Strategies for Tackling the ST200

By Stacey Soble | 06/24/2011 12:28:18 PM


In my travels to different trade shows around the country this year, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss with owners their processes for tackling the new ST200 application. I’ve had owners tell me they divide up the categories and assign them to different teams in their salon. I’ve had others tell me they try to tackle a category each week. And, I’ve had others express that although the task is tedious, the application process is always a good exercise in self-examination.

In an effort to help all interested salons avoid the procrastination bug this year and make the August 30 deadline, I invited past honorees to share their top tips for completing the process. I asked them:

What is your strategy for filling out the SALON TODAY 200 application? How do you decide which categories to enter? Who gathers the information and who writes the essays? And what do you do to keep yourself on task?

"I work on the entire application on a day the salon is closed, so I can focus and spread out all the paperwork that I will send. I usually wait til the very last minute, but I always get it done! I play some groovy music, nibble on snacks, and try to convey our brand's strength through words and images. I find this to be the best process for me. I, of course, have all the necessary paperwork to complete my application ready to go before this creative writing process can begin, but I always have fun doing it. When picking categories, I try to view our company's strengths over the last year and the areas where we really improved and even surprised me on our growth. Some years, it's revenue, others it's customer service or retention. Like every successful biusiness, our growth pattern is an evolution, it's never stagnant. Before I send the application it, I re-read what I've written about 10 times out loud. Does it make sense? Does it show passion? Is it unique? Why would someone want to read it? If any of those responses are not straightforward, positive or authentic, then I re-evaluate and rewrite."—Jason Hall, Red 7 Salons in Evanston and Chicago, Illinois

"I create a new ST200 application folder as soon as I finish with the last application! It starts off empty, but as the new year progresses and we do events, receive accolades, try new marketing techniques or whatever...I drop a note in the file folder! This serves as a reminder of what might be ST200 worthy, and keeps me organized. Once the application is out, my partner and I look over the essay questions and agree on the topics we feel our company excels in. Next, I ask for employee input during our huddles. I encourage them to tell me what they love about our salon and what they feel sets us apart from others. I'll interview our key players, even ask our top guests what stood out for them as far as new services and systems in the past year. Then I write all the essays, so that they 'flow' from one to another in the same style. Next, I send copies of my draft around to our leadership team for edits and feedback. I also have an ST200 picture folder in my computer and add favorite photos as they show up. This gives me a jumpstart on finding fun images to share with the application."—Bonnie Conte, Avalon Salon and Day Spa, Deer Park, Illinois

"Filling out the essay portions of the SALON TODAY 200 application really makes you think of who you are, who you are for, and who you want to be. I keep an ST200 essay file on my desktop and reference it often when I am writing marketing pieces for anything from newspaper articles to beauty school fliers. I'm not sure filling out this application should be easy...I think it should take time and effort, beauty serious growth requires serious attention to your business."—Mary and Scott Randolph, Randolph's Salons, Clarkston and White Lake, Michigan

"I read through all the essay questions then delegate individual essays to my business partner and three of our managers. We brainstorm all of the essays first at our weekly managers' meeting to get everyone's input and take notes on what to include in the essays so we don't miss anything. The form and essays actually help us with our yearly planning that we do every October. We look at our strong points and our weak points and set up our goals and focus for the next year This January, I took a day off of work and read through the entire copy of the SALON TODAY 200 and took notes of what we are doing in comparison to the rest of the winners. And we used that information in our planning with our web designer. We just came up with our new website and are now just utilizing the new QR codes."—Tina Morschauser, Rejuvenation Spa, Madison, Wisconsin

"I have always written all the essays myself. I always finish the project exhausted, but satisfied that I did it and I learn so much from the experience. I look at it as a chance to take a really good look at where we are as a team, where we need strengthening, and where I need to focus as a leader." —Maggie DiFalco, Maggie Salon and Spa, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

"I have always kept a SALON TODAY 200 file on my computer. As we would do new marketing materials, photo shoots, or change or add a new salon system, I would drop the idea in the file to consider when I'm filling out the application. This helped keep me organized and I didn't have to go searching from computer to computer for the items I needed. When writing the essays, always go back to what I learned in English class. In school, we always had to make rough draft before our final writing projects and I have always approached the ST200 application the same way. I start by making an outline for each category/question. Then I begin writing the rough draft using Word and checking the grade level of the material as I go. (Love that feature!) I also use the Thesaurus when I find myself using the same words over and over. Once I have a rough draft, I hand it to employees and family members to critique for spelling errors, run-on sentences, and making sure it is understandable. Then I make my final copy and hand it out again. I gather my marketing materials, photos, etc. and put them all together in a binder to mail. I go through my checklst on the application and set up a FedEx pickup. They usually arrive at my house as I'm taping up the box!"—Rowena Yeager, Studio Wish Salon, Twinsburg, Ohio

"Headlines for Hair does ask a couple of our peeps to assist in the process of filling out the ST200 essays. And one of my stylists, April, does all the proofreading for me. First, I ask the team which categories they think we have been best in over the past year, and we talk about what we have done that is outstanding. They really take ownership and pride in the process, and when we are selected, it is 'their' win!"—Gayle Fulbright, Headlines for Hair, Encinitas, CA

"I begin the application the same way each year and that is by reviewing and updating my answers from the previous year. If I can submit the same answer for this year, then I know I need to work on that particular area, that I am not being innovative and changing as rapidly as I should in this fast-paced industry."—April Lynn Graffeo, Indra Salon and City Spa, Andover, Massachusetts

"Our management team sits down to decide what we feel are our three areas of strength, the we delegate responsibility for filling these out. While we'd love to submit for every category we pick three so as not to get overwhelmed. Then we schedule out 60 days in advance on the calendar to create deadlines so no one goes into panic mode. Then I have a new idea for this year. If we get selected for a category, then whoever did the legwork on the category will get rewarded."—Vito Mazza Jr., Vito Mazza Salon & Spa, Woodbridge, New Jersey






Stacey Soble Stacey Soble, Editor in Chief of Salon Today

Stacey has been involved in the conversation of salon business for 14 years—as a reporter, a consultant and as the Editor in Chief of SALON TODAY.

Read Stacey Soble's Blogs You can e-mail Stacey at


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