Salon Owner Talks Transitioning After Two Decades In Business

Saturday, May 8, 2021 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Audra Burrell, the owner of A’Salon Bizz, 1919 S Mannheim Rd. in Westchester, has over 25 years of experience in cosmetology. Burrell, 54, is now looking to move from behind the chair to behind the scenes of Hollywood sets.

I interviewed Burrell, a native of Maywood who lives in Bellwood, in February about her time as a salon owner in Westchester and her future plans. I also asked her what advice she’d give newly graduated cosmetologists.

Take me through the beginning of your salon ownership to now, as you look to transition?

Well, I decided to open up a salon 18 years ago. The first one was on Roosevelt Road in Westchester. I outgrew that spot and was looking to buy a building, but it wasn’t available at the time. So I looked to move to Oak Brook, but as I was looking I stumbled on this place. Someone emailed me that the salon was available, so I went over that day.

It was a lot of work. The buildout was expansive, but I saw the vision. I said, ‘OK, I can have at least seven stations.’ I also wanted an office and two additional rooms, as well, so I built those. One is a private room for hair extensions and the other one is the esthetician room, where we can also provide makeup service.

I’ve been here seven years and I am trying to do two more years here at this salon. I don’t want to necessarily retire, but I do want to get into the movie, fashion and film industries.

My son is currently in LA and he is a member of unions in Chicago and California. He works on projects in the industry and behind the scenes on movies.

What is some advice you would give to stylists who want to own a salon?

A question that I ask students is: ‘What do you want to do when you get out of beauty school?’ Most students tell me once they graduate they’re going to go home and do hair.

My next questions are: ‘How are you going to create a clientele while at home?’ ‘Who is going to see you in the basement?’ ‘Do you have a web page or a social media page?’ ‘How are you going to get that potential client?’ ‘If you are at home doing hair in the basement how are you going to get a stranger to come to your house?’

I tell students that are coming out of school to first go to a salon for a couple of years.  See what the salon has to offer you. This may not be what you want to do, but if it is I will suggest that you get a clientele first.

And if it just so happens that you have to go home, then that’s your alternative. But by all means when you’re in a salon setting it’s much more professional. For one, the traffic flow is a little different than in your home.

Secondly, you get to communicate and have a rapport with other stylists. If you have a question to ask, mind you, I know you can go to Google these days, but it’s nothing like having a real, live person talking to you while also seeing what the outcome is going to be.

Another thing is, know what it is that you want out of the business? When you’re trying to start a business, there are some guidelines you should understand pertaining to each town and industry.

For example, with the beauty business being so saturated you’re only supposed to have so many feet between you and another salon. Recently, I heard that a salon was opening less than 20 feet away from me, but I know that’s not possible because there’s a salon right next to them, literally.

In essence, although you may want a business, or a salon, you should be cognizant of the location. So, I’d advise people to make sure they are aware of the municipality that they are looking to have a brick-and-mortar in.

Make sure you go to the village and inquire and get all of the information that you need regarding your business and location before you decide on a location or sign a lease, because if you make the mistake of first signing the lease then you’re stuck.

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