Make your Curly Clients Happy to Build your Bridal Business
by Karen Mcintosh on Monday, May 3rd, 2010
Photo courtesy of Khamit Kinks
When it comes to curly brides, curl-knowledgeable stylists have the business and styling edge. Today’s stylists with special training in globally recognized curl-specific and natural styling techniques can give a curly or naturally textured bride a lot more options. Ultimately a curly bride should be able to walk down the aisle on her wedding day feeling truly confident about how her hair will look.
Katheryn Sirico and September Sirico, owners of Greg and Tony, a Ouidad-certified salon in Westport, Conn., agree. “So many people come in with straight hair for special occasion styling, and what do they want? They want you to curl it for them, right?” Curly girls “actually have more of the advantage than somebody who has straight, slippery, finer hair,” says Katheryn. Using Ouidad’s technique of the Rake and Shake and the Ouidad products, clients “have perfectly designed curls that lay like puzzle pieces, and are shiny, healthy, bouncy and defined.”
“Fewer and fewer brides come in wanting to alter their natural hair texture,” says Anu Prestonia, owner of Khamit Kinks in Brooklyn, New York, and stylist and innovator of styles for twists, locs, natural weaves and more.
So what strategies can you, curly stylist, take to enhance, sustain and increase your wedding business?
For more bridal tips, check out NaturallyCurly’s article on the Wedding Dress and the ‘Do
“We specialize in making our clients happy,” says Prestonia. “This is the princess day . . . the day every woman starts planning for from age five. People are usually in a great mood. Our inspiration comes from wanting to really follow through with the energy, beauty and happiness.”
“You have to really know what you‘re doing and be passionate about it,” says Sirico, “or . . . it won’t come out right. Not only that it’s a whole attitude, it’s a passion.”
Encourage the Hair’s Natural Curl Personality
That’s part of Greg and Tony Salon’s culture and philosophy, according to the Siricos. “We encourage the bride to look like themselves. You wear your hair curly all the time and it’s part of your personality and how people know you. Then if for your wedding day you go straight, it doesn’t look like you. So looking like you and being yourself on your wedding day, even in the bridal party, is very important because the confidence is what falls behind this.”
“I am so happy that we are now in a day and time where [fewer] clients come in complaining that the bride . . . is requesting that they alter their hair texture to be in their wedding party,” says Prestonia. I‘ve known people to cut off their locs to be in a bridal party. Is it that serious for you to be in this bridal party?”
“Brides approach us that have curly hair….[they] don’t want regular stylists doing their hair for that day because they want to leave it as natural as possible,” says Cala Renee, stylist and owner of Cala Renee Salon, a DevaConcepts salon in Beverly, Mass. “And most salons tend to want to blow out and re-curl and they don’t tend to work with people’s natural curl like we do.”
Get the Bride to Think Ahead
September Sirico says, “You should go at least 3 months before to speak or think about your hair. The process is first you get your gown and then you start calling your salon to start doing trials or discussing how you would like to wear your hair—and then coming in for a trial.”
Be sure the bride-to-be brings her headpiece to the trial appointment and, if possible, a photo of her gown. “Bring me a picture of your gown; bring me your headpiece the day of the trial” says Cala Renee. “I want to see everything because if you don’t see it all together or if we design something and then the day of the wedding you put your dress on and realize . . . then I’m in trouble. So I say to them, “please go home and try your dress on now that your hair is done the way you think you like it. Make sure you like it all put together.”
Trial, and Trial Again
Photo courtesy of Greg and Tony
Trials can mean the difference between a stressful wedding day and a stress-free one because for better or worse, curls can have a mind of their own. Most brides who come in for a trial are willing to let the stylist do different designs on the hair, and that is why the trials are so important. It also allows the stylist time to better understand the bride’s hair and play with it.
For the Siricos, trials are also important for pricing and planning further services. “The trial determines not just what the hair is going to look like—timing, cost, etc., but also what you need to do down the road—if you need to do any highlights, if you need color or if you need to do another a haircut. And it can determine what the timing should be for those things leading up to the big day.”
Cala Renee cautions “Make sure you understand the curls you are working with prior to the day of the wedding. Because if they want to be a little bit frizzy, you’re going to have to know how to calm them down and not just jump to the curling iron. People want their natural look in today’s day and age.”
Trials are different. Because they are a work in progress and the client may be working with a new bridal stylist, trying different styles, getting to know one another can take time. “Someone may not be from this area and they’re coming in cold,” says Katheryn Sirico. “It takes a little more time.
“We never combine the trials with the actual day, never,” says Katheryn Sirico. “Those are two separate days entirely and separate services.
“Our styles [natural weaves, braids, twists, locs and updos] are usually done ahead of time,” Prestonia says, “sometimes as far as 3 days beforehand.”
How many trials is the right number? It depends on the bride. “Normally I would say one,” say the Siricos. “We have done two and for some people we have done several. But I would say the norm is one.”
And since trials are not free “people sometimes try to limit them to one, sometimes two,“ September Sirico says. “ But I have had brides come in over the years, they come and they’ll do a couple of things. They want to actually go and live with this for the night. And then they come in a few weeks later and want something entirely different.”
Whether it’s one or more than one, the right number of trials allows the bride to see various styles and be confident that the final one she chooses is the best one for her.
To have a good bridal business you have to have good bridal stylists.
“We are very fortunate; we have four people here who are fabulous bridal stylists and their work is great,” says Katheryn Sirico. “They have a very good reputation. The people who don’t do it don’t touch it—they can’t.”
Make sure that you have the staff to back the business up: stylists who are creative, patient and caring for brides and who know how to do bridal design. Other salons may not want to turn away the business, but if the stylist is not a bridal expert, customer satisfaction problems can pop up.
Be prompt, professional and flexible
As a wedding client, Prestonia learned first-hand how it felt to be disappointed—on her wedding day. “I had someone arranged to do my hair for my wedding and she didn’t show up. And that was the most horrific thing I’ve ever experienced,” she said. “I had looked for her to do my hair the day before my wedding. She assured me that she would come into town from Philadelphia to do my hair and I waited all day for her. The day of my wedding I had to call somebody who wasn’t even a hair stylist to do something quick for me.“
With an experience like that, Prestonia is meticulous about providing a high quality of service and enhancing the beauty of her bridal clients. “I’ve never seen an ugly bride. Every bride is beautiful and it flows from the inside out. She’s aglow, she is happy, she has her support with her, her friends and her family and you just want to follow through with that in the best way you can.”
Use off-hours to boost income
Many salons step up their service for an existing client or a bridal party. “If it’s a client of our own, we will come in on a Sunday and put the time aside for them. It really depends on what day the wedding is,” says Renee.
Book a trial at the end of the day so if you run over, you don’t have to worry about the next client.
Have a Digital Camera on Hand
Photo courtesy of Cala Renee
“And encourage your clients to take their own photos as well. We actually encourage them to bring cameras, take pictures from all sides, take it home and think about it, and if they need any changes give us a call,” advises Cala Renee. “We can either have you come back again or we can just make changes the day of the wedding—if they’re not major.”
Use the Atmosphere of your Salon to Pamper and Relax the Bridal Party
When the bride comes in with a wedding party, that should be the salon’s priority for the entire time booked that day. “My favorites are the ones where the bridal party comes and it’s a really upbeat, festive occasion, says September Sirico. “Sometimes we set up a table with things for them to nibble on and mimosas. Sometimes a photographer follows them because they want it recorded right from leaving the house to coming here.”
At Cala Renee Salon, “if you have a full wedding party come in, we have everybody just dedicated to them,” says Renee. Sometimes if it’s just morning, we’ll pick up some munchies and try to make it a really relaxed atmosphere for them. We have coffee and tea made… And we try to make sure that the wedding party is the only client here so you’re not having pieces of hair flying around. The whole atmosphere is a little bit different. Tthey come in and they’re ready to relax and let you do your thing. They’re trying to zone out, actually. Most brides are.”
Whether at the salon or at the wedding location, the best bridal bookings are when the bride and her party are calm and relaxed. One of Prestonia’s favorite bookings was on location at a hotel in Brooklyn. “Everybody was just so friendly and calm and respectful. That was the day of [the wedding]. We did her hair before but we were onsite to style and do touchups and help with the placing of the headpiece.” She has also provided sparkling wine and chocolates for bridal parties at Khamit Kinks.
Take Advantage of Continuing Education
Stay abreast of opportunities to enhance your knowledge. Hair products manufacturers and top hair salons often offer hands on work classes and showcase the latest techniques during certain times of the year or at hair shows like IBS. Khamit Kinks Salon, for example, offers Monday seminars and classes in hairstyling techniques like textured weaves, locs and two-strand twists. And throughout the year, Greg and Tony Salon offers Ouidad workshops.
Bridezilla – A Myth?
There are surprisingly few, the stylists interviewed for this article agreed. “If anything, I would say from my experience we’ve never had a Bridezilla,” Katheryn Sirico says. “All of our brides have been really great, whether they have been our regular clients or someone who has just come to us for the day.”
On the flip side, bridal stylists should be prepared to diffuse tension and occasionally be a diplomat and peacemaker. Difficulties may not come from the bride. But sometimes they come from members of the bridal party, a mother or mother-in-law who forgets that is not her day, it’s her daughter’s or daughter-in-law’s.
Prestonia advises, “Be open and flexible because brides can be fickle or bridal parties and the people connected to the wedding can switch up on you.” Her challenging situation was when the bride (a regular client) brought her sister in after several trials. “And her sister just changed up the whole vibe of the relationship that we had been having with her. She was very demanding and . . . that was a bit stressful. Well, we just decided—you know when it’s a wedding and it’s a bride, the last thing we want to do is add stress. So we just dealt with it. But it changed the molecules in the room.”
Renee hasn’t had a Bridezilla either. However, a long-time client and bridal client was once a Promzilla. “I actually started doing her hair when she was 8 years old,” Cala Renee said. “And the day she got married she had her whole bridal party here [at the salon], and I knew her mom. And it just made everything just very, very special. I actually was invited to the wedding.
“But, the day of her senior prom, the newspapers came and everybody was here, they were writing, and she broke down in tears. She was so upset about it; her hair didn’t come out exactly how she envisioned it. So I was mortified. Right before her wedding I said ‘you are coming in multiple times because we are not having another episode like we did for your prom.’ So I made her come in 3 different times and we took pictures. And thank God, because she did change her mind after the first trial visit.”
More Great Tips from the Bridal Experts:
Katheryn Sirico and September Sirico of Greg And Tony Salon:
1. Have just one person handle/organize the client; that way you know exactly what’s going on. “The bride shouldn’t call the front desk and talk to 8 different people to make the appointments or change the appointment or ask questions,” September Sirico says. In our salon they’re directed to Katheryn. If for some reason she’s not here then they’re directed to me. And no one else handles them at all.”
2. Keep a binder and never throw away your notes. Whether you keep a manual binder or on computer, a binder helps keep everything straight and organized, and lets you have everything at hand. Says Katheryn, “We have a section for each bride or bridal party. That way we can refer to everything we discussed right there. And never throw your notes away from the first time you talk with them. You think you’re going to remember, but you don’t.”
3. If possible, work with another local business in town for referrals. An event planner, florist or photographer can refer the brides to you and in return you can refer clients to them.
4. Follow up a couple of weeks after the wedding. Don’t do it the day of the wedding. Wait until the bride has calmed down and returned from her honeymoon. Following up lets you see any photos. And it lets you know if you have any weak points and what the highlights were.
Anu Prestonia of Khamit Kinks:
1. Collaborate on a photo shoot with other consultants. ”We’re doing a bridal photo shoot next month. It’s for the artists who are involved. I will be managing the selection of the hair styles and my stylists to do the hair. There is a person who is the headpiece designer. There is a gown designer, makeup artists and photographer. So we’re all working together to make this happen.”
2. Make sure to the final style will work on location without the stylist, and fits the bride’s comfort zone. “A bride I once worked with just wanted her hair in a really loose, natural ‘fro for her wedding that was going to be on a beach. But her mother insisted that she had to get something done. So we just did a two-strand twist with her hair wet and told her that she could either wear it that way or she could untwist the strands and have it more like a loose curl or a twistout.” The bride was happy because she had not even considered her hair. Yet she didn’t have to go far out of her comfort zone, and her mother was happy.
Cala Renee of Cala Rene Salon
1. Make the most of referrals, both from your existing client base and from websites and showcase your work on your own website. “Most of our referrals come from NaturallyCurly.com. From there they tend to Google me and look at my web site. And once they look at the web site they definitely realize that okay, she specializes in curly hair. We have a few bridal parties that are up on the web site as well that have had their hair done.
2. Be open minded and listen to the bride. Make sure those brides are coming in more than once and really understanding what they are looking for, advises Cala Renee. “Because if you don’t spend the time with them during trials, then unfortunately the day of [the wedding] could be a disaster.”
Enjoy this video showcasing some looks from Khamit Kinks.