10 Steps to Profitable Sustainability for Your Salon

Kelley Swing, author, coach, distributor, member of Rolling Stone’s Cultural Council and owner of Head Case Salon in Keller, TX, shares her 10 must-dos on the way to sustainability.
Kelley Swing, author, coach, distributor, member of Rolling Stone’s Cultural Council and owner of Head Case Salon in Keller, TX, shares her 10 must-dos on the way to sustainability.

Kelley Swing is an author, coach, distributor, member of Rolling Stone’s Cultural Council and owner of Head Case Salon in Keller, TX. 

When Swing took a few months off from managing salons, her chronic sinusitis and autoimmune diseases went into remission. Even her hair loss stopped. So, when she opened Head Case Salon in 2016 in Keller, TS, she prioritized wellness, sustainability and went totally organic.

Since then she has built one of the strongest sustainable beauty businesses in the US, which includes her salon, a company distributing organic professional hair products, the all-new Sustainable Salon Summit held in Dallas, TX and a coaching firm to guide other salon owners keen to go sustainable. She is also the author of the best-selling $ustainable Salons Make Millions.

Here, she shares her 10 must-dos on the way to sustainability.

1. Be clear about what you want. 

It all starts with envisioning what success looks like to you, says Kelley. So, ask yourself, 'What do I want my company to stand for?' Once you get a clear vision, you can start putting goals in place. There has never been a better time to consider sustainability because green is the new black.

2. Do your research. 

Before launching any new branding, product or service, it’s essential to do your research. What have your clients been asking for and saying about sustainability? What are successful sustainable salons doing differently? Could they become your mentor? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How can you differentiate yourself in the market? You can avoid making costly mistakes by dedicating time to research.

3. Evaluate where you are, and brainstorm with your team. 

Take a long look at your current business and investigate what immediate changes you could make to move towards improving sustainability. Involve your team to allow greater insights and reach collective decisions. Developing goals and strategies together will strengthen team bonds while reinforcing the salon culture. Your team is the foundation of your company and, if involved in its development, will bring better outcomes.

4. Implement a recycling program. 

It’s likely the most immediate and easiest change is your waste and color management. Salon recyclers, Green Circle Salons, report that salons in the US and Canada dump more than 877lbs of waste every minute. I’ll repeat that – EVERY MINUTE – we dump 877lbs of waste. Meanwhile color management technology provider Vish has found that 15 million lbs. of color is wasted each year. Using tech to massively reduce color waste won’t just save the planet; it will save you money, too. You can then use some of that cash to invest in easy-to-reach recycling bins for various items or, even better, in a salon-specialist waste expert and appoint a team of champions to educate and lead others in how to properly recycle.

5. Build a strong team culture. 

Owners are often amazed at what a difference positioning your brand around sustainability does to improve salon culture. It also means you can’t settle for just anyone to fill empty chairs. Don't rush into hiring decisions. Investing time to find the right team members will always be worth it. To ensure long-term success, look beyond qualifications. Seek out people who truly understand what you stand for and are passionate about helping you achieve it. Surrounding yourself with individuals who share your vision will create an unstoppable force that will give you a reason to get up in the morning and keep going.

6. Focus on quality. Switch to eco-friendly products.

Buying into eco-friendly products is the most crucial step to becoming more sustainable. But, it isn't only about the products; it is about the company behind the products you choose. I partner with Sustain Beauty Co, which not only supplies sustainable products to the beauty industry but also runs Save Water Give Water, in partnership with The Thirst Project, aimed at improving access to clean water for more than 600 million people worldwide. So ask yourself, what does the company you link to stand for and what efforts are they making to better the environment? How are the products made? How do they support their clients? What are they giving back? As you strive for excellence and client satisfaction, so should any brand partners you choose to represent your values. Find the right partner for each aspect of your business who shares those same goals.

7. Preserve resources. 

Lowering overheads and reducing waste are two essential pillars of success that increase profitability and environmental sustainability. By incorporating small but significant changes in your business operations, you can significantly reduce your water, electricity and supply bills while cutting the amount of waste generated. For example, switching to ECOHEADS salon basin nozzles can cut water and energy usage by up to 65%, saving precious hot water and speeding up rinse times. Vish will slash color waste by as much as 40%, and LED light bulbs could save 80% on your electricity bills compared to traditional lights. Becoming paperless by emailing client receipts and moving marketing online will reduce your paper waste and printing costs. All are effective strategies that positively affect your business’s bottom line while contributing to environmental sustainability.

8. Be patient, don't quit and persevere. 

Your mindset is the most critical factor in creating a profitable business. Don’t expect instant wins. It takes time to settle into each change, so patience and consistent leadership is essential. Stay focused on your wins while taking small steps forward each day. Eventually, you will reach each goal.

9. Get certified. 

Complaints of greenwashing are on the rise, so clients are increasingly looking at certification. Maybe going B Corp is too big an ask, but there are other options such as: Green Circle Salons, Green America and Sustainable Salon Certification through Head Case Coaching. Certifications tell the world that you stand behind sustainability, but they don’t have to take just your word for it.

10. Lead the change. 

With recent studies showing that only 5% of plastics are recycled in the US, it’s more important than ever to understand the impact we can have through our choices. By opting for natural and organic products over synthetic ones, we encourage companies to invest in sustainable alternatives.

Likewise, by reducing our use of single-use plastics, we send a message that we value eco-friendly alternatives. The power we wield with our purchase choices is undeniable, and we should use it to shape the world into a more sustainable, equitable and responsible place. If you do work with a non-sustainable provider, keep asking what they are doing to reduce their impact on the planet. At the end of the day, our choices can truly make a difference in the world, and that’s something to take pride in.

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