A few weeks ago, Inc.com listed beauty salons as one of the best start-up businesses for 2011.
According to AnythingResearch.com, the cosmetology and barber schools (that educate salon-entrepreneur-hopefuls) grew at 29 percent last year, and nail salons grew at 9 percent. Inc.com’s reporting shows an industry with a low barrier to entry for salons and barber shops. Pair that with a recent resurgence in barbershop nostalgia—and with a return to beauty-service spending by consumers—and it’s a perfect storm for rapid growth in the salon and beauty industry. Bring on the beauty start-ups.
Well. Let’s take a look at that, shall we?
I suppose, by some measures, the $10,000 and 4 to 12 months it costs to get through beauty school add up to a “low barrier to entry.” For sure, it’s not medical school. But neither is the average post-graduation income ($9 to $15 per hour) anywhere close to what doctors make.
The statistics that Inc.com forgot to factor in to their analysis are ones that I learned my second month in at Beauty U from Simon Scott: Beauty salons have the second highest failure rate of any business. And 80 percent of students who graduate beauty school leave the industry after five years.
So let’s look again at the numbers that have Inc.com in a lather about beauty start-up potential. Beauty schools grew at a rate of almost 30 percent last year. Nail salons — as in, the places of business where beauty school graduates can actually earn a living — grew at less than 10 percent.
Trade schools always thrive during a recession (or a post-recession, if that’s what we’re in now) because if you’re out of a job, quickly retraining to qualify to do something else makes some kind of sense. Unless that “something else” is a job paying not much better than minimum wage for a business that’s likely to fail.
On my post-Beauty U road trip last summer, I saw beauty salons and barber shops on practically every corner of the Midwest. I did not see a lot of customers in them. I did see a lot of “For Rent” and “For Sale” signs.
Meanwhile, my Beauty U friends are having varying degrees of success in the business. A few of my classmates have landed part-time spa jobs. Most are still working the non-beauty-industry jobs they had when they arrived at Beauty U. One of my former teachers is now working at Sephora, while another is doing office temp work. That’s not exactly the rocket ship success that beauty school admission officers like to promise, or the “recession-proof career” that the beauty industry trade groups brag about.
It might not cost much to start up a beauty business. But to keep it going? That’s another question entirely.