Owner of Julia James, Art of Business Flagship Salon, Shares Tips for Opening a Business


Samantha Glunt, owner of Julia James Salon in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, is hiring employees faster than she can update her website. That’s because she doubled her square footage and styling stations six months after opening to keep up with the pace of her growing clientele. Revenue is strong, the client retention rate is enviable, and the team is motivated and enthused. We sat down with Samantha to get the step-by-step breakdown of how this Art of Business Flagship Salon hit the ground running.

Her career as a hairdresser started when she left college after more than a year of playing volleyball to enroll in the TONI&GUY Hairdressing Academy in Erie, Pennsylvania. Samantha began her career as a stylist with Stephen Szabo Salon in McMurray, where she honed her craft for six years, and then developed her style at Salon Richard in Bethel Park. As the idea of starting her own business was crystallizing, she became determined to think through what it meant to make a move from employee to entrepreneur. “I read books, went to classes, and met with other entrepreneurs. My husband and I worked and reworked the business plan. We listened to everyone who gave us feedback.” Even when banks turned them down for small business loans—which happened several times—they framed it as a learning experience. Ultimately, she was grateful to secure funding through a personal loan from her parents, documenting everything in a businesslike manner. “I am happy to make those monthly payments, with interest, because I want the business to be self-sustaining.”

Initially, the salon had six stylist stations in a space totaling 1,400 square feet, but Samantha saw the potential for a significant increase in service if she expanded the area. The retail space immediately next to the salon was not leased and had not been built out. “I kept asking people for advice. The consensus was to wait to expand, but my landlord and property manager were very supportive and gave me great business terms.” Her salon now has almost 3,000 square feet and 12 stylist stations. This expansion allowed Samantha to double her staff and client base. “With the expansion of our staff, we are now able to easily match a stylist’s skill set and approach to each client’s personality and preference.”

Product choice is one of the most critical considerations when opening a salon. Her favorite product line, as well as the color brand used in the salon, is Davines because its effortless style connects with clients, and its beliefs and values match those of the salon. “We have confidence in the quality, and we are thankful to have a business partner who is interested and invested in our success.” Now that Samantha expanded her salon, she has added Unite, Eufora, and Evo, as well as a brand new online ordering system connected to Art of Business where clients can order products directly from the salon’s website. “We are very, very happy with our product lines and this has been a key component for our growth.”

Samantha recruited her team by offering flexibility as to hours and days of work. Samantha also supports her team with education from Art of Business, one-on-one discussions, and regular all-team meetings. “First off, we typically hold the all-team meetings at one of several restaurants so that we can have a more casual and informal vibe. Second, more than anything else I want those meetings to be my opportunity to listen. I generally have a list of topics to cover—I throw out the topic and listen to what everyone else has to say. We are learning from each other.” Samantha and her team regularly write short notes on a “thankfulness” whiteboard as affirmations of the things in life for which they are most appreciative.

“Our clients are real people. They might walk in the door stressed out and unhappy, with so many things on their minds, whether that’s their spouses, kids, jobs, or health. We are here to relax, refresh, and recenter them. We help our clients love themselves again. That’s so important. We want every client to leave here feeling calm and confident and gorgeous!”

The stylists are generous with compliments, gratitude, and time spent with clients—and the salon has been generous in financial donations. Last year, they raised $5,000 for the South Hills Interfaith Movement (SHIM) and donated $5,000 to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 people were killed and seven more injured during a shooting in Pittsburgh last October. “Giving back is a big deal to me,” Samantha said. “That’s how I was raised, and that’s what we are going to do. Because it’s the right thing to do.”

It’s all a part of owning a business, and for a salon that’s taking off as quickly as Julia James, we have a feeling that Glunt has many years in store to make a difference in the lives of others.

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