Salon Lofts and Daniel Sadd leave tradition behind, leapfrogging the competition

 

Daniel Sadd is intent on putting his personal stamp on the beauty industry. His premise is simple: Create a community of experienced beauty professionals who enjoy all the benefits of owning a salon without the risks. Then, add a dose of technology to the equation.

In contrast to traditional salons, where an owner employs stylists or stylists lease a chair, Salon Lofts rents small rooms to stylists who can design their lofts any way they like.

They also are able to set their own hours, implement their own pricing and market themselves however they see fit.

The company’s proprietary software and Web tools serve as a platform for growing independent contractors’ clientele and allow them to fulfill business potential entirely on their own terms.

“The No. 1 benefit for stylists is freedom,” Sadd says. “They’re running their own business, but they’re not dealing with the parts of the business that don’t make any money. We’re handling that for them. It’s like the American Dream made better: You get to own your business, but don’t have to deal with all of the things that aren’t fun.”

From real estate to beauty

Sadd, a commercial real estate developer by trade, originally purchased Salon Lofts in 2003. At that time, the salon, which had only been open for a few months, was doing average numbers in a terrible location.

Sadd smelled potential, and before long he left real estate to work full time as CEO and president of Salon Lofts.

As he puts it, “I didn’t have plans to leave the real estate industry, it just kind of sucked me in.”

The business has come a long way over the past decade. From a single location 10 years ago, Salon Lofts has grown to more than 50 locations encompassing five states: Ohio, Florida, Indiana, Missouri and Georgia.

Technology fuels growth

Not only has its business model fulfilled an unmet need, but the rapid growth has been fueled by the implementation of cutting-edge technology, enabling Salon Lofts to leapfrog staid competitors.

“The world has changed a lot in the past 10 years, not to mention the past 12 months,” Sadd says. “The cell phone and the Internet has given the power to the people who do all the work. Today, the talent owns the business. In the past, the talent was owned by the owner of the salon. Against this backdrop things are changing quickly.”

Open Chair — Salon Lofts’ proprietary software — allows loft owners to connect with existing clients and potential new ones through Internet marketing mediums.

“We use the Internet to bring buyer and seller together,” Sadd says.

Think of it as an online beauty bazaar, similar in nature to OpenTable — its culinary counterpart — that allows diners to find open tables at restaurants.

Visitors go to salonlofts.com and click on one of four services: hair, nails, skin or massage. Then, they simply filter by location, specific type of service and price. Testimonials are available as well as a portfolio of photos showcasing past work.

“Within 30 seconds,” Sadd says, “you can find an open seat in your neighborhood with the service you want, at the price you want.”

Maintaining high standards

In order to stay ahead of his competitors, Sadd enlisted a small team of full-time developers to keep his firm’s technology up to date.

He encourages collaboration both internally and with customers, and he prefers real-time development as opposed to “building a plan and saying ‘this is what we’re going to work on.’”
Developing proprietary software as a service is a focal point.

“There are products out there that you can plug and play. The problem is you don’t own it so you can’t control the ecosystem,” Sadd says. “By owning the technology we can control the ecosystem and give our customers what they want when they want it.”

The strategy has been successful. According to Sadd, Salon Lofts books more than 30,000 appointments a month and has more than $20 million a year in online bookings alone.
High volume leads to happy stylists; the retention rate at Salon Lofts is 91 percent — well above the industry average.

The combination of technology, attractive spaces, branding prowess and a high level of support from the top have proved to be a winning formula.

“We want to offer beauty care professionals a kit of tools. They can pick and choose which tools they would like to use to run a business and make their lives easier,” Sadd says. “Every morning when I wake up there are two things that I strive to do: Help people grow their business and make their life easier.”