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We typically hear that the hairdressing industry is made up of an approximately 80% female workforce, and I’m going to guess and say that of those 80% probably 25% of them are also balancing running a business, being a behind the chair stylist, a wife and a mother. Not to mention being in charge of marketing, finance, recruitment, inventory control, staff training, and managing a team of people and arguably that’s just the beginning. Today’s guest is someone who fits that description. Her name is Martha Lynn Kale, and she’s the owner of award-winning salon Mirror Mirror based in Austin, Texas. In today’s podcast, we’re going to discuss the importance of finding balance in your life, what it takes to succeed as a woman in business today, especially while balancing a young family at the same time, the importance of blogging and social media. What exactly is a safer salon and what do staff want today and loads more so get pen and paper and a cup of coffee. It’s note-taking time. So without further ado, welcome to the show Martha Lynn.

Hey, how’s it going? Thanks for having me.

It’s an absolute pleasure to have you here. Now Martha Lynn one of the reasons I really wanted you on the podcast today is that you are so totally relatable to many of my audience, no matter which countries they live in, you know you are doing all this stuff, you’re spinning lots of plates and you’re growing a successful business at the same time. And I know that that isn’t easy and it doesn’t just happen by chance. So why don’t we start by you telling us a little bit of your story, how you got to where you are today and then we can dig into some of the juicy bits.

Okay. That sounds good. Uh, well, you know, I don’t know how, how far back you want me to go, but, um, I started out with a career in advertising and you know, I did that for a few years and really just decided that I did not want to go the corporate route. And so I started thinking about what I really loved doing and, um, I had a family member that really encouraged me to think about owning my own business and, you know, he was like, you know, it’s the whole question of what would you do if, if money was no object, what did you enjoy doing as a child? All of that. And I’ve always loved hair and makeup and so I quit my very nice paying job and moved back in with my mom and sold my car and enrolled in cosmetology at the age of 27.So I went into cosmetology school really knowing that I wanted to own my own business and have a salon. I don’t think, I don’t know that a lot of hairstylists set out that way. They end up in that role. And so that’s what I did. And then I worked at a small salon and a really big salon and then I booth rented and I was only about three or four years outside of cosmetology school when I opened mirror mirror. And that was about eight years ago. So here we are today.

Okay. So you’re working in a role in advertising and marketing. You decide you want to open up your own business, but why hairdressing? You know, there’s lots of other small businesses that you could have gone in the direction of. What, what was it that drew you to that?

Well, I mean, I love the act of doing hair and makeup, you know, I was always the girl in college doing my friends hair and you know, braiding people’s hair during recess growing up. And so I did always love it. But growing up, I grew up in Alabama and there weren’t a lot of big salons and I really had never considered it as a career opportunity and in Austin, that’s very different there are big salons here and my hairstylist at the time was very encouraging, you know, you can totally do this, you’ll love it. Um, and it combined, you know, having a little bit of a boutique and the act of doing hair and and so that’s sort of where I set out to do that. Also. I, you know, I, I was in advertising and you know, I didn’t feel like I wanted to open my own ad agency or start a magazine or, you know, be in media. And so I just started completely over.

Okay. So in the time after you did beauty school, cosmetology school, whatever and then you got, you didn’t start until, you’re 27 when did you start a salon? Like did you, did you assist somewhere for a while first of all, or did you go straight into opening up your own business?

Yeah. So when I was in cosmetology school, I really focused on starting to build a clientele right away in school. Um, you know, I’ll pick, a lot of people are in cosmetology school and they kind of punch the clock and they’re waiting to get out of school to start there, their career. But I really started right away using blowouts. So I invited everyone I knew into beauty school to get blowouts because I felt like I could, earn their trust with a blowout. And you know, if you mess up a blowout, you just wet the hair, you know, it’s not as big of a deal as cutting or coloring. And then once you have their trust on the blowout, then they’re willing to, let you give them a trim and then maybe they’re willing to let you do a highlight. So by the time I got out of beauty school, I had you know, a decent clientele.

I was doing a lot of, you know, hair on the side, and that’s how I, you know, made a little side money. And so, I really wanted to go straight onto the floor because, you know, I had this, I didn’t want to let that go. And so I went into a really small salon that was a commission-based salon and I just hustled. I started building a clientele. I was nominated as best hairstylist in Austin 10 months out of cosmetology school. And I sort of panicked at that time because I realized that I knew how to market myself and build a clientele and build a name for myself. But I started worrying that I did not have the skill to back it up. You know, if I bought all these people in, if I wasn’t really great at doing hair, they wouldn’t stick around. And so at that point I started seeking out where could I go in town that I would be surrounded by the best hairstylist to really fine tune my skills. And so I left there and I went to a larger salon here in Austin, to really focus on, you know, being a better hairstylist and not just the marketing because the marketing is only so good if you can’t back it up with skill. So that was, that was the next step.

Okay. So how long were you there and then you went off and opened your own salon? Yeah.

Yeah. So I was at the first place for about a year at the second bigger place for about a year. And then, I was actually fired from that big salon and it was, yeah, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. it’s, you know, that’s probably its own podcast, but I’ll always tell people I’m like, these things happen exactly the way they’re supposed to, to happen. And, so, you know, I had a falling out with the owner, which, you know, having now owned my own salon for eight years, I probably, I probably owe him a, you know, an apology letter or something. Cause you know, you have the greater context once you’ve been in their shoes. But anyway I went out and booth rented from that point and while I was booth renting, I was engaged and we were planning our wedding and my wedding planner, which is one of the biggest wedding planners in town had this great little space that was in a house and they were in the bottom half of this older house and the other half was a little boutique.And my husband and I said, Oh, this would be the, the best salon. And she said, well, I think they’re not going to renew their lease. And so we started down that path. So I really opened the salon because I found the space and I felt like I just needed to go for it. because I had been in these other salons and I had ended up doing so much of the marketing and the PR and helping the owners do that side of the business, that I felt like I was ready to just take the leap. And so we opened mirror mirror a week after my wedding after we got back from our honeymoon. And it was okay.

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Well, sometimes opportunities present themselves. And that’s what I say to people. You know, you used another word there at the beginning, you said hustle and I just think hustle is so important you got to hustle if You want to get anywhere in life, you gotta hustle. A lot of people sit there and wait for life to come to them. Well it doesn’t come to them and an opportunity, sometimes they’re in front of you and it’s not always the right time and you’ve got a leap and hope like hell, there’s a net there to catch you and leap and the net will appear I always say.Good one.

Yeah. So tell me your background in marketing advertising, branding. How did that help you in building mirror mirror?

Well the ad agency that I worked at they are really focused on something called purpose based branding.They’ve actually written books about it. And, um, and I really, you know, they worked with companies like Southwest airlines and you know, air force and these companies that really, are not just companies, they have purpose based behind the companies. And so I always knew that a salon would just be a salon unless you had that purpose behind it. And so we opened mirror mirror and it’s named mirror mirror because, um, we want people to love what they see in the mirror and we believe that that’s not about the hair. And you know, our industry is really not about the hair. You know, we do great hair and we love it, but we are selling confidence at mirror mirror and we want people to feel great.

And people ask me all the time, what’s your favorite part? Do you like cut? Do you like color? And I always say I like the, the time at the very end when you see the client’s tail start to wag and they start to kind of get that little shimmy and they smile extra big and they say, Oh, well I should have made plans for a date tonight. and that is really the best part because you know that you impacted their day and they’re going to, you know, go on. And you know, when you look good, you feel good. When you feel good, you do good. And so that’s is just really, that’s how my background in advertising. Yep. Purpose based branding lent itself into, you know, me starting mirror mirror and what still is our tent pole today.

Yeah. Okay. Now I obviously know that you know the background of your business and it didn’t stay that little salon for very long. So talk to us about how the business evolved.

Yeah, I mean it was really hard in the early years and I think that, you know, I had the marketing down, I knew how to build a clientele for myself. I was pretty good at picking good talent, but I knew nothing about managing people. And leadership is really, I think the hardest thing. To learn and to grow into, I think it’s earned. And um, and it was hard in the beginning. You know, I was a new, still fairly new stylist opening the salon I had hired. Um, I had worked with all of them before. I did booth rent in the very beginning because I wanted to be sure that I was going to, you know, make my rent. And I think what I wanted to build was this team of collaborative artists and you know, a booth rent environment really, you, even if you know them and even if you’re similar, you’d really do not have control over how they conduct business.

And so, I was pregnant about six months into opening the salon with my first son Ford. And when I was out on maternity leave, half the stylist left and it wasn’t like a walkout. It wasn’t anything as dramatic as that. One of them was opening a salon down the street and other was going with her and the other was moving half across the country. And since we had such a small team, I mean, that was, that was half. So we were left with a couple of stylists and my assistant. And, I came back to work eight weeks after having Ford and was just like, okay, and we’re rebuilding. And so I decided at that point that we wouldn’t be adding any renters at that point, that we would just start to tier in people into a commission structure. And so my first assistant

Went onto the floor when I was on maternity leave and she was sort of the first person that I was like, well, can I duplicate myself? Can I, I did it for me, can I do it for someone else? And that became my passion, was really to, uh, groom new talent and help them, you know, lap me even in success. And so, we did build, we did fill all the chairs and before we knew it, we were, you know, all on top of each other and starting to think about what do we do, do we expand or do we move? And, um, that was sort of the next step.

And you expanded.

And we did expand. Um, yeah, I mean we just did that, a little over a year ago and we looked for a couple of years for a new location and we were turned down because we’re a salon, a lot of buildings don’t want salons because you’re going to take up all their parking and You know, there’s certain, I think, you know, people will have in their mind what stylists are like or something. I don’t know. Um, but it was hard. We got turned down multiple times on locations that we really loved. And then Courtney, who was my wedding planner next door, asked me to lunch and she said, you know, what are you guys going to do? And I was like, I really don’t know. And she said, well, we’re going to downsize. And so if you want it, we will break our lease and you can have our half. And so that was like, yay, we get to expand and stay in our same address. And then it was panic of how are we going to do this expansion and stay open the whole time. And so that was, we had amazing contractor that pulled that off for us.

You’re not kidding and you’ve done a good job of it. I mean, you know, I’ve sort of been involved in the journey along the way. I’ve seen this business of yours grow and, and take over the next door, etc. you know, it’s impressive and you just continue to grow and you know, you should rightly so, be very proud of that. It’s very relatable. What your journey’s been. Tell me, you know, like you’ve mentioned, you know, how you got married the there’s a baby and I know there’s a second baby that’s come along, expanded the business and yeah. How many staff have you got now?

I think we have about 17 employees. So we our salon is, we have 11 full sized chairs. We have a little assistant finish out spot that’s two chairs. We have a full time manager, some front desk help, a couple of assistants and then Stylists and we’re open six days a week and no one has the same schedule and stylist range from working three days a week to five days a week.

Okay. Well that’s, that’s interesting. And I want to talk more about that later on in the, how you juggle that and what it is that people are looking for today. But, but before that, I want to ask you a little bit about how do you find balance being a, being a mum of two little boys, uh, you know, a wife and running a business with 17 people in it because, you know, it’s, I mean, I know that that’s not easy. I mean, a lot of our audience listen to this, you know, are you basically doing a lot of them don’t manage to do it as successfully as you have. So you know how, you know, how, how do you find balance?

Well, I mean that, that’s the million dollar question. Um, and I think that, you know, I don’t find balance all the time and I think that you could have, you know, everything you want in life but not on the same day. And so, you know, some days you’re knocking it out of the park as a mom and some days you’re winning awards for the salon and some days you’re the wife of the year. but I think that you just have to make sure that, you know, your pendulum doesn’t swing too far one way or the other and you’re constantly saying, okay, it’s been a, it’s been a big work week, so let’s try to refocus and bring it back to family or vice versa. And I have struggled with that, you know, it has been a whirlwind. You know, I got married, we bought a house. Opened the salon six months later, baby, number one, half the team left. It’s just like, it keeps on and on and on. And then baby number two and house number two. And, um, you know, I am notorious for doing lots of things together at all times and, so it’s, you know, you just do the best that you can.

Exactly. Exactly. And you find a way through it. Okay. So, um, one of the things I know you’re very good at is your social media. So I want to dig into that a little bit, particularly Instagram. I know that you’re all over Instagram with your own personal account Martha Lynn Kale and then you’ve also got your mirror mirror page and you put some really good stuff out there. So, uh, you know, talk to us about Instagram and how you use that to grow your business.

Instagram is everything for us. And really when I started out in this industry 10 years ago, you know, I used Facebook, um, you know, cause Instagram wasn’t around, but I mean, it was amazing to see how it changed for our industry in that you could, you could turn your day around that morning. You know, we just went through this yesterday. I had a junior stylist and she’s starting out and she was a little frustrated and kind of panicked because she didn’t have anyone on her books. And we went, took to Mirror Mirrors Instagram, took to my Instagram, we tagged all of our best clients, they shared it and we were able to fill her day and I think it was 45 minutes. And so, you know, I think people tend to just go, Oh shoot, today’s a bad day. And they just like through their hands in the air and go run errands.

But you can really, you know, if you just don’t give up, you can still turn an entire day around in an instant using social media. and then, you know, the way I’ve really used it is that in business and as a hairstylist and all of that, I mean, you really have to be likable and relatable and people do business with people they know, like, and trust. And so Instagram gives you an opportunity to give people a look inside your life. And so I have chosen to share, you know, a lot of my life, I have a blog and all of that and I’m pretty open. some people opt to have hair accounts and it’s all hair. But I still encourage people, even if it’s primarily hair share, even in your stories, if you insist on your feed to be perfect hair, sharing your stories, when you go to your favorite restaurant, share your, you know, local boutiques that you like to support.

You know, show pictures. because people, when they’re deciding who to go to, they want to know who you are and they want to know who they’re going to give their money to. And so being able to show your work, number one, they know what to expect and then they know like, Oh, I also have kids at around that age or you know, we’re going to have this thing that will make us feel connected because doing hair is such a physical job. You’re touching people. And so you want to make sure that you can connect with them and that you’re not.they’re not just another person. And neither are you. And so you’re, you’re using social media to connect.

Yeah. I mean, I’ve been looking at your Instagram for a while and I know there’s a lot of people that put a, um, what’s the word, you know, too high a level of importance on the amount of followers you’ve got. And I know that you don’t have tens of thousands of followers, but you’re a great example of someone who uses your Instagram account really effectively, you know, within your city, within your community. And you know, when I look at it, I can see that It’s an account that produces clients and it produces revenue. You, also linked your retail up to your Instagram accounts and stuff as well. Is that working for you is it effective?

Yeah, it is. I mean, we don’t sell a ton through our eCommerce site, but we do have it. And you know, we reached out to our You know, the product companies that we work with and you know, we were the only salon they allowed to have e-comm because we insisted, you know, we want to be where the customers are anytime they want us. And so yeah, we don’t have tens of thousands of followers on the mirror mirror account. Um, I would love to have 10,000 followers because I’d love to have swipe up, which is, you know, the new thing. But um, you know, we can’t accommodate tens of thousands of people, you know. And so it’s like I would rather have the right people follow us that are qualified followers that want to engage with us and that are either, you know, hairstylists that want to collaborate or potentially come work with us or clients that want to come frequent the salon rather than be able to brag about, you know, we have 50,000 followers or whatever it is.

And you do all your own Instagram in house, don’t you? You haven’t outsourced it to an agency or anyone. You just do it all yourself.

It’s all in house and I have done it all myself and now, you know, we’ve had people that have worked that have been in charge of it and you know, right now we have one of our stylists is helping us with it. So I mean it’s a, it’s a a thing, you know, and I, I really don’t have the time to do it all myself anymore because it’s a bigger task. And now that we have more stylists, you know, there’s a lot that goes into laying out what the feed looks like and making sure you’re being fair to each stylist. And so, you know, you want a brunette next and you haven’t shared this stylist in a while and so you’re trying to balance all of that but our Instagram feed is, is one of our greatest sources of new clients and are, we are about 20% new clients every month.

Right. Okay. I mean, I really liked on your Instagram highlights, you’ve got stuff there for, you know, product highlights, you’ve got gift cards, you’ve got parking information. I love that parking thing you’ve got on there. I thought it was fabulous. And then you’ve also got individual staff highlights on there. Do you make them, you know, populate that themselves? Do they have to produce a certain amount of work each week for their Instagram highlights?

They do now. That is part of our advancement if you will at mirror, mirror. So to advance which means anything changing your schedule, promoting your title, raising your rates, anything that you want. At Mirror Mirror, you have to be hitting certain key performance indicators. And one of those is a requirement for social media posts and it’s more for the newer talent and it’s less for the more senior talent because at that point they’ve probably built a clientele and they don’t need it as much. But it has been, it’s been one of the most important key performance indicators that we’ve added in, in the last couple of years. And it is the reason that our new talent is being so successful.

Yeah, I talk about that to people. I’ve got a funny feeling. I actually stole it from you. I thought that was a great idea. Yeah, let’s go with that.

Yeah. I suggest to people that that be one of the, you know, cause I’ll often get salon owners say to me, how do you get your staff to buy into, promoting their work and the salon on Instagram. And I said you make it conditional.

It is as part of their key performance indicators and ours is based, for the newest talent to get on the floor or to, you know, promote up. You have to do one post for every day you’re on the floor. So if you are on the floor four days a week, you’re doing 16 posts a month, which serves in a lot of ways. It’s creating content for the salon to share. It forces them to do work that they want to document. They’re not rushing people out the door, you know, they’re like, well I’ve got to at least find one person each day. I’m here on average that I want to take a picture of it teaches them how to take the good pictures and the clients love getting shared because they’re like, Oh my gosh, they shared my hair on their, social media feed. And then by the time they’re ready to promote or whatever it is, they have a long feed, of beautiful hair. And so it’s easy for us to promote them and say, Hey, go check out Savannah. And they click on her feed and they’re like, Oh wow, she is amazing. I’ll give her a try. And so, I think that has been really instrumental with building our new talent.

Another thing I want you to touch on now is to talk about your blogging because I know that you have a separate blog, which is Martha Lynn and it’s separate to the salon. Why do you do that? Why is that important? Does it feed the salon in any way?

Yeah, it, you know, and it used to more, I don’t blog as much as I used to, but a lot of the content is evergreen, that’s on there. So my best blog post that I’ve ever had since I’ve started the blog is simply how to hot roll your hair. And you know, it’s nothing to it. It’s just simple photos and we get a ton of traffic from Pinterest. And it’s just, it’s so cool to see how people just want to know even the most basic things. And the blog really came because I found myself repeating myself a lot with clients, you know, cause they would ask what, what barrel size curling iron do you use, how do you know, you know, how to hot roll your hair. Like little things like that. Just simple tips. And so I decided to have a blog so that I could put those types of things there and so I could refer them there. And then I wanted to also be able to incorporate more of my life, which I didn’t feel like was appropriate to live on the salon page and so I share, you know, family stuff and kids stuff and outfits and all of that. And all of that is, it’s a creative outlet for me. But it is intentional to let people in. Because I think that again, going back to yay, they want to do business with someone they know, like, and trust, they, you know, they get to

know a little bit more about who I am. Yeah. I mean, I’ve often noticed that, that you, um, you will share outfits and stuff and you’ll say you can buy these here, you can get them here and you put the links and everything in it. I mean, do you get you know, as a referral thing or do you, do you get a kickback on that or how does that work? You do, right.

Yeah. So there’s, affiliate programs now and now they’re, it’s a bigger deal now than even it was when I started it. But or when I started doing it, but now, you know, you can get, people have created Amazon stores and, you know, everyone’s getting a kickback for everything these days. And so yeah, if I share a shirt, you say you click on the shirt and you end up buying something through that link that I make a little commission on that. And so it’s not a huge source of income for me it’s always nice if I can just break even on what I’m buying. But again, it’s really because I’m a sharer and that’s always who I’ve been. And I’ve always been the type person that if I’m in the elevator and you say nice shirt, I say, Oh, thanks. I got it on sale, you should go get it at the Nordstrom, you know, like whatever. And so that’s just, that’s my personality is to share.

Okay right now I’m very aware of your product, your product, what your take on product, you know, uh, I had discussions with you before about product and you know, the different product lines you carry and why you carry them, et cetera, et cetera. So fill us in on that, tell us about your product ethos, so to speak.

Yeah well, you know, we started out with a thousand square feet, so we didn’t have a ton of room to have a sprawling boutique of all sorts of products. So I really wanted to pick products and companies that I really believed in that felt special and different. And so we carry two main product lines. We have living proof and Virtue, I’ve had living proof the longest and I’ve worked with them from very early on and really loved living proof and then we brought virtue on when it came new to the, you know, scene a couple of years ago. And we really love that as well And I won’t bring a product on unless it’s really different and it really offers, you know, something that we don’t have and now it has to really check all the boxes in that, you know, the safer salon scene as well. Because, you know, I, that’s the direction that we’re headed in, but yeah, we, we keep it very curated. Right now. We have a bunch of fun little gifty things just because it’s the holidays, but I just like to keep it simple. And, that’s what we focus on. So we brought virtue on and it was right around the time I was starting to learn about, you know, ingredients and I’m starting to think about safer salon practices and stuff. And so, I was asking a lot of questions and I, I met them a trade show here and they checked all the boxes, you know, they, uh, they were trying to do right by their ingredient selection. They were newer there the way that they. They have created this alpha keratin 60 K U, which is a mouthful, but essentially they’re extracting, keratin out of human hair.

They’re the only company that does that. and they came across that from, they were using that alpha keratin in, combat for healing wounds. And so of course, some brilliant person came along the way and said, wow, if it can heal a wound, I wonder what it could do to hair and skin and nails. And so, they started creating this line. And so it is the most repairative line I’ve ever come across. And it will, it really will change your hair in one shampoo. And so that was, you know, for me it would have to be that special for me to add it to the mix, so yeah, we’ve really enjoyed working with them as well.

Okay. so moving right on here. I know that you’ve got, uh, a good team of people there. You’ve got 17 odd people. and with all the things that you’ve got going on in your life, how do you, what roles have you delegated within the salon? How have you made the salon run? You know, like Well oiled machine without you having to be the person that does everything?

Well, I have great help. I have Gilbert has been my manager since I was out on maternity that first maternity leave, what half the team left. And so he’s been with me about seven years and he is really the right hand man. He is the yin to my yang and he is the calm. you know, I tend, I’m very, you know, excitable and I have lots of ideas and he keeps me grounded and focused and he just runs the salon with such grace that nobody really even knows what’s going on. You know, he’s just handling it. He’s on the phone, you know, with the air conditioning guy and he’s checking a client out and he’s dealing with a stylist and then, you know, he does it with a smile on his face. And Gilbert is the secret sauce at mirror mirror.

I gotta tell ya and you know that, cause you know, you and I had been working together for almost five years now. so he is, he’s the only reason that I’m able to have the balance that I have and to step away when I need to too, be with my family. And then my husband is, is very hands on as well. He’s not in the salon as much, but he is, you know, extremely talented in the digital space. And so he is very visionary and helping me take all of these big ideas that I have and make them more concrete and turn them into life and take them from point a to point B With focus.

Yeah. It’s interesting with, your comment about Gilbert, but he’s the secret sauce. And obviously I talked to a lot of salon owners and managers and, uh, and one of the first things they’ll say to me is, I just need a manager. I need someone to take this over. And I, and I often will say to them, listen, it’s your business. You’ve opened it this is your stuff to sort out. There’s no one, you know, hiding around the corner waiting to sort out your mess for you. Sometimes there is, and you struck lucky with Gilbert, but I remember telling you at the time that you couldn’t afford a Gilbert because you couldn’t, you didn’t have, you didn’t have the people producing revenue to employ someone in that role. But, uh, so tell us about that you’re blatantly saying that you couldn’t, but it was a case it’d be, couldn’t afford not to?

Exactly. And I mean, you know, I didn’t get paid for a good two or three years, at least not on a regular basis of the salon because we had no idea what we were doing. You know, we opened a salon and you’re trying to just essentially copy what you think other salons are doing cause you’re assuming like, well it must work. And so the margins weren’t there and you know, it took a lot of stumbling around to figure out how do we make the salon a profitable business. And you know, we used to joke in the salon and say, you know, Hey guys, just a reminder, this is a for profit company. Like we’re supposed to be making money here. So, and that is the point of the business. You know, it’s not something to apologize for or to shy away from.

we have very generous, you know, compensation plans, but we are still aiming to make money out of the business that we’ve poured our heart and soul and sacrifice and, you know, money into. So, yes, Gilbert came on as he was a part time employee and we sort of saw the unicorn that was Gilbert and groomed him into this managerial role. And he really just is, he just loves people. And so I think that, you know, it’s like, it’s back to the golden rule with him and he just takes care of things. He takes care of the customers, he takes care of the staff. He can have the hard conversations with me when he needs to, which you know that’s not easy to do, and I think that I did see that in him and it was worth it to me to sacrifice on my end to be able to afford him because I saw the vision of what mirror mirror could become if we kept him. And I saw him as a like a huge part of that. And so I knew that we would grow into that. And now, you know, he’s in this role, he’s, you know, he’s created this schedule that works for him, that allows him to also have balance. which is really important for me, for everyone in my team. And now we’re actually needing additional front desk help because he needs help. You know, it’s like Gilbert needs the Gilbert now, so it’s a good place to be in.

Yeah. But, but you have grown from this very small salon that wasn’t able to pay you literally for two or three years or not with anyconsistency to, to now, a seven figure business that is paying you and that is, you know, with all the hustling and challenges, et cetera, that you’ve overcome along the way, you know, you’ve certainly turned that into what you wanted to, or it’s certainly on the way to being what you wanted to.


Okay. Can I ask you what’s the biggest challenge that you’ve had in business?

Oh, you know, I think it’s just, it’s managing different personality types, you know? and I’m, I’m the type person I need to be thanked I need people to like me. And that’s very hard to do when you’re the manager and the boss. Um, and I still, it’s still weirds me out when they call me their boss, you know, I’m like, I’m not the boss, you know, I’m the leader or whatever you want to say, but So they’re all so different. And I honestly can say that still, I still manage them individually. I know that what makes each person tick and I know what motivates each individual person. And that is, that’s the hardest part. but it’s the most important part of my job. It’s why I don’t do hair anymore because it’s, it’s time consuming to be 100% focused on each individual person and what they need in this season, you know, because that changes, you know, every six months and, you know, one gets pregnant and other gets married and the other needs this. And we have to constantly be ebbing and flowing and flexible. To retain our employees and we have great retention,right?

Yeah. And you’re no longer behind the chair. Am I right saying that, that decision, so you’re not behind the chair at all nowat all? Yeah, I stepped away in may because it was, it was a goal of mine to spend the summer primarily with my kids. I’d never done that. I’d never taken off, actually really struggled with postpartum, with both of my kids. And so, the fact that I was able to work through that and get to a point now where actually it was opting in to spend the summer with my children was like a big moment for me. I really did step away for the majority of the summer. We took time off. I did some thinking and some strategizing, which you were a part of and came back better for it. And so I, you know, that’s what I want for everyone, is to be able to hit pause when they need to and step away and stepping away is really, it’s the quickest way to see what is still broken and what still is not there and what still could be fine tuned. because we did great. We had a great summer. I mean, it was, it’s slower, like salons typically are in the summer, but we still had a great summer and I was able to take that time.

Well, this is a bit of an odd question maybe. What aren’t you prepared to compromise?

Let’s see that’s a good one. I, you know, I don’t know. I think it really, it’s always about people and you know, we have a big poster in the back of our salon that says like work hard and be nice. You know, and it’s just like, I, I cannot compromise on gossip or being you know, not collaborative with one another, not supportive, lying and then not putting the customer first. You know, we have to always, yeah, I sometimes I hate the customer first thing because I think customers now are getting trained to take advantage of it, but for the most part you have to do what’s right and you know, in your heart what is right. And if you’re a good person, you know what needs to be done to take care of that customer. If it means bringing them back for a complimentary adjustment or you know, referring them to a different stylist, like putting them always first. I can’t compromise on that. Okay. Well what about the, you know, the growing of the business, there’s always a lot of systems and and technology that’s put in place. What are some of the systems that you have that you couldn’t do without and what are some of the some of the technology things, you know, apps, et cetera, that you just couldn’t do without?

Yeah, we use Booker is our booking system and with that they have something called Frederick, which is really great. It’s helping us automate a lot of our, you know, the, you can fill last minute appointments and it uses algorithms to comb your books to know which clients are, do you know, cause before if you wanted to blast an email blast out to your clientele and say, Hey, today only 20% off, all the people that are already booked are going to be like, wait, I want that too. And so Booker is able to work around that and which is really great. our team really loves Zee Zor as well because that is allowing them minute to minute to check their numbers cause certain stylists are really, really in their numbers, which is how I was as a stylist as well. And so they want to know, you know, mid day and a day, how did their day in, because dollar per day is another one of those key performance indicators that we focus on. So yeah, every level has a dollar per day goal. And so they have to know if they’re tracking towards that or if they’re falling behind. And then I, you know, for Instagram I use apps like Canva and unfold is one that’s really great for creating stories. But, you know, I kept it pretty simple. I don’t use a ton of of apps, you know, I try not to over think social media. I think you just got to get out there and start sharing.

Okay. And, and as a mum, a business owner, a recruitment marketing, financial controller, all these other roles that you’ve got, what are some of the things that you’ve delegated to make your life easier, both in the salon and external roles outside of the salon to make your life function?

I Delegate everything that I can. Um, you know, I have, we have a cleaning lady that helps us out at our house. We have, it’s the same woman actually, that her and her crew do the house and the salon. And so that is simplifying things because it’s one source, you know everything I can hand off, you know, whether it’s the email marketing or you know the graphic design. I know what I’m good at. Anything that is not in my zone of genius, I try to give to someone else to do. But I still, I like to get into my numbers and stuff, so I still run all of my reports and play with all of that. But Gilbert does all the ordering operationally. He handles all of that. You know, the assistance and the support team do everything at the salon.

So that is based off of systems and checklists and what to do and what not to do. so we really try to, if we’re getting to a point where we’re having to repeat ourselves on something, we put it in writing, we create a policy, let’s, let’s just move on. Um, and then that makes it easier for the next employee that joins there. Expectations are managed and they know exactly what to do. So, I’m a big fan of outsourcing and I really try to do all of that for the important things that I’m really, I do everything with my kids now. so I picked my son up from school every day, which I never did before. He always had to do after school care. So I’m trying to outsource other things so that I can focus on those things that are really important?

Okay. Yeah, it’s interesting that, I mean I didn’t leave the floor completely, but there was a point as a salon owner where when my sons actually, when they turned five years, that was five years of age, I went, well, I’m not working Saturdays anymore because yeah. You know, I just weren’t prepared to compromise on that. I wanted to go to football or whatever it was with my sons. But from a business point of view, the initial thought is that, well, that’s bad for the business. But the reality of it was, is that, is that it was actually bad for me working on a Saturday because I’m fully booked no matter which day of the week I worked. So by me working on a Saturday, effectively I was stopping someone else from building up a clientele. So I think a lot of salon owners, you know, they, they forget that they’re going to be busy, you know, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

It doesn’t matter whether they work a Saturday or not work a Saturday and you know, different times of your life, you do need to make these, uh, you know, these adjustments to what’s best for your life. But it’s often also best for the business, but sometimes people forget that or they don’t notice it. So okay you mentioned that you had really good team retention, which I, I know you do, so let’s have a little chat about your team for a minute. A good retention means you’re obviously looking after people. How do you motivate your people? What have you learned, you know, over the years of building a team, you know, keeping a team, inspiring them, leading them, motivated and what are some of the things that you do,

you know, the people really just want to be appreciated and they want to be treated as a, as a person and not a number. And so that is why, you know, we have such like flexible schedules. I think stylists in general want flexibility, but with flexibility it’s a freedom. And the responsibility thing with flexibility comes a level of ambition. And I don’t want anyone on my team that is not extremely ambitious and that could mean you only want to work two days a week, but you’re going to go 110% on your two days. And so I know that I can count on that and in exchange for that, you get your flexibility. And so I think that, you know, they all know that I genuinely love them and care for them as people first. And then all of the decisions that we make for the business behind that are, they know that I’m looking out for the team as a whole to make sure we have a business to all work on and you know, and then I’m looking out for them.

And you know, we take, when we make changes, it’s there. It’s a very long process because we do a lot of research. They know that I do my homework, they know that I’m looking to other industry standards. And then one of our core values is innovation. You know, we don’t actually want to do it like anyone else. That is extremely important to me. It’s why I opened Mirror Mirror I didn’t love what I was finding in the salon world. And so I had to go create it myself, which is harder to do than to just say I’m going to go by this system and copy and paste. And so they know that I’m doing the hard work to create that and to give them, you know, they make a ton of money. And so they have the support of me and Gilbert, which were like the duo and they have financial flexibility and freedom, you know and so that is a winning combination. And they know they there, they have everything they need. You know, they’re not, I don’t see a lot of them looking elsewhere because I know what else is elsewhere, you know, and they we really take pride in, you know, we are commissioned salon and so we take pride in earning our cut and they know that. And so we go above and beyond and, and in exchange I think they’re loyal.

Yeah. So, so when you say, uh, flexibility and productivity, Like are you meaning that they get more flexibility in line with reaching certain key performance indicators. They’ve got to be productive in order to get a certain day or for believing at a certain time or whatever it is.

So we have a certain average per day that we want each chair to operate at. And so, um, well, you know, we figure out exactly what that looks like for a month. And so as long as they are hitting that dollar per day and for the new talent, you know, that is, it’s a higher dollar per day, then their goal even is because they’re not expected to, to hit that number it’s the median. And so you know, that’s a big stretch for them. And so most of them are not eligible for this level of flexibility because they have not earned their way into this level. But for the senior team, it’s, it’s no problem. You know, they’re hitting their dollar per day. As long as they’ve hit it the month prior, then they are allowed to they switch out vacation day. So if they’re gonna, you know, if they want to take off a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, then they’ll open up a Monday here and a Tuesday there and they, it doesn’t count towards there, you know, X days a year that they’re allowed to get off, no questions asked.

And so they love it. And then yeah, and then I do have people that work, you know, fewer days, but you know, sometimes that just makes sense based on schedules. Yeah. And it’s important to me as a mom to be supportive of moms because I think a lot of times in our industry we lose some of the greats because they get into the starting a family and they just can’t hang in some of these salons that have these strict rigorous rules that are just in place because the salon’s too big and this is the deal and it’s black and white and so then they quit or they go to a salon suite or they go on their own and then they don’t have any support because they’re completely on their own. So you’re trying to, you know, run their own mini business and have kids and be here and be there.

And if a kid gets sick, they got to call and cancel all the clients, they don’t have someone to do that for them. For us, like we do all of that for them and so they feel the support. They’re allowed to come, you know, whatever their days are that we’ve decided on, it’s, you know, it’s gentleman’s handshake of like, okay, these are your three days. Like, I just need you to be 100% these three days. And things happen of course. But they are all, they appreciate it, you know, and I retain that talent. And you know, right now I have a stylist that has been working a little bit less cause she was having a a baby or having two babies over the years and now she’s kind of, they’ve bought a new house so she’s kind of ready to ramp back in. It’s like if I wouldn’t have been flexible over those years, she may not. I’ve stuck around and so for me it’s worth it.

Yeah. Good, good. Okay. So, so how do you, you’ve mentioned commission is the whole salon commission, I know you did have at least one renter. Is it all commissioned based now?

Everyone’s commission-based now on a sliding scale and it’s, we have two sliding scales. We have one for part time and one for full time. So if you’re three days or less, you’re on one sliding scale and which is half of the, you know, the full time one because essentially the idea is the way that I have the chairs structured, if you’re part time, someone else’s part time, you’re kind of co-sharing a chair. And so that combined sliding scale would equal the larger.

Okay. Can you talk a little bit more about that as to exactly how you do pay people, what sort of percentages and levels that they have to reach to earn whatever it is they’re earning?

Yeah we pay 40% to 50% and the sliding scale, I think it goes, you know, 42 43 you know, it kind of ticks up and it is based on that, you know, our dollar per day goal for each chair and to get the 50% is above and beyond that dollar per day goal. You know, it’s obviously the stretch, but you know, really most of our, our team is hitting, you know, they’re going that 45, 47% and then, you know, a lot of them hit that 50% every single time because they’re really, you know, they go for it. They know what that benchmark is and it’s based on it’s if we do two week pay period, so it’s, you know, it’s a two week lump sum so they know that they’ve got to hit X dollars over two weeks to get the full 50% and they, they go for it.

Right. Okay. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to yourself, when you were just starting out all those years ago?

Well, I actually wrote a blog post about this, um, recently and you know I wrote a letter to myself when I was first starting out and you know, it’s really just about, you know, little things like having the competence to be the leader, you know, because you’re so scared in the early days too. Just step into that role. And so you tippy toe around it and that’s when all of the problems come when you’re afraid to just like go for it and go for what you know. I would definitely encourage myself to find a way to get paid early on because you know, you’ve sacrificed so much, you need to pay yourself and if you can’t afford to pay yourself, you need to rework the program because something is broken. So those are the big things. Just being confident in leading and making sure you’re getting compensated for what you’re doing.

Sure. Yeah. No, I often say that to people that you cannot be afraid to manage people. A lot of people want to open up their own salon and they want to employ people, but then they think that people are just going to blindly turn into these fantastic, you know, productive stylists. And unfortunately the world doesn’t work like that. You know, people need managing. They need coaching bring out the best in themselves. Yeah. I believe that

That’s why they work at your place, you know? Otherwise they would be in a salon suite on their own doing their own thing. You know, they want to be collaborative, they want, you to have ideas and I think you take for granted, you know, ideas. I, and I think that, you know, even a 10 or 15 minute chat with any of my stylists, you know, they can say, Hey, this is going on and we can do a little quick brainstorm. And they’re immediately turned around and powered and ready to go for it. Where You take that knowledge for granted. It’s the curse of knowledge. You know, you, you forget what you have in your brain and so get it out of your brain and share it with your team.

Sure. Yeah. What, what does success mean to you?

Oh gosh, that’s a big one you know, for me, at least for the salon, when I think about success, it’s really creating something that it’s, it’s own living, breathing, thing. And so that means over the last few years, I’ve had to tear myself down and do less hair and step away from the chair and create systems that will run on their own and hire the right people that can run the systems. And it’s hard for someone like me to do because I like being in it because that is exciting cause it’s challenging. But for me, success would be really being able to step, you know, a way like either figuratively or, or, you know, literally and say, Oh my gosh, I created a thing that runs itself. And that works because that is what I see so much in our industry, salon owners that are slaves to doing hair and their team isn’t training them.

Well. You know, it’s just, I just want that for myself and I want that for other salon owners because I think that is what being a salon owner is. It’s creating a business. It’s not, you know, you have told me over the years, you know, if you’re not doing that, you’ve just created somewhere for you to work in and so I really, that’s, that is would be success to me. And then, you know, I think learning how to pass on what I know, you know, I love grooming new talent. I love working with them. I love when they’re first starting out. And so for me, I really want to find ways to expand that even beyond my salon. How do I take people that or maybe went into cosmetology school and are in this trade and they don’t even know what’s possible and have opened their eyes to, gosh, I could be making six figures in less than five years. It’s absolutely doable. And so that, that’s the thing that gets me the most excited about, you know, this industry.

Good, good. Okay. Well we could keep on talking for ages, but we’re going to need to, uh, to finish up here. But I just want to say it’s, it’s fantastic. Uh, I have been privy to have known you for a few years now and seeing your journey as a business woman evolve and the business expand and become succesfull and you know, I often, will feature people on the podcast that have, you know, some huge following or some huge amount of salons or, you know, something else that is maybe unobtainable. And I’ve even had people point that out to me that like, they may be, can’t relate to some of the people I’ve interviewed because they, although they respect and admire them that they are just too unobtainable and you know, so that’s why I really wanted to have people listen to you and your story and it’s hard work, isn’t it?

But if you do the right things you do that consistently? And, and you know, sometimes it is two steps forward, one step back, but you come out the other end of it with, as you’ve just said, you know, a successful business with with people that are earning six figure incomes when they’re 24, 25 years of age. Nothing wrong with that. You, you’ve got to a great business. It’s had a beautiful renovation done to it, won all sorts of awards, you know, profitable and generating, a significant seven figure sum, so, you know, it’s something to be really proud of. So, Martha, Lynn, before we just wrap up, where can people find out about you? Where can they connect with you? What’s your website address? What’s your blog address? What’s your Instagram handles? Facebook if still on Facebook, but where can people reach out to you?

Yeah, they can find me probably the fastest. I’m on Instagram at Martha Lynn kale. And then from there they can find all sorts of things. The salon is mirror, mirror, ATX on Instagram. And I would just start Instagram and then you can head anywhere you want from there but yeah, I love to connect with people and um, and you know, you say you say all those nice things about me, I have to say, you know, I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me over the years. I’ve learned so much from you. And you know, it’s just so funny how, you know, life brings people, you know,

into your universe. And, so it’s been so fun to work together and for anyone else that is out there listening, like this is doable, you know, if you want to roll your sleeves up and do the hard work, anyone can do this and you know gone are the days where I need to be famous or known for something or even even win the awards, you know I really just want to own a business that has, you know, an amazing team that respects one another and puts out great hair and takes good care of our clients and that makes money. And so that’s what we want to do. And so anyone else that wants to do it certainly can.

Good. Thank you. Well that is a perfect wrap up. I’ll put your Instagram handle and stuff in the show notes so people can link directly with you. And I just want to say thank you. It’s been a real pleasure having this opportunity to, you know, to connect with you and to ask you some of these questions and to share them with our audience. So, uh, Martha Lynn kale. Thank you very much for being part of the grow my salon business podcast.

Thank you.

Thank you for listening to today’s podcast. If you’d like to connect with us, you’ll find us or on Facebook and Instagram at grow my salon business. And if you enjoyed tuning into our podcast, make sure that you subscribe, like, and share it with your friends. Until next time, this is Antony Whitaker wishing you continued success.