Partnering with a charity to host an event not only raises money for a good cause, it can generate some goodwill, welcome publicity and new clients for your business. In this first in a series of Q&A blogs, I help an eager young stylist plan his first philanthropic event.

Dear Karie,

I am a stylist with Fiesta Salons, which is located in Mansfield, Ohio, about an hour north of Columbus. Mansfield is a small city for a creative stylist—there's not a lot of room for change or inspiration. I am part of a staff of eight stylists. We are a young staff—ranging in ages from 18 to 26. We are always striving for excellence and aspiring to be better stylists. I was speaking with my manager and we were trying to come up with a way to create some excitement over a charity organization and involve our salon. We thought we would choose a charity and have a runway show with lights, DJ/MC, models, valet parking, etc. Our biggest problem is getting the ball rolling. I want the team excited, so any help would be greatly appreciated.--Heath Cordas, Fiesta Salons

Dear Heath,

First of all, let me say that your enthusiasm is very inspiring. As a salon owner, it's wonderful to have a cheerleader in the salon who is interested in generating excitement and creativity. 

No matter the size of your salon or your community, there is an event at every level. If this is your first event, consider starting small, getting your feet wet, seeing the response, and measuring the success of the event. You'll have the chance to learn from the first one, and your salon will start to be recognized as the one with the cool ideas!

The first step would be to identify the charity with which you'd like to partner. You might request a meeting with them, and they might have some ideas already. Next, choose a date for the event. Give yourself 4-6 months to plan. If it's a holiday event, you'll already know that it's an indoor function. A summer soiree might be fun outside, and that will direct you towards a specific theme. Bonus: If it's a daytime event, you won't have to worry about lighting, just provide shade, and maybe a local spa will donate sample-sized sunscreen!

Next, how will you pay for your expenses? Would your vendors all donate services in exchange for promotion to the guest list?

Speaking of guest list, how many people are you going to invite? Who would these people be—the 18-26 age group of your staff or everyone in the community? Think about what kind of a show would appeal to your audience. High fashion, trendy or contemporary fashion for all ages? How much space will you need? Again, that will direct you toward a venue and a theme.

If it's an outdoor runway show, who will your models be? Is there an agency in your town, or would it be more popular to use local celebrities or even members of the city council or the local high school? Where will you get the clothing? How much would you charge for admission? Would local businesses donate little goodies, like coupons, for a swag bag that each attendee could be given?

Finally, I see that your salon is part of a national chain. I would recommend speaking to the corporate office to see if there is any co-op for charitable outreach. They may have some resource funds that you can hand out, like product samples. Keep your out-of-pocket costs down, since you'll need to recover expenses from what you collect, and give the rest to the charity. Your team will be donating their time too.

You mention that your city is small, and you feel that there's not a lot of room for inspiration or change. You know, the Indian philosopher, Mahatma Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world."  You have taken the first step in making it happen—just thinking about it and inspiring others to do the same.

Thank you for reaching out and giving me the opportunity to be of help.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Award-winning salon owner Karie Bennett takes on SALON TODAY reader's most pressing questions in the new blog series, "Owner's Forum." In this first blog installment, Karie helps a motivated stylist develop his salon's first philanthropic event. Click here if you'd like to send a question to Karie, and she'll share her response with you and our readers.)