Bellamia Salon, Spa & Boutique

Linda Hall, who grew up in L.A., worked as a hair stylist at Bellamia Salon and Spa, a restored 1910 house at 745 Main St. in Ramona California. The year was 2011 and she had worked there for only a short time, when Leanna Necochea, the owner of the store, told her of her plans to shut down the place.

Linda didn’t have to think long, it was always her dream to own a salon, and she gladly took the business over. It was Necochea’s parents, Gina and Jerry Taylor, who bought the house and restored it to its original state. Beautiful woodwork, doorknobs and windows … cozy, quaint, I don’t have the words to better describe this place, but it’s truly one of those places that a make Ramona unique and living here so different.

Linda and Katelyn Hall

Linda’s daughter Katelyn, who is 23 and a Ramona High graduate, works as the Salon’s receptionist, scheduling appointment for all of the hair-stylist. Each one has her own calendar-booklet, and scheduling is a totally manual process. The calendar-booklet being the single source of truth, stylist sometimes call in the morning, asking about the time of their first appointment.

Since taking over, Linda grew her staff from 6 to now 12, which she calls “her girls”. Still each hairstylist works for herself, but paying Linda $165 rent per week. Linda is very organized and keeps separate accounts for management and products. Profit from all product sales go to Linda; she organizes competitions, where the best product seller gets rewarded substantially.

Linda still has her own clients, makes all the general purchases, works a couple of hours every week as the receptionist and likes the paper part of the business.

She keeps all receipts in her wallet and then goes through them once a month, before giving it to her accountant. At the very beginning, she used to do it herself, but wasn’t managing well, didn’t know how to categorize and her bookkeeper had to do it all over by the end of the year.

I love my accountant, my tax lady, and I love my bank.

The bookkeeper tells Linda monthly how her client business is doing and she has quarterly figures on boutique and product sales. Overall, Linda comes across as being very comfortable, confident, and satisfied, with how she handles her financial situation. She feels like having just the right amount of information and insight available to her at the right time. In fact, she is so comfortable that she would love to expand and open new locations.

There is no need really for me to do print advisement. There is lots of word of mouth business and everyone has a smartphone now. Google directs to the business and we are at the very top on Yelp.

Linda could not really articulate a pain or issue, besides customers who had scheduled for a longer/expensive session and then would cancel just shortly before the appointment.

Cora Laws

Cora Laws has worked at Bellamia as a hairstylist for 6 years now. Besides her calendar book for appointments, Cora also keeps a client-book, to track each client and their formula, what she’s charged them, general notes, etc.

The only insight about how she is doing financially, comes through the Square App, which is tracking the money that comes in from clients who pay with a credit card. She doesn’t keep track of cash or checks, but feels that her income doesn’t fluctuate all that much.

Cora’s step dad helps her with her taxes, which she pays quarterly.

I started with $200 per Quarter, then $400, now $800. Must mean I’m getting busier and doing better.

Cora goes through her wallet occasionally, like every two months, and keeps all the receipts in a ziplock bag, which she then hands over to her step dad once a year. Just before she gives him the receipts, she’ll go through them and calculate totals for things like product, mileage and phone. It’s kind of a painful process, and she wishes she would just do it quarterly to make it easier, but that doesn’t happen.

I’d love to write off these shoes, I just bought for work- but may not be able to because there isn’t a strict dress code.

She also tracks her miles down to Escondido, where she has to drive to twice every month to purchase new product (color etc., things Linda does not provide)

Yvette Romero

Yvette Romero has worked as a makeup artist and hairstylist for 16 years now and has been with Bella Mia for 10 of those years. She said she “used to live at the salon,” before having her baby. She would regularly work 13 hour days and really enjoyed the money she was making. When asked about the flexibility of being self employed she responded “you get out what you put into it,” explaining her long hours and the financial freedom she now enjoys. When asked about what makes a good place to work, she said that ambiance is important to her, that and the people she works with- Bellamia feels like her second home and she loves working there, but she’d never want to own her own salon. She doesn’t want that kind of responsibility.

Yvette has cut back on her working hours and now works an opposite schedule of her husband’s so they don’t have to pay childcare. She doesn’t accept credit cards and rarely tracks or claims the cash she gets from clients. Her biggest fear is being audited. Her sister is her accountant.

Surprises / Insights / Takeaways

Despite identifying as self-employed, both of the stylists continue to think of Linda as their boss. Each hair-stylist’s schedule is totally within their control (as far as what days and how long to work), but they completely relinquish control of the details to the salon receptionist – like what appointments to book and when, or to limit low revenue appointments. The scheduling process is currently optimized for filling every time-slot instead of maximizing revenue.

Emotion in everything

  • Clients are emotional about their hair and their hairdresser
  • Hairdressers see themselves as therapists
  • They like getting lost in the moment and connecting with the client on a personal level, but always turning the conversation, making it about the client.

Self-employment is all about Autonomy and Flexibility

  • In reality however, time is money. If the hairdressers want to make more money, they needed to put in more time.
  • Yvette talked about not being driven by the flexibility of the work – she notes that she just worked as much as possible to establish herself and make as much money as she could (7-7 until she had kids) “I lived at the salon because it’s my livelihood”
  • Linda talked about pushing “her girls”, to open their schedules more and be more available if they wanted to make it and establish themselves
  • Although they have autonomy as a self employed contractor- the girls look at Linda as their boss since she owns the salon and they pay their rent to her.

FinTech / Technology in General

  • Very little automation across the industry – paper schedules and old school methods dominate. Square seems to be the only company that has infiltrated this group of self-employed. There is obvious resistance to moving to another (calendaring-) system – cost is a certainly a factor here too.
  • All three outsourced the finances to someone else
  • Linda moved onto paying someone, once she was more established and things got complex.
  • Cora and Yvette both have someone in their family doing it for them.
  • None of them could tell, how they were doing financially at the moment – no real-time view. But then again, no one was really bothered by this, or saw the need for it.