Good salon owners build bustling businesses. Great ones build bustling businesses, then stretch themselves a little bit further.

Founded in 1998 by accomplished designers Donald Moore and Maria McCool, Calista Grand Salon & Spa charted new territory as one of the first full-service day spas in West Chester, Pennsylvania. McCool, a national educator and winner of dozens of national and international awards, and Moore, an entrepreneur who’s opened a total of eight salons in the region, designed a strong roster of services and keep their team up-to-date with an emphasis on advanced education.

Over the past few years, Moore and McCool have stretched their marketing muscle by developing a unique series of programs designed to target important niche markets.

GROWING PAINS The phase between childhood and adulthood is a gawky, angst-filled time of change, confusion and self-doubt. According to McCool and Moore, it’s also the prime time when a professional beauty” expert can make a huge impact on a future client’s life.

“The idea for a pre-teen/teen program was conceived three years ago as we began to realize that no one had taught most of our adult clients how to properly care for their hair, skin and nails,” says McCool. “But these same clients desired that professional advice for their children.”

That epiphany grew into Lifeshops, a multi-week program of services integrated with instruction. Held on Sunday nights when the salon and spa is closed, the Lifeshops expose a group of up to 10 girls, ages 12 to 18, to modern skin, nail and hair care and cosmetics application, as well as provide consulting advice on fashion, color, style and poise. The atmosphere is fun and social, and a one-to-three instructor-to-student ratio is maintained to keep teens comfortable.

“We don’t just perform the services, we teach them what to do at home,” says McCool. “For example, one night we’ll do facials, and they learn at-home skin care techniques. Another night, we’ll talk about make-up application, and a make-up artist wall do one side of the girls’ faces, allowing them to do the other. Another night, a modeling instructor will talk about style and poise and show the girls how to walk properly. The final session includes a photo shoot, providing proud parents with a beautiful image of their daughter’s new style.”

The sessions also turn the teens on to professional products as samples or product gifts accompany each session. The plan, of course, is to tempt these new, informed buyers on the entire lines.

To date, the programs have run four weeks for a total program price of $395, but the owners are considering expanding that to a six-week program for $500. “We’re planning on adding a graduation night, where each participant brings in her parents and displays her new style while performing some talent or reciting a poem,” adds McCool.


At Calista Grand, it’s not just the teens who enjoy an evolutionary experience. The owners also seized an opportunity to create an image-consulting business after they funded an interested stylist to attend the Fashion Institute in New York.

“When we became interested in the Image Consulting Association, we learned that most image consultants don’t do anything with hair and make-up,” explains McCool. “We thought it was natural to tie them together as a total package.”

Designed to help clients achieve the next level of confidence with their image, the Evolution program helps enhance the client’s total look, including hair, make-up, wardrobe and poise. The program starts with a 90-minute consultation priced at $300. During the consultation, an image consultant performs a skin evaluation, determines the client’s fashion personality, conducts a color analysis, reviews age-appropriate looks, assesses lifestyle needs, measures the client’s body head to toe, discusses closet organization and determines face shape, makeup palette and body type.

“Clients learn why they may be disappointed with their hair style, even though the classic look is perfectly executed, or why they continue to purchase clothing they never end up wearing,” says McCool. “Once they’ understand their true style, they are better equipped to make the right personal choices. As a result, they’ll have a new confidence in their total style and a closet foil of clothes they love.”

After the consultation, the Evolution program can be customized to individual client needs. The image consultant can conduct a closet analysis, eliminating pieces that don’t fit the client’s desired image and designing a “style punch list” that identifies what she needs to complement the remaining clothes and accessories. Then the style specialist can shop with the client and help her choose clothes appropriate in shape, coloring and style. For the consulting service, the salon charges up to $150 an hour.


The third targeted niche at Calista Grand is the bride and her bridal party. A brochure designed specifically for this program outlines the suggested three month preparation schedule, including pre-wedding hair and make-up sessions complete with Polaroids of each look, spa package suggestions for the bride, spa gift ideas for her attendants and wedding-day tips.

“Our brides are booked into October 2005, and we even have bookings in the spring of 2006,” reports Moore.

To smooth wedding-day hassles, Calista Grand has a hostess that handles the whole event, including catering and taking candid photos of the preparation festivities. One of the salon’s two private VIP rooms accommodates wedding parties. And a strict contract protects the salon by requesting a 50-percent deposit on services to reserve the wedding date.

“We know wedding parties can be difficult,” admits Moore. “But they’re also great marketing. While the wedding party itself may not be that lucrative, you’ll expose a number of people who’ve never set foot in your salon to your services, and you can end up rebooking many for additional services.”

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