In a unique fireside chat, celebrity hairstylist and entrepreneur Kimberly Kimble talks with Colleen Taylor, American Express’ president of U.S. merchant services about shifting her business throughout the pandemic, offering her advice to owners and stylists as they rebuild.
Kimble has gained fame for her versatile styling skill seen in magazine and movies, serving as a TV personality and beauty authority, manufacturing her own product line, and owning a bustling full-service salon that caters to the entertainment industry’s top-billed performers, including Beyonce, Zendaya, Shakira and Rihanna, among others.
Yet no matter how full her books were and how much success she’s found in her career, the reality is that the pandemic impacted everyone—especially small-business owners. Extended lockdowns in the state of California, mixed with an unpredictable economy, pushed Kimble to reimagine the way she services her clientele, unlocking a digital revenue stream while building shop-small loyalty.
In the early days of lockdown, Kimble turned to e-commerce and virtual consultations, classes and digital services to remain nimble. And, she’s invested more time and effort into her retail beauty lines, including wet goods and hot tools.
“We had a lot of clients calling us wanting services which we couldn’t do, so we started a virtual consultation service where they could book me through an app and we’d charge a minimum fee to help advise them what to do with their hair.," Kimble says. "We developed color kits with instructions, and we retailed products and wigs to get them through the shutdown.”
Kimble had over 2,000 customers in her database when the salon shut down, and many of those clients would travel from outside Los Angeles to her salon. Kimble worked hard to reach out to them through her mailing list and social media to let them know what was going on with the salon.
Once the salon reopened, Kimble initiated all the recommended cleanliness protocols, but also made it easier for clients who wanted to stop using cash. “It was a great time for them to whip out that American Express—people were using their cards to pay for services, their tips and some in-home services we were doing,” Kimble says. “We also were only taking a few clients at a time and created private rooms so they would feel more comfortable in the salon.”
Kimble also created a whole new list of express services and hair styles that could be performed in less time, so clients weren’t sitting in the salon for so long.
In the meantime, recent data points to the excitement clients have about returning to the salon: “A recent American Express Trendex survey showed that 51% of adults surveyed say going back to their local salon regularly is one of the things they are most excited about,” Taylor shared. “And, 84% of adults survey say they will purchase a salon treatment in the next six months, and that’s awesome news and encouraging to the salon owners listening today,” Taylor shared.
As salons reopened not only did they struggle in getting their clients back, but many also lost staff. “We lost stylists during the pandemic and others aren’t ready to go back, so not only is it a good idea to offer incentives to encourage team members to return, but it's also important to reassure them of all the things you are doing to protect them as well,” Kimble says. “I’m also giving them ideas on new services to offer clients that can get them in and out faster and really managing that time.”
Taylor emphasized that American Express is a big supporter of small businesses and has stepped up over the last year to help them navigate the impacts of the pandemic through grant programs, educational resources and by launching the Stand for Small coalition that provides meaningful aid through services, offers, tools and expertise. The company also launched several programs through its Shop Small initiative aimed at encouraging consumers to support small businesses in their communities.
“I had a salon a couple years after I graduated beauty college and I think the salon business is one that will always be a one-on-one with a person that you have a relationship—in our salon we have so much fun working together and learning from each other and celebrating,” Kimble says. “Being a business owner—there’s a pride that comes with that—you’re so proud of what you’ve built. It’s so important to keep that and I’m so glad American Express is supporting that initiative—we need our salons to stay in business for our communities.”
Jump onto the complimentary webinar to find out what Kimble is planning next and how she’s envisioning a new beauty experience for the future.
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