Katy McLaughlin had a thing for hair for as long as she can remember – as a little girl, you could always find her playing beauty shop with her sisters. When she graduated high school though, she chose college over cosmetology school. After taking on a full time job as a marketing manager, she was still feeling the pull of the beauty industry.
Eventually, she quit her 9 to 5 to pursue her true passion and hasn’t looked back since! After identifying a demand for mobile hair stations, Hair & There Mobile Salon was born. Read on to find out more behind Katy’s unconventional beauty business!
You’ve got an awesomely unique business! Tell us about the founding story…how did the idea come about?
I have always had a fascination with hair and played with it most of my life. My mother made it very clear to my siblings and me that after high school, if we could get into college, that’s where we were going.
So cosmetology school was out of the question. I went to college, started my family and was working as a marketing manager for a private preschool franchise, but realized that I still wanted to do hair and own a salon. At 27, I quit my job and enrolled in cosmetology school full time. I graduated a year later and started looking for a job.
By this time, my children were 2 and 7 and the thought of working every weekend and evening, being away from my family, shampooing hair all day, and climbing my way up from the bottom didn’t sound very appealing to me. So I started looking for other options. I noticed that a lot of my clients wanted me to come to their house to do their hair but licensing strictly prohibits that for safety and sanitation reasons.
I started doing tons of research online and found that Texas offers a mobile salon license. Everything started moving really quickly from there. I found the perfect trailer, the perfect builder, and my imagination went wild with everything I wanted and all of the different clientele that I could now service. I wrote a 40 page business plan and after 4 months of the trailer being renovated, Hair and There Mobile Salon was born!
Where do you hope to see the company in a year from now? How about five years from now?
In a year from now I would like to be working on my second trailer, but I want that one to be a mobile nail salon. I’ve got my eye on a 16′ Bambi Airstream that would be perfect! In 5 years I hope to have a full fleet of mobile salons and be working toward franchising.
What was one of the biggest challenges of starting your own business? How about the most rewarding part?
The biggest challenge was figuring out all of the details behind making this business model work. Since mobile salons are a fairly new concept, there wasn’t much to go by. I had to figure out a lot of things on my own through trial and error which was tough, but it gave me an opportunity to make this business into exactly what I wanted it to be.
The most rewarding part was being able to be in control of my future and my schedule. It was liberating and exciting.
How important do you think the look and feel of your business is for its success?
I think the look and feel of the salon was a HUGE factor. I wanted my clients to feel like they were getting a new and relaxing experience and I wanted to embrace the retro nostalgia of the vintage airstream at the same time.
The business card was the first step and I had no idea where to start until I came across 99designs. The designers seemed to love the business idea and I got several beautiful designs, but Arthean stood out from the beginning. We developed a wonderful relationship and she created a business card and logo design that blew the rest away. From there we went on to work on a 1-to-1 project where she designed my website. I think her designs really set the stage for the type of business I was trying to convey. She did an amazing job.
Hair & There logo, business card & website: Arthean
Did you learn anything about branding or your vision for the company while running your contest?
I learned a lot about branding through the contest process. I had absolutely no experience in graphic design and had no idea what I wanted the end result to look like. I just knew that my logo needed to let people know what my business was, have the same amount of quirkiness that the business has, and be beautiful. I never thought about how the colors might evoke different emotions or how difficult it is to keep it simple while including all of the different elements I wanted to include. I was blown away by these designers and their ability to listen and take what I had in my head and create an image to represent it all.
What advice do you have for others starting their business?
My advice to others starting their own business would be to get ready to make a lot of decisions. There are SO many questions that come up along the way and you have to be ready to answer them or figure out a way to answer them. When you own your own business there is no one else to pass difficult situations off to. You are the boss and you call the shots. That was a big realization for me. The business becomes a part of your family. You create it, nurture it, mold it, watch it grow, and love it. It takes up time and money but it also contributes. Just like adding any additional member to a family, you have to be ready for the responsibility. If you’re good to it, it will be good to you.