Hello STOGC community!
If you follow my column regularly, you know that I like to introduce readers to people who inspire me, whether through their professional accomplishments, interesting insights into how the world works, or their tireless efforts for continuous improvement.
These are people that I’ve meet over the years and have added to my network of friends and colleagues. I hope you find a glimpse into their lives just as interesting as I do!
The woman I’d like to profile today is Melodi Wyss-Feliciano, who, in addition to being an award-winning stylist, is also my sister-in-law. She is the owner and Chief Creative Director at Rock Paper Scissor SalonSpa, which the Santa Fe Reporter has ranked as the No. 1 salon in Santa Fe, NM, for nine years in a row.
When I first met Melodi, she had just completed a year’s worth of advanced training at the Vidal Sassoon Salon in Germany. Over the years she has developed and honed her skills, created her own successful business, and continues to share her knowledge and talents through teaching others.
Here’s a look into how one woman became a successful business owner ….
Lara: What made you decide to open your own business?
Melodi: After 16 years in the beauty industry, it was time to combine my experiences of industry show work, business consultant, educator, and cosmetologist into something fabulous. I was ready to create my own business … the type of company that I’d want to work for and where you are treated well and can learn and grow as a professional.
Additionally, my career to that point required a lot of travel, and with two small children, my son Eli was two years old and my daughter Sylka was a newborn, I needed something that would allow me to stay closer to home but that would still be fulfilling and allow me to grow as a professional.
By creating my own business, I was able to share my own experiences … the advanced training in the US and in Europe as well as my training as a National Director of Education in Hair Color and the Founding Director of Education for the AVEDA Institute of New Mexico … with my own salon team.
I felt it was opportunity for me to honor my mentors by sharing their brilliance in my own salon. I feel blessed to have work directly with the innovators of the beauty business; Horst Rechelbacher (AVEDA), Vidal Sassoon, and John Paul DeJoria (Paul Mitchell).
Lara: Tell us about Rock Paper Scissor SalonSpa. What sets you apart from other salons?
Melodi: Rock Paper Scissor (RPS) is an education-based learning organization. We are constantly gathering guest (customer) feedback and applying it in an effort to improve. Our model is to grow talent through advanced and inspirational education.
Often a Designer will start with us as a Coordinator, even before graduating from beauty school. Once licensed, they enroll in our New Talent program and work one-on-one with their mentor. As they progress through promotions, they become mentors themselves. We have watched talent develop fully by following the maxim: “To learn – watch; to know – do; to master – teach.” As a result, during the last 13 years, over 100 employees have either grown within our salon, or have gone on to open their own salons within Santa Fe, as well as five other states.
And, we are proud to hold the record of nine years in a row voted the “Best Salon in Santa Fe” by the Santa Fe Reporter’s Readers Poll.
Lara: How has your business grown and evolved over the years?
Melodi: RPS began 2001 with just me, a newborn draped over my shoulder, a mirror, and some very supportive guests!
Over time, we found enough talented stylists to outgrow two locations, into our largest space in the Sanbusco mall in downtown Santa Fe. Our stylists share our commitment to our guests, and that commitment drives us to continually innovate the way that we serve our guests. We are always looking for a better way to serve our guests.
Lara: Since you’ve run your own business for many years, what is something you wish someone would have told you before going out on your own?
Melodi: When considering going out on your own, think about why you would rather manage your own gig rather than be managed. If the answer is “because I love what I do and I have more to offer than anyone I know” then go for it.
Opening your own business is a lot of hard work. You put your own blood, sweat, and tears into your own business so you really have to make sure that is truly what you want.
To give you specific examples, here are some things I had to quickly figure out and become the master of: setting up merchant services to accept credit cards; networking multiple computer stations; hiring for plumbing and electrical work, just to name a few. You will screw up. A lot. But don’t beat yourself up.
Everything required to run a business is really hard the first time that you do it. I had to get a clear understanding of the difference between running a salon and running a business so that I could do both effectively. I did not want to be one of the many stylists who start a great salon but failed because of rent and payroll or other business issues.
I also could not just run a business without including my lifelong passion for beauty. I had to build the structure of a business to support my passion for hair and beauty.
Lara: What advice do you have for other women who are interested in starting their own business?
Melodi: Take advice from others who have forged the path before you. Whether you want input on the physical location of a business, financing, marketing, or PR, be sure to talk to the experts. I found that people generally like to help and share their experiences with those starting out.
Lara: How do you create a positive work environment and employee loyalty, especially in a high-turnover industry?
Melodi: We are a learning organization. That means we encourage our staff to come to us with problems that we can solve together. We also work as a team to help one another throughout the day. Everyone is partnered with a mentor when they start so no one ever feels alone in their challenges. I think this helps everyone, even the guests, feel well-cared for and supported. With 13 employees, there can be a lot of personalities to juggle but that diversity also allows for a super creative environment.
Hiring the right person is key. If they are eager to learn and grow, if they look to solve problems rather than just complain about them, and if they have that elusive X-factor of an infectiously happy energy, then we can develop their skills. When we started, we thought that the opposite also applied. We thought that if they were skilled, that our salon environment could change their attitude. We were wrong. As the saying goes, “You can train a duck to climb a tree, but why not hire a squirrel?”
We grow our team of talented artists by encouraging them to attend not only our in-salon classes but to reach for other things they would like to do … whether it be culinary arts, becoming a sessions artist, or growing a family.
As a stylist grows his or her clientele base, and the guests show they are satisfied by returning on a continued basis, the stylists are eligible for raises, bonuses, and promotions. Even the Senior Stylists are given growth opportunities through mentoring the New Talent team as well as educating and expanding into new service areas like nails, waxing, and facials.
Lara: Regarding customer loyalty, how do you keep them coming back into your salon?
Melodi: We approach our work with each guest as a longterm relationship. From the first visit we look to solve problems, create an authentic style, and look toward the future to meet longterm goals the guest might have. Our hope is that when or if there is a bump in the road, the guest sees us as a partner they can work with and rely on for the desired results.
Lara: How do you use marketing and/or social media to promote your business, and do you find it effective?
Melodi: We use our Rock Paper Scissor Facebook page to keep our customers up-to-date on the latest trends and activities. We try to use social media to connect, really, not to promote. However, we have been fortunate that the primary buzz driver for us has been through word-of-mouth. We always strive to create happy and beautiful guests that I think that makes their friends want in on the fun!
We also spend a great deal of time and money giving back to the community to the organizations that our guests tell us they want to support. We spend our entire advertising budget on community outreach. We donate our time and money to over 50 charities per year. We just held our own 13th Annual Cut-a-Thon where we always donate 100 percent of the proceeds to charity.
Lara: What, in your background and/or personality, do you think has helped you the most in running a successful business?
Melodi: My background has been in the beauty industry for over 25 years, and I still love it today. I had outstanding teachers, mentors, and coworkers, both in the US and Europe, who inspired me to be the best I can be. I strive to continue to pay it forward by inspiring the team I work with. Every day is then creative, focused, and enjoyable. Fashion and beauty trends are always changing so I am always inspired and never bored!
Lara: You are also a wife and mother of two teens. Do you have any advice for juggling family and career?
Melodi: Juggling family and work is always an area where I question myself. My family is my main priority so I try to always have a healthy dinner on the table nightly. I worked on Saturdays for 19 years, and now I am taking a turn being home with the family on the weekends when the kids are out of school. I believe strongly that I am a better mom because I am happy in my career. My kids know that I love what I do. I think it sets a good example for them, especially now that they are teenagers and looking at what they may want to spend their future mastering.
Also, something that all too often women overlook is self-care, which is a must. I try to work out, cook with ingredients from my garden or the farmer’s market, and get the occasional massage. But, without exception, I always get a good night’s sleep. Without it, I can’t even juggle one task.
Do you own your own small business and have some great marketing or social media tactics that work for you? Would you like to share your experiences with other like-minded women in the Stilettos on The Glass Ceiling community? If so, connect with me on LinkedIn and we can explore writing a column showcasing you and your business.
And this is my digital equivalent to the “tip jar”… if you liked this post please Tweet, Pin, or share on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ to help spread the message.