It’s Time You Knew Chelle Neff, the Founder of Award-Winning Urban Betty Salon
Introducing Chelle Neff
Chelle has shared some amazing wisdom with Beyond the Technique, and we can’t wait to pass it on to all of you! But first let’s start with the basics. Chelle Neff is the founder of the award-winning Urban Betty Salon in Austin, TX. (One look at their website or Instagram, and you can tell why!) Chelle and her team of professionals have numerous accolades, but most recently they made it into Salon Today’s Top 200 salons in an impressive five categories: growth, referral and retention, salon culture, inventory management, and technology!
So, how did Chelle build the Urban Betty brand that we know today? Chelle’s journey to salon powerhouse actually began in high school where she earned her cosmetology license. Fresh out of high school, Chelle moved from Abilene, TX to Austin, TX and started working at SuperCuts. Slowly but surely, she moved up the ladder—moving to a mall salon, then to a higher end salon, and finally becoming a booth renter. Chelle explains that through all these moves, she was building confidence in both her technical skills as well as her self-esteem, which ultimately gave her the confidence to open her own salon in 2005! After 10 years in various sectors of the industry, Chelle opened Urban Betty Salon when she was only 27. Despite starting at what many people consider the bottom rung of the salon industry, Chelle says that all of her experiences have made her an even more appreciative and empathetic salon owner—in fact, she doesn’t regret any of them!
Urban Betty Salon: Past to Present
When you see pictures of Urban Betty today, it’s hard to imagine the journey to get there, but Chelle explains that it wasn’t always easy. In fact, Chelle admits that her “ignorance was bliss.” If she had known how much time and money it would take to run a successful salon, she would have run in the opposite direction! (This seems to be shared sentiment among many of the guests we interview!)
In the beginning of Chelle’s entrepreneurial journey, she only wanted contractors but quickly learned that running a profitable business required hiring employees. So, she slowly started to transition from booth-renters to employees, and it all began with the hiring of one assistant. With just one assistant, Chelle learned that managing employees wasn’t as hard as she thought it would be (albeit with some help from Quickbooks). After a year working under Chelle, the assistant became a full time stylist, but as an employee instead of a contractor. Soon after this transition, Chelle was able to see that she made more money from employees than booth-renters and her vision for Urban Betty began to shift.
Accompanying this change in her business model, Chelle explains that she had to change her mindset as well. Instead of being relatively hands-off with her fellow coworkers, Chelle had to step into the role of being a boss. For Chelle, this meant having enough confidence and self-worth to be someone’s mentor and leader. Eventually, Chelle realized that mentoring young women was her true calling, and that sometimes the thing you fear the most is what you’re most meant to do. With some trial and error, Chelle grew her salon from a handful of contractors to 22 stylists, 5 assistants, and a full front desk and managerial staff! That’s what we consider a success story!
Of course, we were eager to ask Chelle for her top recommendations for salon owners to become girl bosses like her! Her first recommendation is structure. At Urban Betty Salon, Chelle decided to become a Summit Salon about three years ago, and it has been a game-changer for her team! By becoming a Summit Salon, her salon now has an established level system for stylists. Instead of telling everyone to figure out their own prices, give themselves raises, and work when they want, this level system provides structure and an opportunity for real growth. Stylists can plan out what their retention rates need to be, how much retail they have to sell, how many pre-bookings they need, how many days to work etc. to reach their goals. Some of you may be rolling your eyes because this sounds “corporate,” but Chelle insists that it works! If you want to be a successful business owner, you need to run a business.
Second, Chelle insists on hiring a consultant or business coach. A business coach can help you see gaps where you can’t. They will help you learn your numbers, determine how much to spend on hair color, what your cap for rent should be, look at cash flow, and so much more! Unsure of where to look for a business coach? Lucky for you, this is a service that we provide at Beyond the Technique, and we specialize in salon business coaching! Get started here!
Third, Chelle emphasizes maintaining a real connection with your staff. Even though Chelle is no longer behind the chair, she hasn’t stepped away from her business. The fun and easy way that Chelle maintains a connection to her team is by scheduling individual “coffee dates” with her stylists every other month. At these dates, Chelle doesn’t talk numbers, she just talks about life—everything from puppies to boyfriends. By maintaining a connection, you see your employees as real people instead of numbers. If someone on your team has a bad month, you don’t have to get upset at them if you know that their grandfather is sick; this gives you a better perspective on your team and your business.
Why Urban Betty Salon?
To wrap up our conversation with Chelle, we asked why their clients choose Urban Betty Salon over the competition—what is their unique selling proposition? Chelle credits their strong social presence as a major contributor to their success. Anytime Chelle has an opportunity to put their brand in front of people—she takes it! Whether that is advertising on Google, Facebook, and Yelp, or donating to a local charity, Chelle is all in! She insists that you need to remain relevant and “stay in people’s faces” to be successful. Also, they have a ton of great reviews which definitely helps drive business.
Chelle’s path towards bigger and better success is far from over. This year, she is working on opening a second location and has already agreed to share her progress with us, so stay tuned! One final quote that Chelle wants to leave our readers with is “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” She encourages everyone to keep doing little things everyday to work towards your goal; if you keep the forward momentum you will get there!
If you want to hear even more about Chelle’s journey, listen to Episode 77 of Beyond the Technique podcast. Then, share your thoughts on our private Facebook group! We can’t wait to hear from you!