Category Archives: Beauty Schooled

Bring On the Beauty Start-Ups?

Beauty Salon For Rent Main Street USA Virginia Sole-Smith

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.

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Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Beauty U, Career Opportunities

Beauty Schooled is on Marie Claire!

"The Price of Beauty," by Virginia Sole-Smith Marie Claire

Because I know you never get tired of reading about me performing bikini waxes. But this piece, which just got published on MarieClaire.com, is actually about the art of the upsell.

Which I’ve touched on before — like over here — but never in quite this much useful detail. It even includes a handy sidebar on how to get the spa service you really want. And people, it is big news for a women’s magazine to do a story like this, even online. So click, check it out, and pretty please, leave some comments, tweet it and Facebook Like It, if you do?

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Filed under Beauty Schooled, Beauty U, In Class, Press, Tip Jar

Three Things You Need to Know to Be a Good Salon Client

Beauty Schooled The Beheld Virginia Sole-Smith Be a Good Salon Client

And you thought yesterday was awesome, what with me talking all about beauty and feminism and the sisterhood of the Brazilian. (Are we making that a thing yet? C’mon!) Today I’m over on The Beheld again, talking about the three things you need to know to be a good salon client.

Hint: One of them is so important, it gets it’s own page on Beauty Schooled, up where it says Tipping Point in the header.

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Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Career Opportunities, Cross Posts, Spa Stories, Tanning

Beauty Schooled on The Beheld!

Virginia Sole-Smith Q&A on The Beheld

My new blog friend Autumn Whitefield-Madrano writes an awesome and thoughtful blog called The Beheld, which you should already know about because I link to it allll the time in the Price Check and on Twitter.

So there was much hopping about with excitement when Autumn asked to interview me for The Beheld about the Beauty U project and other beauty-related matters. Check it out here.

Also we coined the phrase “Sisterhood of the Brazilian,” which is going to be huge. I’m pretty sure.

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Filed under Back to Beauty U, Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Career Opportunities, Tip Jar

[Back to Beauty U] The Written Licensing Exam

The written part of our licensing exam is held at one of those vocational high schools where they teach Driver’s Ed and certify real estate agents on the weekend. There is a lot of dingy gray carpet and all the fluorescent lights seem to have one bulb out.

Meg and I plan to meet outside, fifteen minutes early, so we can sit together. We’re both nervous and we both show up at least twenty minutes early. We are not the first to arrive.

When we reach the check-in table the first thing the old lady exam proctor says to me is, “Your purse is filthy.”

I’ve put it down on her table to search for my checkbook and am completely disconcerted. Is purse hygiene part of the test? Am I failing already? Continue reading

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Filed under Back to Beauty U, Beauty Schooled, Beauty U, Career Opportunities, In Class

Beauty Schooled in Nylon! [April 2011 Issue]

Attention everybody! It’s time to race right out and pick up the latest issue of Nylon Magazine because my essay, “Lesson Plan,” appears on page 134.

It features a certain Client Nine who y’all know and love. Plus, can we talk about the amazingness of that illustration (by the uber-talented Malin Bergstrom) based on this infamous picture?

Beauty Schooled in April 2011 issue of Nylon

If the piece goes online, I’ll update this post with the link. In the meantime, you can also like Nylon on Facebook, because why not?

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Filed under Beauty Schooled, Press

Beauty Schooled is Over on No More Dirty Looks Today.

It’s like when the sitcom actors do cross-over appearances on each others’ shows during Sweeps! First they guest posted here. And now I’m over there. And it’s a really kick-ass post, so make sure you read it. Here is a taste, to get you excited:

I had all of these questions. Why are salon workers getting sick? What could happen to me from using all of this crap? When am I ever going to lose this last ten pounds? Why do I even think I need to lose ten pounds? What on earth is up with Brazilian waxing? And why would so many of us rather not make eye contact with the woman we pay to do that for us?

I decided to go to beauty school, because I thought by crossing that invisible wall between me (the beauty consumer) and them (the beauty workers), I might find some answers to these questions. I did and I didn’t. (Check out my new Beauty U page to get the full story from start to finish.)

But one big thing I realized, after 600 hours in beauty school and hundreds of blog posts and conversations with women like Alex and Siobhan, is that all of these questions are a lot more connected than I first thought.

But HOW are they connected, you ask? (Seriously, because I think this is maybe the first time I’ve ever explained it even after writing this blog for over a year.) Well, click away, grasshoppers, and find out!

See you back here tomorrow. xo

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Filed under Beauty Schooled, Guest Post