Spokane salon owner does it her way, with assist from SBDC

Kelly Dawson, owner Salon Avant

Kelly Dawson, owner Salon Avant

SPOKANE, Wash.–There are plenty of places to get a haircut, if that’s all you want. But, after 25 years styling hair in other people’s salons, Kelly Dawson wanted to provide her clients with a more personalized experience. To do that, she said, she needed to open her own salon. Salon Avant is a 320-square-foot oasis at 1212 North Stevens, just north of downtown Spokane, where Dawson offers clients a full range of hair styling services. Clients can book their own appointments by going to her website, Salonavant.com, and clicking on the Book Now button. The online booking system also allows clients to leave reviews and since 2014 she’s receive more than 125 reviews and a five-star rating. “I wanted to create a tranquil, beautiful space where both women and men could feel completely relaxed and cared for,” she said. “I couldn’t find that kind of space so I had to create it.” In early 2012 Dawson attended a workshop for entrepreneurs sponsored by the Small Business Administration and then was referred to Tammy Everts, a certified business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The transition from leasing a chair in another salon to owning her own salon has been fairly smooth, Dawson said. Together she and Everts worked on a business plan, financial projections, marketing and inventory control. Perhaps the biggest difference between renting a chair and owning a salon is that Dawson had to negotiate her own lease and manage the build-out of the space. “Kelly loved the space,” Everts said, which was important because her vision for Salon Avant required finding a great location. But, Everts said, when business owners fall in love with a property it can blind them to potential complications or hidden costs in the lease. Together Everts and Dawson went through the lease line by line to make sure Dawson understood what was covered and what was not covered in the lease agreement. In the end, Dawson was able to negotiate a lease that she felt was fair and affordable for her fledgling business. “The SBDC and Tammy Everts has been instrumental in my success,” Dawson said. “Tammy took the time to really pay attention to the small details and had a understanding of what my business needed.” “With the expertise of the SBDC to help her build business systems that keep her finances in order, Dawson has more time and energy for what she enjoys—helping her clients feel good and look great. Salon Avant opened in March 2014, but Dawson has expanded her vision since then. She recently earned her certification as a yoga instructor and is making plans to open a yoga studio. As it is, she said, she brings the balance or centeredness of yoga into her salon. “It’s more than cutting hair,” she said. Listening to people and helping them present their best self to the world can be a transformative experience. “It’s empowering people to love themselves and enjoy their lives,” she said.