“THE LAST TWO YEARS HAVE TAUGHT US THAT RUNNING A BUSINESS HAS CHALLENGES WHICH WE OFTEN AREN’T PREPARED FOR.“
In many cases, salon owners have had to make the tough decision of fighting for their salon or cutting the financial burden to open a home or mobile based salon. The upside of being a solopreneur is that you can create a flexible lifestyle, keep the perfect life/work balance, and remove the missive costs of overheads. We spoke with Cathy Cupani-Zarlenga from Salon Blu about the big transition she recently made with her business.
“After working most of my career in the Yorkville area and with some of Toronto’s most prestigious salons like Fiorio, Capucci and Tony and Guy, I decided, once I get married, to settle down and move up to the suburbs where I found a luxury salon I spent 15 years at. My time with Framar Salon was a gift, we were like a family. But like all things, it was time to go and grow into the next stage of my career.”
In 2016, on my 40th birthday, I opened Salon Blū with my partner Jason. It was a personalized, small boutique, where guests got to know each other. It was a beautiful experience; I created my own little family. We had built a wonderful team. Three years in we had just finished paying off our opening business loan, started to see growth, and hire more staff, then Covid-19 hit,” recalls Cupani-Zarlenga.
“We couldn’t work or hire anyone after that, like everyone else, we shut down. We decided to accept CERB at first. After many months of re-openings and closures, we accepted CEBA, a government supported loan for businesses. Because of the six foot apart, and one guest at a time rules, the restrictions made it difficult to be as lucrative as we were. We wanted to be respectful of the rules and in doing so
we were bringing in a quarter of what we used to make. Our income dwindled. We just couldn’t keep up, even with the CEBA loan,” says Cupani-Zarlenga.
“In the middle of one of our many lockdowns, there was a small window of time where we went underground to see our clients. We were being smuggled into backyards or garages. I was going to
clients’ homes at first, but once my family got vaccinated I started bringing clients to my house. The connection with my clients was reignited, they were missing me and I was missing them. After seeing clients joyfully bending over to wash their hair in my basement laundry basin and sitting in a folding chair in front of my sliding door closet mirror, I realized they would do anything to get their hair done, and I
would do anything to accommodate them! I quickly noticed that I was earning more money than ever, and it got me thinking… If my clients were willing to be serviced in these conditions, what if I created a proper space for them?!”
“Jason and I realized after all these years in the industry we didn’t want to take out another business loan. At this point in our careers we were looking to take a step back, not start from scratch. As a mother of two with a mortgage it was a tough decision to close.”
“From the day I started in this industry, I never wanted to be that ‘at home stylist,’ but now with Covid-19
and everyone working from home, the stigma has lifted. I decided to invest in creating a comfortable, welcoming, and professional environment for my guests to enjoy: a high end, luxury space in my little townhouse, on a quiet suburban street with free parking. I use clean beauty brands because clean
and sustainable products are important to me. I have always loved to be hospitable and service oriented. I offer my guests slippers when they arrive; refreshments and cappuccinos; and create an ambiance with the fireplace or sunset channel on my large screen TV. Now, my guests are loving the personalized experience and the one-on-one connection, and I am loving hosting them at a different level. It’s an
experience I never thought I’d love as much as I do,” Cupani-Zarlenga said with passion.
“NOW, MY GUESTS ARE LOVING THE PERSONALIZED EXPERIENCE AND THE ONE ON ONE CONNECTION AND I AM LOVING HOSTING THEM AT A DIFFERENT LEVEL”
WORDS FROM THE WISE
“We have to evolve into the new environment we are in. Each step in life takes you further on your own path so you can grow. I have had many years of high end salon experience which has taught me so much about hospitality and customer service that I truly appreciate and enjoy. Having my own business allows me to gain confidence and knowledge to run my own space. With the circumstances surrounding Covid-19, I am now able to take those experiences home with me. My schedule has always been a busy balancing act juggling my clients along with my home life and family. If there’s one thing I learned along the way it’s that my mental health is a huge priority and the gift of being at home truly gives space for all of that,” says Cupani-Zarlenga.
Our conversation uncovered that stepping back and reassessing is essential to move into a more gratifying life. It is possible through tough times we may discover something that is actually
perfect for us.