Beauty salons. Even really small towns probably have one. But when was the last time an economic developer considered them as important business development tools?
I was speaking to the Northwest Oklahoma Workforce Board about the 8 Innovative Rural Business Models. When I got to the Business Inside a Business model, my own local economic developer Alex Mantz pointed out that hair salons are a great example. She said salons always have other little businesses growing inside them because they have great foot traffic.
Walk into any small town salon, and you’re likely to find that the women who work there are actually independent contractors who rent their booths. Maybe there’s also a massage therapist seeing clients in a side room. They’re all business owners. Look around at the displays. Besides the hair care products offered by the salon owner, you may see scarves and candles and all manner of retail items. These are pop-up temporary businesses, often set up by other potential entrepreneurs testing out the market. Except they don’t call themselves that. They think they’re “just” selling something as a side business.
The more business ideas that get tried, then the more entrepreneurs will have more opportunities to learn. If they can try out an idea with a pop-up display in a salon, they can learn more about what will work with local customers and gain market intelligence. The woman selling her handmade jewelry this way is also a potential booth vendor at your next fair or festival, a possible future store owner and at the very least qualifies as a local entrepreneur who is earning extra income for her family.
Treat salons like important business development assets in your town. Visit them. Ask some questions about all the different businesses represented in there. Show them respect as mini business incubators. Make sure they know about business support and coaching opportunities. Invite them to training events. Ask if they’ll let you know about mini-businesses that they learn about and to refer those folks to you.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.