In January, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang salon will be 10 years old. The Fishers, Indiana-based business came to be like many salons do, with a group of stylists who were unhappy in their current situation.
“We had approached our owner and talked about why we weren’t happy and the things we were willing to change and let go of,” says KKBB owner Tanya Foster.
But they weren’t able to come to an agreement, so Foster and five of her fellow stylists decided to move on—together.
“We had to make a move, but nobody in town wanted to hire six hairdressers,” she says.
Foster decided the only solution was to open her own salon. So each week, she and her co-workers would meet to talk about what the culture of the new company would be like.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang's co-owner Tanya Foster.
“I knew my role was going to change, going from friend to boss, but we agreed there would be no drama at the new salon, no negative talk and it would be a happy place,” she says.
And about 18 months later, they opened Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
There was one more key player to getting the new salon off the ground: Foster’s boyfriend, Michael “Cheez” Brown, a tour manager who works with Sublime, Dirty Heads and many other bands.
“He’s a business man first,” Foster says of Brown. “He feels hairdressers are no different than musicians and has taught me a lot about business.”
Brown guided Foster and her co-workers through the conversations with their former boss, and then helped her negotiate a killer deal when the women found a salon to buy. He agreed to help fund the new business, but only if it would be run the same way he ran his bands—with no drama and no negativity.
“We wanted to have one of the country’s top salons, so we planned to treat every day and every year like we were setting up an album or going on tour,” Foster says. “We are developing people—not girls behind the chair making money.”
Foster and Brown’s philosophy of making people better has guided them in all their decisions at the salon. “We run at a high standard, whether it’s in music or in the salons, and everyone loves doing business with us because of it,” she adds.
Bringing Vision to Life
Currently, KKBB has three locations—the original in Fishers, Indiana; a Carmel, Indiana, location, and one in Fullerton, California.
Foster spends three days in Fishers and three in Carmel. The Fullerton salon is co-owned by AJ Popoff, a musician friend of Foster’s and Brown’s.
“He owns other businesses, like tattoo parlors and restaurants, and approached Brown about opening a salon. He spent a week with us in Indiana, dove into our culture and decided it was the right fit.”
Co-owner of the Fullerton, California, KKBB location, A. Jay Popoff (shown with staff members), is also a member of the band Lit.
They spent a year looking for the right place to open the salon, and once they found it, the hard work began.
“Finding hairdressers is tough in California because we are one of the only commission salons in town,” Foster says. “But we bring in quality stylists who want to be there, and I provide them with everything they need to be successful, except for their physical tools, like shears.”
When they opened their Carmel location two years ago, Foster found a salon going out of business to purchase. “We bought the people in the salon, too,” she says. “The owners and all the hairdressers stayed, and we converted them to our culture and way of doing business.”
At KKBB, education reigns supreme. The salons shut down every week for two hours to do motivational, business or technical classes in addition to outside education. “Cheez also comes in once a month to do motivational classes,” Foster says.
As for compensating the staff, Foster says their plan is simple and straightforward. “Stylists are paid 50 percent commission if they are requested by clients and 40 percent if they are not requested,” she explains. “They get 10 percent for retail sales and have three levels of goals to aspire to.”
At the first level, they must prebook 70 percent, at the second level, 80 percent and 90 percent at the third level. “Our average hairdresser takes home $60-70,000 by their third year,” she says. “It’s because we’re teaching them to be entrepreneurs. Here, they learn presentation skills in addition to getting pop quizzes on products. We talk about empowering them to run the business because we want them to feel like they are building something.”
Four of the original six stylists still remain at KKBB, and Foster doesn’t make any new hires sign a contract. “If someone quits or gets fired, I give them their client list, but I also tell them I’m going after their clients,” Foster says.
Punk Rock Meets the Business of Hair
KKBB’s only form of paid marketing has been complimentary hair cut cards for first-time clients. Instead, marketing comes from visibility.
“In addition to a mentoring team, welcoming team and blow dry/style team, I also have a community service team,” she says. “We show them how to be a part of the community, how to get involved with the Chamber of Commerce.”
Foster invests a lot of time in teaching her stylists how to create business instead of relying on her to bring clients to them. It may seem intimidating, but she also has a waitlist of 14 people trying to get jobs at KKBB, despite a two-month hiring process that involves six unpaid job shadows.
Stylists are attracted to KKBB because of it’s no-drama environment, but also it’s punk-rock vibe—a culture that’s somewhat unique to the Midwest. “I tend to hire a lot of edgy looking people,” Foster says. “But with a clientele that ranges from toddlers to 90-year-old women, it’s super important to me that they are comfortable in their own skin, professional and willing to educate guests.”
Foster acknowledges the looks her ultra cool staff sport may not be for everyone, but they are great branding for the salon. “It’s only a small percentage of clients who actually get the crazy color or trendy cuts,” she says. “But the rest of our clients love to live vicariously through us.”
And while KKBB treats every client like a celebrity, sometimes real rock stars walk through the salon’s doors. “Some of the bands Cheez works with come in to get their hair done when they’re in town,” Foster says.
Bands like Lit, Sublime and Kid Rock have all spent time in KKBB. Recently, Guns N’ Roses’ Slash, a friend of Foster’s and Brown’s, stopped by when he was doing a show in Indiana. “He signed our wall and Tweeted about it,” Foster says. “If you don’t follow him on Twitter, you wouldn’t know though, as I don’t advertise our celeb clients.”
The Future Looks Bright
The KKBB Fishers location is on track to do $2 million at 25 percent net this year. And the Carmel location is starting to beat the Fishers numbers, much to Foster’s delight. She also keeps a close watch on KKBB’s west coast location.
“In Fullerton, everyone is assigned someone in the Indiana locations who they must call weekly and spend 15 minutes on the phone with to keep them on track with us,” she says. “This time next year they’ll be over $1 million.”
And she says it’s all due to the standards she and Brown hold their staff and their business to. “Cheez always says the Rolling Stones never lower standards, and neither do we,” she says.
The duo is passionate about making business an important part of the conversation in the salon industry—an area they feel is lacking. “The business side is missing so badly—especially on stage at shows,” Foster says. “It doesn’t make sense for me to get on stage unless I’m able to better someone’s life. I don’t want to waste people’s time. I want to make their numbers go up.”
So what’s next for Foster and Brown? “We have to do another location,” Foster says. “We’re starting to outgrow where we are.”
With a long list of stylists looking to work at KKBB, Foster should be on tour in a new location in no time.