenses, and so on. My family and I lived upstairs above the salon which helped with raising my small children, since I had to work so much and could not be home.
Few understand the sacrifices and hard work that goes into owning a salon. I have always been driven and never give up. After my friends and family all left the salon I was hurt and felt used for all I did for them. But in reality it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I never liked being the owner of a salon – it was hard to be the boss and not friends with the girls I worked with. Being a young owner I’ve always faced that challenge because my passion was always doing hair and being behind the chair.
Given that so many business fail within the first 18 months, what was your “secret” to getting to that milestone and beyond?
During the years I continued to research product lines and companies that were different from every other salon in my area. I surrounded myself with other salon owners and distributor companies that offered me business classes and trainings. I always hired stylists right out of schools so I could train and mold them to be motivated and talented stylists. I put systems in place that I’ve learned to help mentor and grow my stylists.
If you were standing in front of a crowd of to-be salon owners, what advice would you give them?
This is a challenging question for me to answer because I’ve only started loving being a salon owner in the past 2 years of the 13 years I’ve been in business. Being a salon owner was way more challenging than I ever expected. My advice would be to always stay up to date with our always-changing industry. Change is good: Never get too comfortable or set in your ways. Always set goals for your staff and yourself and work together to reach those goals.
How has technology played a role in your business and in the industry?
Technology has changed tremendously over the last few years. Technology has made my life as a salon owner so much easier – reports at my finger tips, appointment reminders, and convenient online booking for my guests. Having these tools keep our guests loyal to us because we always provide convenience and amazing customer experience.
What are your long-term goals for the business?
My long term goals for my business would be to cut back from working behind the chair so many hours and spend more time growing my business and mentoring my stylists. We recently expanded our salon and took over my old apartment on the 2nd floor. We doubled our space with the expansion so my goal is to offer our guests more services.
I also love planning events and parties, so with our new space I can host events for our guests, fun ladies night our parties, and increase our bridal business with our new bridal suite.
Who inspires you?
Strong women inspire me. I find as a strong motivated women I can face any challenge and always move forward with any set back that I’ve faced. I find all that I’ve been through to be learning experiences that have made me even stronger.
Your salon’s social channels are very nicely branded. How important is social media to the salon’s success?
I’m just now learning a lot about social media through classes I’ve taken. Social media is so important these days. Guests are interviewing us now before they visit our salon or see a new stylist. They are researching everything online. So we need to be ahead of everything.
After 13 years of being in business I’m just now branding my business. I’ve always had a brand but never knew how important it was to follow through with putting our brand on everything. Guests will be more loyal if they know your brand and always remember you.
You’ve been using SalonTarget for 3 years now. How has it helped? What are your favorite/most-used features?
SalonTarget has changed my life. It has every tool and then some to help me grow my stylists, gain more guests, and help maintain the amazing Sacarrha experience we provide our guests.
I love all the marketing features for our guests – it’s very user friendly for me to market to my guests each month.
The online booking is also great. Other salons that don’t have online booking are missing out. Clients want convenience and everything at the click of their finger.
Want to see how SalonTarget can help you grow your salon or spa? Get in touch with us today!