Beauty Store Business

JUL 2017

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84 July 2017 | beautystorebusiness.com THE FIRST FORAY After graduating from college, Thurston landed his first corporate gig as an environmental litigation consultant in San Francisco. He worked there for eight years, but ultimately decided the indus- try just "wasn't his vibe." He explains, "It was left-brain, and I'm a very right-brain, creative, artistic person." In an effort to change fields, Thur- ston reconnected with an old family friend, Ted Nelson. At the time, there was only one other person in the world who owned more hair salons than Nel- son, Thurston says. Nelson wanted to launch a new hair product line and have Thurston follow in his empire-building footsteps. The result of this partnership became the brand Level6. Thurston admits that they "went crazy," releasing 21 different products ranging from shampoos and conditioners to styling aids. "I was learning everything by myself; it was all brand new to me," he says. He learned how to raise money to fund the company, find manufactur- ers, design packaging and sales by being thrown into the beauty industry—without prior experience. And the road to success was fraught with potholes. "Once you spend all this money to get your product together, now you've got to try to succeed at something that's most likely going to fail," Thurston says. "You have to go out and do samples, be told 'no' all the time and be on the road all the time. Those are some of the challenges that I faced early on, but as you can imag- ine, they served me very well when I created my company Pulp Riot. I had gone through it all before, but I learned by making mistakes and learning the hard way." After taking the brand across the country and working on Level6 for a decade, Thurston says the company plateaued. "I didn't see it going where I wanted it to go—and that's really what led me to open my salon, Butterfly Loft." WITH FLYING COLORS When Thurston traveled across the country for Level6, he had the oppor- tunity to visit thousands of salons and develop a rapport with countless own- ers and stylists. He caught a firsthand glimpse into what successful salons were doing right—and where they missed the mark. Thurston says this was invaluable when it came to opening his own salon, the Encino, California-based Butterfly Loft Salon & Spa, with his wife, Alexis Thurston, in 2010. Rather than creating relationships with stylists and never seeing them again while he was on the road, Thurston says the goal for Butterfly Loft was "to have a home base where I could create a fam- ily of artists, and through that develop long-lasting relationships and use it as a platform for something bigger." The Butterfly Loft Salon started with 25 hair stations, which Thurston thought was way too many at the time. But over a period of four years, and after four expan- sions, the salon has grown to house 70 hair stations. And there is a long waiting list of stylists who want to work at the salon when space becomes available. Social media was just beginning to become a vital marketing tool for busi- nesses when the salon first opened. "With Butterfly Loft, we realized there was a big social-media revolution happen- ing in the beauty industry," Thurston says. The Butterfly Loft Salon quickly gained a large online presence, and Thurston says he soon recognized that he and his styl- ists were the ones educating, inspiring and influencing the industry. "It used to be the product companies doing that. All of a sudden, overnight, it was us." Thurston noticed that other stylists in the industry were also becoming more influential than giant multi-million dollar corporations. "Early on I saw that and thought, 'What would it be like if we all joined forces?'" He hatched the idea for an educational team of high-powered stylists—something completely unheard of at the time. "None of them were clas- sically trained in hair … Rather than [one stylist] teaching for three hours, we thought maybe these stylists could each teach for 30 minutes. Butterfly Circus was born." Butterfly Circus holds educational events across North America, and typi- cally involves six to seven 30-minute demonstrations. So rather than hearing one instructor speak for hours, shorter sessions amounting to the same length of time as an average seminar offered a crash course at an accelerated pace. It didn't take much convincing to get styl- ists interested in attending. Thurston spread the word in 2014 by posting about it on Instagram, and in three seconds, it sold out. "That's why I called it a circus. [Instead of] this person over here on the tightrope and this one on the trapeze, for us it was this person teaching cut- ting, this person styling and this person IT'S EASY BEING GREEN Owner David Thurston talks about the importance of going green. The Butterfly Loft Salon in Encino, California, is well-known for being eco-friendly. Owners David and Alexis Thurston built it from the ground up. "We built it together, we got married inside the salon and it's a reflection of who we are," David says. The couple even created a custom exhaust system to eliminate fumes associated with various hair treatments. The stylists simply flip a switch over their individual station to activate it. The exhaust system is just one of the salon's eco-friendly elements, for which Butterfly Loft received a green certification and was named the World Model Salon by Proctor & Gamble in 2013. "My wife and I live very green lives; we're careful about our footprint," David says. "When opening the salon, it was really important for us to take those same values and introduce them to the artists and also to our clients. The salon … doesn't use as much water and electricity, has cleaner air, and we recycle." David Thurston Pulp RiotÕs slogan is ÒYou are the artist. Pulp Riot is the paint.Ó Courtesy of Pulp Riot

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