Beauty Launchpad is spotlighting the winners of its Top 20 Salons contest for 2024.
Here, Kristal Grinolds Schaaf introduces us to KHS The Salon in Bismarck, ND, founded in April 2022.
Beauty Launchpad (BLP): What is the backstory of your salon? What motivated you to start your business?
Kristal Grinolds Schaaf (KS): I’ve been an educator and mentor in the salon industry for over 15 years. My biggest role as an educator was to take new graduates and implement them into the salon within a 6-month program I created. Because of this role, I always sought education and coaches for myself to be the best educator and mentor I could be. Because of my dedication to the industry, I caught the eyes of salon owners and investors. Throughout my nearly 20-year career, I’ve been approached by several salon owners to buy their existing salon and by private investors who wanted to fund my brand. I had to set my emotions aside, and run the numbers. As much as I wanted some of the opportunities, the numbers didn’t make it possible. That was until I was approached with an opportunity in Fall 2021. I set my emotions aside, ran the numbers and the numbers made the opportunity a no-brainer. My husband and I were able to open KHS The Salon in April 2022, free of debt. Business ownership is hard, but it makes the burden much easier to carry when you’re not bound to a debtor.
BLP: What was the most challenging thing that happened while opening your salon?
KS: Building and opening the salon went smoothly. We had a great team of people from the mall manager to the contractors to the accountants and lawyer. The most challenging thing when opening was finding our brand and settling deeper into that brand rather than being distracted by what everyone else was doing. Discovering your brand, who you are and how you do things and planting yourself into that foundation while still continuing to evolve is a concept I think many salon owners struggle with.
BLP: What is the overall aesthetic of your salon? What inspired you while designing your space?
KS: Our salon is functional, efficient and set-up for profit. This is where I struggled the most. I thought I should go luxury with a big chandelier and an overstuffed cozy couch because that was what was getting the likes on social media. I thought we could go industrial with an exposed ceiling and a cement floor because it was photographed so cool. My web designer showed me color palettes that were currently trending online, and they were all monotone and muted. It just wasn’t me. I wanted it to be, but it wasn’t. I set out to do some research. There were two things that helped in creating our brand colors. One was my study of color and the seasonal color analysis first made popular in the 1980s. I discovered I was a winter, which explained why I was drawn to the harsh opposites of black and white. With education as my background, I wanted to incorporate the primary colors: red, blue and yellow. Through research I found that the primary colors also mean ultimate truth and are used largely in Cathedrals and Catholic paintings of the Church that are meant to reveal truth. This was fitting since seeking truth and wisdom was a part of our mission statement. Our salon is black and white, our website is black and white and we use pops of primary colors when needing to make a statement. The second resource that helped was Sally Hogsheads’ personality test. I discovered that I was an “innovator.” Innovators go against the grain, against the trends and pave their own path. “Luxury” or “industrial” just couldn’t be a part of my branding given my personality, so no big chandeliers or cement flooring. We opted for functional, efficient and set up to maximize profit.
BLP: What services do you provide your clients? Are any of these services signature and/or exclusive to your salon?
KS: KHS The Salon is a full-service hair salon. A service that is exclusive to us is the KHS Color Analysis. Every color client receives a complimentary color analysis based on the four seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall. Our color choice and color placement are dictated by the client’s season. The client receives a digital guide sent to their phone to help aid them in choosing colors in other areas of their life. KHS The Salon has signature methods in haircutting and hand-tied extensions. All stylists are certified in these methods.
BLP: What products are used/retailed in your salon? Do you have a personal favorite?
KS: KHS The Salon has a mall store-front and 50% of the salon is a retail store. We carry over 15 beauty brands, styling tools, hair accessories and body care. The brand we use in the salon is Seven Haircare. The reason I went with Seven Haircare was because of their customer service and support.
BLP: What makes your salon unique and stand out?
KS: What makes KHS The Salon unique and stand out is the way we communicate. Through our color analysis, cutting system and working with horses on our communication and relationship skills, we’re able to deliver a unique experience that allows the client to feel heard beyond words. Our communication starts before we even meet the client. We are active on social media, and that’s where the relationship starts. Then, our website allows the client to get to know the owners, meet the staff, view online portfolios and get familiar with our services and prices. Our website has an online consultation form and allows clients to book online. Once the client has booked an appointment, they receive a digital welcome packet that outlines what to expect on their first visit. While the initial relationship is digital, the salon experience is completely immersive. From the time the client walks in, we have unique scents that are created for us by a local vendor. The client also receives an array of amenities including food and drinks, signature seasonal drinks, electronic chargers, work desks and foot stools to make them extra cozy. All services include a shampoo with scalp massage and the service is finished with an educational lesson on how to style their hair at home. We follow up to see how the client is enjoying their new look, and we guarantee all our services. KHS The Salon also has a points system that rewards guests on spending, referrals and reviews. We are ever-evolving in the way we can serve our clients best.
BLP: What takeaway do you hope clients have after a visit at your salon?
KS: KHS The Salon strives to add such value from the initial inquiry online to the follow-up at home that the clients feel they got way more than what they paid for.
BLP: What piece of advice would you give to a new salon owner?
KS: Dig deep and create your mission, vision and values. Whenever you go astray, come back to them. Be patient.
BLP: What’s next for your salon? Do you have any goals for the year?
KS: The 2024 goals for KHS The Salon include to double my current stylists’ income (we have doubled one stylist and increased another by 30% in 2023), to expand our salon into a local education hub by hosting in-salon education to our community every two months and to expand our salon team by four stylists.