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Old 03-01-2012, 12:40 PM   #1
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Red face Mobile Hair Salon in Winter climate????

I am exploring the idea of customizing a 23 ft. Airstream trailer as a mobile hair salon. But I live in Wisconsin. Therefore, it would need to be operational (hot and cold running water, toliet, heat, ventilation and mobile!) in the very cold and snowy winter months Nov- March.
Does anyone out there think this is possible?
Any recomendations on insulating and how to keep the water lines from freezing? Any estimates on heating costs? Anything else I should consider?

Thank you
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Old 03-01-2012, 01:09 PM   #2
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As a full-time resident of an AS, I would suggest you not even consider doing this.
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Old 03-01-2012, 01:20 PM   #3
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What he said...unless it was indoors!

But, welcome to the Forums!

Shari
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Old 03-01-2012, 01:25 PM   #4
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I wouldn't try it - but that's an opinion.

I do have a friend who is a mobile dog groomer.... which isn't a flattering comparison, but there are a lot more similarities than you'd like to think about. She has biggish box truck to work out of. She has a built in generator for heating and Air conditioning and to run her dryers and clippers. It's mounted below the truckbed (I think?) You'd have to beef up the frame of the Airstream to support a biggish generator or eliminate the propane tanks and go all electric.

My first consideration would be - who is likely to be my customer? A big source of "bread and butter" customers would DEFINITELY include elderly, shut-ins, handicapped, nursing homes, and on and on. Half of these potential patrons wouldn't be able to manage the steps or the door. My friend has a RAMP and the whole back wall is a rollup door - she also has a side door with fold down steps.

The inside space in an airstream might hold a beauticians chair, a wash sink and a place to do nails - but YOUR working/walking space and those curved walls - not to mention storing enough towels for a day's work -cause you surely can't wash them til you get home. Would you be doing any bikini or leg waxing? Not easily in the space available.


If you got an empty shell with nothing but a restroom you'd still probably need a 28' or longer to be big enough to have a one chair salon and supply storage. With a box van you've got a big square work area, a huge improvement in ceiling height and storage - with an Airstream you've got a long narrow work space. (For business getting a 15-20 foot box truck/bus into a driveway vs a 28' Airstream PLUS tow vehicle.... Not a happy prospect.

Keeping it warm in winter - honey I'm in coastal Virginia (a real sissy when it comes to enduring winter) but I've been shivery a couple of nights here, and this is a mild winter.

Nest to Last consideration - would it even be legal to do it from a vehicle of any type? Regulations may vary widely from state to state or even from one locality to another.

Last consideration - related to the first one. Cost of fuel. If you're doing appointments by ones and twos at each location, I think the cost will eat you out of house, home and sufficient customers willing to pay the premium for you to drive to them.

(oh and cause I don't know how to shut up... A chiropractor who is a customer tells me that he gets two or three cases every month where a woman -usually over 50- injures her neck trying to raise herself UP from the wash sink - because that uses the muscles in the front of the neck which are often so much weaker than the back ones that a less than fit or overweight woman can really have a snap-crackle-pop moment trying to get back up. His advice is that every beautician or shampooer should routinely put a hand behind the customer's head and assist in steading and raising the head - OR if you know the person is elderly and has brittle bones, ask them to lean forward over a sink that is at at counter height!

With that being said, be mobile, but do your work in the customer's kitchen after washing her hair in the kitchen sink! You could probably get a chair that's a cross between a hover-round and a beautician's chair.

Sorry I don't think it's viable - but this is one case where there are definitely lots of ways to skin the cat!

Paula
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Old 03-01-2012, 01:58 PM   #5
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What everyone else said! Not do-able on any practical level at all.
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Old 03-01-2012, 03:57 PM   #6
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What everyone else said! Not do-able on any practical level at all.
Ditto, and trying to get a license for mobile would be impossible here and any city that has shops that would lodge complaints. Might be able to do it under the radar in a very rural area, using only word of mouth advertising to a select clientele.
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Old 03-01-2012, 04:16 PM   #7
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Speaking as former licensed hairdresser, I would check with state board to see if you can legally have a mobile salon AND I don't think you can legally go into homes to do hair and still comply with state board rules & regulations.

Many people do "under the table" work out of their homes "after hours" and in other people's homes but you could risk loosing your license.

Now a massage therapist, on the other hand, is a business where you can legally travel to service clients in their homes or maybe from a trailer.
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Old 03-01-2012, 04:19 PM   #8
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We have some here in L.A. very do able, but its Cali weather. I actually own a hair salon, but I would rather have a shop where people come to me.
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Old 03-01-2012, 07:29 PM   #9
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I disagree with people's blanket negative view on the viability of the idea in general, but I think the weather would certainly make things difficult.
That being said I think a shiny mobile unit that could be rented for weddings would be a serious draw in the summer, spring and fall months. You could book them way ahead and really do well since everything for weddings is more expensive.
Are there large indoor malls in the area? Indoor malls usually have very large doors that open so in theory one could pull it into mall and set up in a climate controlled area during the winter months...think of the draw there...a shiny airstream hair salon in the middle of the mall! I think anything can work, you just have to think outside the box, be willing to take a risk and not listen to people who say things can't be done.
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Old 03-01-2012, 07:39 PM   #10
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I bet they have a client list a mile long.....

And here: http://www.mylittlebeauty.co.uk/airstream/

They have some cool ideas.
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Old 03-02-2012, 09:55 PM   #11
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hair salon / winter trouble

Thanks all. But I guess it is not looking good. I am an established hair stylist that rents a space. Now that my kids are older I want to add hours but I do not want to work nights or weekends. Sooooo, my thought was to go to "the office.' I wanted to set customize my trailer, set up in parking lots and alternate business sites week by week. There are lots of sites showing that this has been done! And i have already looked into licencing and regulations. But it seems WI winters my get the best of me. If anyone has tips to make this possible please share! Other input is also appriciated.
Thanks!
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Old 03-02-2012, 10:58 PM   #12
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Maybe a move to sunny Florida?

Good luck with it, whatever you decide!
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Old 03-03-2012, 03:02 AM   #13
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Sorry if I sounded Negative but...

My partner and I have owned our business for over 30 years. We actually are in part a "business incubator" because we receive mail, ship packages, print posters, and most of all perform as a telephone answering service for a lot of small (micro) businesses.

95% of all startups fail within 5 years, Half don't even make it to the 1 year mark. This is largely because people start out with very unrealistic ideas of how much they NEED to earn to break even much less generate a profit, and they often have NO idea how much time, money, effort and stress it takes to acquire enough customers to be viable.

The first thing you need is some good advice and a real world business plan - much of which you can get for free. Many communities have a group of retired business people who advise and mentor first time owners - showing you how to write a business plan, understand what it will cost to just keep the doors open every month, and understand how much you'll need to charge to have any hope of breaking even. Some Chambers of Commerce have really good resources... and a really good small accountant will help you assess whether you have the capital needed to get started. Banks? Right now getting money to start a business has never been harder. BUT, that said small community banks will often help you with your personal risk assessment profile - if you ask them to be brutally honest and tell you if they think your plan sucks.

One of the FUNNIEST (ok I do have a sadistic sense of humor) interviews I ever had was to mentor a group of people who hired me as a consultant. They had decided to start a business like ours in a neighboring city. Their plan included borrowing $100K from their bank... and as one of the women "knowledgeably" explained to me, "we've formed a corporation so we'll borrow through that, and if the business fails, we'll bankrupt the corporation so our assets will be safe." Then I asked if if the bank had asked for personal endorsements or guarantees... she blinked and said vaguely "well, yes but that's not important is it?" My response? "Do you understand that the loan officer does this for a living and if he makes bad loans he loses his job? A guarantee or an endorsement basically means you are personally backing the corporation - on a personal loan you'd be a co-signer - a guarantor or endorser is a commercial loan co-signer!. They can take your car, your boat, your house or your Prevost if the company fails to pay the loan." It never dawned on one of the six people that the banks wouldn't just give them the loan with no security.

Again, I am not saying DON'T do it, but just know what it will really cost to get started and decide whether you can afford to gamble with that much money.

(ASIDE: if you do decide to use an Airstream - you'll have to get electric stabilizers added - it's simply impractical to get out and crank and uncrand the stabilizers every time you move - and I wouldn't let you work on my hair with sharp scissors if the trailer was bouncing around.

My sister, PRUDENCEPB here, used to have her own massage therapy business. She still does it part time for a few select clients. Her observations? The tyros would think $60 per hour times 40 hours = $2400 per WEEK! No clue that the average therapist can do 15 to 25 per week before they start tearing up their muscles. Also where DO the customers come from? What happens if you can realistically do 20 massages, but you only book 8 or 12 - and half of them are "first time 50% off introductory" massages? And then a 400 lb man who can't bathe comes in and you have to groom his "pelt" before you can find his back to massage?
(is the glamour gone yet?)

I've had operators ready to quit and start their own answering services - until I show them my monthly/internet phone bill, payroll cost, advertising and promo cost, etc, etc, etc ad nauseum.

You may think you're paying a lot to rent your station at the salon. Find out what it costs the company to rent the commercial space - and pay the utilities - and do the advertising - and and and.... They're taking all of the risk. If they have 10 stations available, I'd bet that they need a minimum of 7 rented to break even. Being in business for yourself? It's a good thing, but it's far far too easy to end up "owning a job". Working 60+ hours per week for less than most people get working for someone else.

Paula
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Old 03-03-2012, 07:12 AM   #14
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Paula is correct about getting SCORE (Senior Corp of Retired Executives) to advise you. They're wonderfully helpful with your business plan and can also advise you on getting financing etc.
Re: massage therapists, 25 clients per week IS full time. You have to allow time for documentation, changing linen, cleaning the room, answering calls, sheet laundry and all the minutia of being self employed. My average week was 15-18 clients and I was quite successful compared to many of the people I went to school with. Most of them never developed enough clients to pay off their school loans. (I paid off my education before I graduated so I started my business with NO DEBT)
I enjoyed it tremendously BUT, I was also the entire staff...no help...EVER! I did have to work several evenings per week and Saturdays. (I refused Sunday appts.)
My actual net after paying expenses was about $20/massage and then you get pay self employnent taxes!
I was also lucky enough to have Foiled Again to smack me in the head when I needed it. Thanks Big Sis! Quitting while I was ahead was a smart move...when the economy tanked I didn't try to keep things afloat out of our retirement funds or personal finances. Another great advice from SCORE...keeping personal and business finances SEPARATE.
Good luck with whatever you decide and start with a great plan,
Karen
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