What started out as a career in another creative field turned into a thriving salon business with multiple award-winning locations throughout Chicago. And the driven woman behind the bustling boutique-style beauty spots is as impressive as the salons themselves.
Laura Boton’s first love was music, so she set her sights on a career as a musician and studied vocal performance and piano at DePaul School of Music in her hometown of Chicago. While attending college, she was waiting tables at a diner where a good friend mentioned that they were making good money doing hair. Intrigued at the thought, Laura eventually decided that she’d give it a go.
“I wanted a job that was creative, flexible, and fulfilling. One that I could do while pursuing being a rock star,” said Laura. “Not long after, in the mid-‘80s, I enrolled at Pivot Point and discovered my second love - hair.”
In 1993, Laura opened her first Sine Qua Non salon location, starting with a 1,000-square-foot space. It housed six stations in an Old Chicago flat on Lincoln. It was a lovely little building that later inspired another salon location in Andersonville - one of the North Side's most popular neighborhoods. Today, after 25 years in business, this busy salon professional balances three locations, totaling 6,000-square-feet with 28 stylists and 27 chairs between them.
Steps away from the Paulina Brown Line Station, the Sine Qua Non Lakeview salon offers a warm, clean aesthetic, and relaxing ambiance. Its cozy atmosphere provides an urban sanctuary for locals and tourists alike. A significant accomplishment, this stylish location won an interior design award, being named Salon of the Year in 2009.
The quaint Andersonville location is nestled between other boutique-style businesses known for their one-of-a-kind appeal. Offering an intimate and relaxing ambiance, this chicly modern beauty spot is located on the bustling and vibrant Clark Street, the ideal location for any North Side resident.
The West Town location incorporates rustic and vintage modern elements influenced by the culture and ambiance of the West Town and Ukrainian Village neighborhoods. This chic urban haven, the newest of the three locations, opened in 2011 and was the winner of Salon Today’s 2011 and 2017 Salon of Distinction award.
When asked about the hurdles of balancing three busy salon locations, Laura quickly retorted, “There so many, but the top four, in my book, are building a culture, making a profit, managing hairstylists, and balancing clients while owning a salon. It’s a whole different job than being a stylist.”
Laura points out that keeping systems going smoothly through all locations takes a lot of caring and hard work, as well as consistent and diligent communication. In addition to weekly manager meetings and other discussions throughout the week, the front desk team uses communication logs in Gmail in which to enter any significant events throughout the day.
“We also meet in person with each stylist every week using our numbers from our salon software to coach and enhance the customer experience, and to help the stylist meet their goals. We are always in touch with each other during the workday,” Laura added. “We also focus on maintaining the energy and keeping the feel consistently on-brand at all three locations, which is no small task.”
Laura firmly believes in growth by humility and continued education. That’s why she and key members of her team attend various educational events throughout the year to create new systems to improve the company and work on areas that may need attention.
“Sine Qua Non are boutique salons housing only 8-10 stations at any salon, yet have they have the same overhead as bigger locations such as managers, front desk, etc., with the usual profit and loss concerns. This makes our margins smaller, however, we like the intimacy of smaller salons. It’s our brand,” Laura stated, continuing, “and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
When asked about what she considers to be her most significant accomplishment, Laura’s answer was celebrating 25 years as a salon owner. To have created an environment that has fostered lifelong friendships and relationships between stylists and their guests, and that has had a lasting impact on their lives.
And when not in the salon, Laura does manage to find the time to play in rock bands – her other love!
We asked this busy creative a few questions about what makes her tick, what inspires her, and any words of wisdom either learned or shared. Here’s what she had to say...
Salon Today: How would you describe yourself?
Laura: I think I am a good people person who builds trust and loyalty among my team. I am kind and generous, and I really care about everyone that creates a work home at Sine. As a stylist, I can do a pretty rad razor cut on long hair, and I cut a mean shag!
ST: To what do you attribute your success?
Laura: Being honest, nice, and being real.
ST: How has salon software helped you effectively run your business?
Laura: We use Rosy Salon Software, which has everything needed to run a smooth business. Their online cloud-based software, specifically Online Client Scheduling, is straightforward for customers to book. Also, I love the Product Reservations, the new graphs, and the eCommerce features. We are looking into being able to sell the lines we carry through there. I think in this age of digital shopping, a salon owner needs to compete by selling products online. It’s great that they added that. It’s the future.
ST: What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
Laura: In life, you have to face issues and have those difficult conversations. It is what allows real personal growth and long-lasting, meaningful relationships.
ST: Do you have a favorite artist, icon or mentor in this industry? If so, who and why?
Laura: Daniel Kaner from Oribe is a very inspiring man of great integrity and kindness. Also, Howard McLaren with R and Co has been an amazing mentor to me. He taught me a lot about photo shoots, razor cutting, and the industry in general. He is a creative genius that blows me away with all he has accomplished and created.
ST: Do you have a favorite saying or mantra?
Laura: Wherever you go, there you are!
Salon Today: What inspires you creatively?
Laura: Street people and street style, Chicago architecture, music, and everyone I work with.
Salon Today: What piece of advice can you offer for other new salon owners?
Laura: Be humble, get organized, and work hard.