When you “just can’t with this” any more. 
A recent poll in California Estheticians • Estheticians Advocacy asked members what was the “thing”, that “final push” that helped you go solo. The number one response was “I just can’t work for these people any more.” Sometimes employment issues make it challenging for you and your salon owner to come to an amicable agreement. Often it’s just not the culture that fits with your personal brand and what you see as your future vision. And then, there’s the money….because you can make so much more on your own, right? Stepping out on your own takes moxie to make it happen as it will challenge you in ways you may not have encountered before. This can be a positive, life changing, growth-filled move, so let’s start you out on the right foot.

Going from #girlboss to actually being the boss.
Many of us are easily distracted by the next big industry trend that we’ll want to drop a couple thousand bucks on and end stashed in a closet after six months. Mentors have seen that, perhaps done that and know not to do that again. They will happily, and factually, tell you not to waste your precious time and money. It’s people like these that inspire and guide you into making the right decisions, call you out when you’re missing the point and pick you up and tell you to get back to work. Find a good mentor that won’t be unicorns and rainbows with you, because now’s the time to be the real boss now and start your future.

When you’re on the hunt for a mentor, think outside the treatment room. Mentors don’t necessarily need to be in the beauty industry. Consider reaching out to a realtor with excellent networking skills, a CPA if managing the books and the business side of your new establishment is especially challenging to you, or even a franchise business owner if you dream of going big one day. But remember this: it’s your job prove that you are worth their time, not the other way around. Approach a potential mentor with specific expectations of the role you want them to play in your new venture. Schedule set meeting times to discuss timelines for setting goals, tracking your progress and problem solving business hurdles. Be punctual and especially grateful that they make the time for you.

Look for mentors at beauty industry events, community networking groups and professional business organizations. Check out your local chapters of the American Business Women’s Association (, Small Business Development Centers ( and the Small Business Administration ( are a few places to start. Wandering out of the treatment room and into a room of business-casual dressed MBAs may be stepping out of your comfort zone, but it is essential to your success because now you are a business owner, too.  

Planning: a one page business plan is more than many start out with. 
Your sheets have been folded in fourths, not thirds. Again. The label maker is missing and there’s no parking in this neighborhood that’s totally not-your-client-base for your 2pm appointment. Rather than raging in an esthetician forum to a sea of similarly frustrated peers, set your pen to paper and make a plan. A business plan can be long and complicated with financials and analysis or it can be directed and concise; the exact document that you need to make your solopreneur future happen.

If you’re really going to do this….and do this right, you need to see “it” in writing: your customer profile and how to find it, products and services you’ll offer, basic start up expenses and budget and most importantly, the legalities, insurances and location for opening your dream. Unless you’re approaching a financial institution and seeking formal funding, a one page business plan is something you can go back into to correct, expand and clarify your vision, mission, objectives and strategies. Skipping this simple step will cost you time and money that you won’t get back.

Finding you and finding yours.
If you love all things sparkly and pink, find your sparkly pink tribe. If you are a makeup glamour girl, find your glam-squad gals. And if all you can talk about is your next triathlon, attract like minded people. These are the people that will be with you and your business in good times and bad. If you really despise waxing, even though the money may be in it for someone else, that’s their favorite thing to do, but it’s not yours. Hone in on your niche and what you do best, because after all, you’ll be doing it a long time. Remember; you chose to step out and make your dreams happen; follow your passion and your people will follow you.

The process of any startup is overwhelming, so stay directed and focused. There is no need for you to create a vast menu with 57 different facials, 3 kinds of hair removal, body scrubs and wraps, microblading that you’ve always wanted to try, makeup princess parties, lash extensions and more just to see what sticks. What sticks with clients is becoming the go-to-brow artist in your town, if that is what you dream about at night. Your dream niche will help you narrow your back bar and retail choices, allowing you to start with exactly what you need and takes away the temptation to over commit to products, gadgets and services that you don’t need right now. With feedback from your repeat clients, you’ll know how to move forward when your developing budget allows or client demand shows you the way.

Can I do that? There?
Knowing your scope of practice is crucial to your future. Our US Constitution allows us States’ Rights, and more specifically with regard to the beauty industry, what is legally within scope of your license varies state-by-state. While many exclaim in frustration that they “can’t do anything here”, step back and remember: technology and ingredient development moves faster than statute, so plan accordingly.

Before you sink your hard-earned tip stash on this startup-expedition, know your scope of practice and the laws and regulations that you are held to on a state, county and city level. Equipment manufacturers and product suppliers are selling their wares to practitioners of all kinds domestically and internationally and should not be the go-to for knowing if your next investment is regionally legal and within the scope of your particular practice. Use the resources available to you from your liability insurance carriers, your state’s Board of Barbering and Cosmetology website, Environmental Health Departments and the other governing agencies BEFORE you sign any lease or commit to any supplier. 

Can you have body wraps in the same treatment room that you are doing facials in? Does your county allow for esthetics and permanent makeup services to be done in the same room or do they each need their own rooms that are set up differently? Do you, personally, have the right licensing and insurance coverage for the services you are going to provide? When you run a more focused startup business, not only do you prefect your skills and attract your ideal clients, but you also simplify the need for extra licensing, additional construction build outs and superfluous things that will get in the way of your immediate goal of being a successful solopreneur. 


“Bustling with energy” is what comes to mind when one thinks of a salon environment. It’s a social culture with music, chat, art and vibrant energy all under one roof. Salon startups are great for those who thrive on this kind of hustle and bustle. Depending on location, walk-in clientele is one way of building your book of business along with face-to-face marketing with the stylists’ already loyal customers. Some of these clients have been dying for a one-stop-shop to take care of all of their beauty needs, if they don’t already have a go-to gal. If you and your tribe that will follow you are fun and filled with spirit, this may be the right location to consider. 

Along side all of this fun and bursting at the seams energy comes noise, often the thumping of both music and shampoo bowls right on the other side of your wall. Level 4 reiki treatments and Tibetan Singing Bowl relaxation gurus may not be so happy with this type of cultural interaction and need a more chill vibe. While the temptation of an established clientele may seem like a good idea, is this the client base that you are looking for? 

Shared Room
Not sure you’re going to be able to make the rent, just starting out? Some times just a couple days a week is right for you. Shared rooms can be found in quiet spas and trendy salons so its easy to find the right energy level for your and yours. Whether you are starting up with someone you know well or someone new to you, be sure to set up, in writing, an agreement of all of your terms for using the room before you open your doors. This includes the equipment, backbar and supplies, operational hours, changing decor, services offered and much more. Remember; if inspected, you both may be responsible for any violations found.  

Salon Suite
Ah, your own little establishment with the feeling of a social salon and the ability to close your door for a bit of privacy. Some times quiet, but often not, salon suites can be a great solution for those starting their solo career with a steady stream of regular clients and a want to network with other stylists and make more. Salon suite franchise owners are looking for a good fit for their culture and often have appealing gradual rent increase programs to get you started. Part social, part private, these little cubby holes are considered their own “establishments” so be sure to obtain proper licensing and permits. If you are considering offering esthetic and permanent makeup services, you may or may not be able to perform them in the same room, so check with the respective governing agency for any conflicts before you sign that lease.

Who doesn’t want an awesome esty to come to their home or office and save them some time? On-demand apps are hot right now and allow you and your clients a ton of flexibility with the bonus of no rent due at the end of the month! With some savvy packing skills and portable equipment, you can be on the road with your new business venture quickly. Be smart and check the legality of providing treatments outside of a brick and mortar establishment in your state, what services you can legally provide, procure proper insurance coverage and know what city licenses you’ll need.

You have the perfect casita just waiting for you, right in your back yard. It’s quiet, private, has the plumbing you need and it’s all yours. But before you start decorating, check with your city and county laws for zoning issues that may prohibit you from doing business in a residential zone and give your home owners insurance a call to make sure you are covered. Residential spas are subject to the same laws and regulations as any licensed establishment, assuring safety and access for all clients. 

Wendy Jacobs, founder of California Aesthetic Alliance and California Estheticians • Esthetician Advocacy, helps California Licensed Estheticians and other beauty professionals navigate the misunderstood rules and regulations that oversee our businesses. 


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Wendy Jacobs