The Benefits of Picking a Niche
by Lilly Rockwell on Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Stylists have found picking a niche works well for their business.
Hair stylist Tiffany Anderson-Taylor’s weekends at her St. Petersburg, Fla. salon are booked a month in advance. She has clients fly in from far-flung states such as Arizona just to get their curly hair cut.
Not bad for a stylist who only got her hair-cutting license two years ago.
Anderson-Taylor credits her popularity to her decision to focus exclusively on cutting curly hair.
“There are so few of us that anyone who has a passion and is serious about doing a good job can do really well,” Anderson-Taylor said.
Picking a niche, whether it is cutting curly hair or a focus on hair coloring, helps to build a loyal clientele willing to pay top dollar for an expert.
“Whether you’re a curly hair specialist or not, you have to get your name out there and differentiate yourself,” Anderson-Taylor said.
Hair stylists suggest if curly hair isn’t your thing, try your hand at coloring or perfecting the art of an intricate up-do. Stylists who have chosen a niche say that it has helped grow their business and helped them better weather down financial times.
Specializing in curly haircuts and styles is especially popular because there is a growing demand for this expertise as straightening becomes less popular.
“Curly girls have always found me wherever I work,” said Teresa Callen, owner of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based Image Arts Salon. “It’s so rare for people to be good at it. Up until five years ago, it was terrible to be someone who specialized in curly and wavy hair. Right now curls are becoming the height of style.”
In the 1990s straight hair was popular and “it was hard to get clients,” Callen said. But in 2000, curly hair really began to catch on, she added. The demand has only increased since then, and Callen said her appointments fill up months in advance.
“Loyal doesn’t begin to describe a curly-haired girl when you do her right,” said hair stylist Laura Vendetti, who runs Fairhope, Ala.-based Laura Hair Co. “They are by far the most loyal clients I have.”
Although Vendetti also cuts straight hair, she said her curly-haired clients are more likely to be repeat customers. Because many beauty schools don’t offer training on curly hair, a stylist who can learn to cut curly hair well is in high demand.
A growing number of stylists are seeking out special training in curly hair cutting. Curly hair expert Lorraine Massey, the author of “Curly Girl,” and the creator of the Deva line of hair care products, offers training at her salon in New York.
Others teach themselves. Curly-haired Vendetti remembers the hairdresser who “butchered” her hair as a child, and it inspired her to perfect the curly hair cut. Anderson-Taylor practiced on friends and models and had them post reviews of her skills on Web sites like NaturallyCurly.com in order to gain more clients.
“Having a niche is important,” said hair stylist Cristin Armstrong, who works at the New York City-based Takamichi Salon. She specializes in cutting curly hair, but works at a salon that works with all hair types. “The curly hair thing has been a really good niche for me because it has helped me build my clientele.”
When picking a niche, find something you feel comfortable doing, Armstrong said. Often curly hair stylists have curly or wavy hair themselves. Others simply gravitate toward the challenge of a curly hair cut or the accuracy that straight hair demands.
“I feel like I have an understanding of it,” Armstrong said. “I understand texture. I like creating simple styles they can create at home.”
She adds that specializing in curly hair helps her stand out in New York City’s crowded, competitive salon landscape.
Some hair stylists have managed not only to make curly hair their specialty, but also have built entire salons that focus on curly hair. Jonathan Torch founded the Toronto-based Curly Hair Institute in 2005, a salon that only cuts and colors curly hair. He also has developed an extensive line of curly-hair products. He said curly hair has always been his passion, and finds the different sizes, shapes, and textures of curly hair fascinating.
“You can’t just wake up one day and open a curly hair salon,” Torch said. “You really have to love it.”
For Torch, developing an expertise in curly hair isn’t about making money, though his salon is doing very well. He likens it to therapy, helping people who have never had a “solution” to taming their curly manes.
“The minute I discovered it, I gravitated toward it because it’s such a rewarding feeling,” says Torch.