Smart Partners

Ari + Blair Salon

A Self-Taught Business-Owner’s Promise to Customers

Vanessa Kenge’s first job in a hair salon was sweeping the floors. Later, she moved on to folding towels, then cutting hair, and eventually mentoring others. After 12 years at that same salon Vanessa took the leap into owning her own business, Ari + Blair Salon, without knowing much about business at all.

“I just kind of did it. It was a lot of learning. Lots of research,” says Vanessa. “I thought being a business owner would be a great opportunity to mentor a bunch of hair stylists at once and build my brand.”

But she wanted to build something that she didn’t see reflected in the salons she and her friends were used to. “I feel like a lot of high end salons can give off an intimidating or pretentious vibe,” says Vanessa. “I wanted to create something very approachable and friendly.”

If the booking’s not easy, if communication with your stylist isn’t easy, you could lose your client for sure.

Vanessa Kenge, Owner of Ari + Blair Salon

A seamless experience from the first cut to the last

Part of the nod to approachability is making life easier—something Vanessa, a busy single mother of two, knows all too well. Shaw Businesses SmartWiFi helps the salon maintain a 24/7 quick and easy online booking system that allows customers to cross-check their schedules. But it’s not just the business end that requires reliable internet. As a service with a highly visual focus—and one with a lot of downtime for customers—fast and consistent WiFi is an absolute must.

“You’re sitting there sometimes for three or four hours—people definitely need to preoccupy their time,” says Vanessa. “And a lot of the conversation is happening through their phones. They’re looking on Instagram saying, ‘I love this hair that you did.’” Having reliable WiFi works as a built-in PR tool, as well. “Marketing budget at this point in time is low, so Instagram is huge for us,” says Vanessa.

When their doors first opened, that need for high-performing WiFi across the board was a battle Vanessa wasn’t expecting. “One of the challenges we had at the very beginning was we were finding we had so many people on WiFi—all our customers, all the staff. We had to get Shaw Business back here and separate the two: one for front-end desk work,” to confirm appointments and speed up payments, “and WiFi for customers.”

Staying connected to your business from anywhere

On top of Shaw Business’ SmartWiFi, the salon also uses Shaw Business’ SmartSurveillance to keep an eye on their products when Vanessa can’t be there. “It’s peace of mind. I can watch it from my laptop or my cell phone. I could do that from home. I could do that from vacation on the beach.” That kind of ease can make all the difference for a small business owner and their customer base. “If the booking’s not easy, if communication with your stylist isn’t easy, you could lose your client for sure.”

And in such a customer-focused industry such as hair styling, creating those strong client relationships is always at the forefront of the business decisions Vanessa makes. “It takes a little bit of the fear away,” she says. “Hair is important. You need to have it be something that you’re loving.”

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