Sense of family gives hair salon winning style

Studio nets nomination for international award

Small business

Howard Business

October 06, 2003|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Albert Clark never thought hairdressing would be his business. The Washington native had a passion for theater and a background in military service.

But nearly 30 years after opening the Victoria & Albert Hair Studio with his wife, Victoria, Clark has found success in helping the business grow in its Columbia location to serve more than 12,000 clients and train dozens of stylists.

The salon recently was nominated for an international honor from the Global Salon Business Awards.

The 40-employee operation has seen profits and revenue increase 7 percent to 9 percent annually, Clark said.

"We try to continually educate our staff, sending them to London, California, New York - the top academies in the city," he said. "We've successfully trained a lot of apprentices and many have stayed with us. They've become more of a family."

The awards program, which is scheduled to be held in London next year during the inaugural Global Salon Business Forum, was begun by Paula Kent Meehan. Meehan founded Redken Laboratories, a manufacturer of hair-care products.

"There are numerous awards recognizing creativity and design, but this is the first globally to recognize salon owners as business entrepreneurs," said Kristin Firrell, executive director of Beauty Awards Inc., which sponsors the program. "This is to draw attention of the financial and business community to the strength of the [salon] industry ... as a good career."

According to reports from investment bank CIBC World Markets and Greenbook, the salon industry has $135 billion in annual sales worldwide, with $54 billion in the United States. Globally, salons employ about 6 million hairdressers who serve 1.5 billion clients a year.

Twenty countries are participating in the awards event, but the countries will not compete against each other, Firrell said. A panel of international judges from the financial and salon industries will choose winners from the categories of independent and chain salons from each country for the Salon Entrepreneur of the Year.

So far, 600 nominations have been received from the United States, Firrell said.

This is not the first time Victoria & Albert has been recognized for its work. This year, the salon was nominated for the Howard County Chamber of Commerce's Entrepreneur of the Year award.

"We've become family," said Lisa Kirshenbaum of Columbia, a client for more than 13 years. "I always get good service if I need it."

"They make you comfortable. They make you a cup of coffee, and I can read the trashy magazines I don't get at home," said Norah Donnelly of Clarksville. "Then they have those chairs with the massage. It's relaxing."

"You can shape and mold [customers'] image of themselves," Clark said. "If you can alter that image, their perception of themselves, it alters their mindset. We feel we allow people to grow sometimes."

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