Lynne Baker RGN is the founder and owner of Calla Salon and also Calla Distribution. The businesses are based in Newbury, Berkshire, and the distribution business looks after brands such as Swissdermyl, Blinc, Cosmetic Lab, Magis and Novita.
Lynne has been well known in professional beauty circles for many years as an active and valuable contributor to industry forums and groups. It is her vast business experience and no-nonsense approach that has made her the perfect woman to kick off our brand new Salon Stars interview series.
Lynne has been in the beauty industry for eight years, and has run her distributor business alongside her salon for the last four. “I’d always wanted to be a beauty therapist, but my dad said ‘I didn’t pay thousands of pounds on your education just so you could paint toenails for a living’”, Lynne told me. “After a career in nursing, then in IT, I took the plunge and set up my own business. Best (and scariest) thing I ever did!”
Lynne’s experience in both business and beauty has made her a virtual mentor for many other therapists. As someone who knows what it takes to run a successful salon I just had to ask what she feels sets Calla Salon apart from the rest. “A mix of my nursing background, my thirst for knowledge, and the fear that I might not be good enough makes me work very hard to offer the best services and products on the market”, she told me.
“I’m honest, ethical, and good at my job, and I don’t just take every penny off my clients. I’m just as likely to refuse a treatment if it’s not right for my client.”
Every salon has its own secret to success, which is usually made up of a selection of well-chosen treatments. Lynne has found her Swissdermyl facials to be the treatment that is most in demand, which she puts down to her “skill at diagnosing skin issues, and the best products to treat them mean that I can guarantee an instant, visible and lasting improvement”.
It was partly her love of the Swissdermyl brand that led her to become a distributor herself. When the existing distributor could no longer continue, Lynne persuaded the brand to let her take on the mantle. “After a couple of years courting them they finally agreed!”
Now that she looks after the brand in the UK, her belief in the products and treatments seem to have grown. “My thing is skin. They call me ‘Lynne The Skin’ in the industry, and my passion is for products and treatments which improve the condition and health of the skin. I’m particularly delighted with the Dermapen treatment; it works beautifully alongside Swissdermyl in that it can provide a very dramatic improvement to kick start the journey to reflection perfection!”
Swissdermyl is a professional-only brand, and this is something that Lynne backs fiercely. This is not just for the success of the brand itself, but also for the success of all the salons who are her customers. She believes that salons should value professional exclusivity “enormously”.
“To put professional products online is churlish to the salons who got those brands to where they are”, states Lynne. “Salons don’t always realise that if they lost just one retail sale a day at a margin of £20 that works out at £5000 a year. Those salons should be harassing their suppliers to crack down on this.
“The general public do not know enough about what they should be buying, and the high levels of active ingredients in some of these products make them inappropriate for general sale. So many women have less than perfect skin because they choose what is fashionable and not what is best suited to their skin type. Salons are really doing themselves a disservice by going with a brand that is everywhere.”
So, we have heard all about Lynne’s impressive successes, but it can’t all have been plain sailing, can it? “Indian Head Massage really didn’t take off”, Lynne admits. “I felt that it was a wonderful treatment but there were very few takers. I don’t offer full body massage so perhaps people wanted that as well.”
Calla Salon has thrived for the best part of a decade because of Lynne’s ability to attract and retain clients. Lynne advises any salon looking for new clients to “know your target audience and be where they are”. She has found that an even mix of marketing and word-of-mouth are two of the biggest factors in promoting her business.
With all of this experience under her belt, would Lynne change anything if she had to do it all again? “I’m not entirely sure I’d change much”, Lynne told me. “I’ve maintained my principles and integrity and I am happy with that.”
The one thing that Lynne confesses that she might not repeat is booking a stand at a trade show. “The return on investment with a trade show is intangible, and there are better ways to get your message out there. The money would have been better spent on advertising.”
What’s next for Lynne and Calla? “World domination”, she jokes, although I wouldn’t bet against her!
As well as continuing to grow her existing business Lynne also dreams of setting up Calla Academy offering week-long in-depth training. “The value of education is that you can market yourself as a properly confident and expert facialist”, Lynne explains. “High standards of training help you to stand out in a crowded market place. Learning about skin, ingredients, the importance of the whole process of taking care of a client from attracting, assessing, treating and advising. Education is the key and it’s a huge one.”
For those salon owners looking to replicate Lynne’s success, what golden nugget of advice would she offer? “Don’t believe the hype”, she says. “Don’t buy into something because others did, be curious, ask difficult questions, don’t believe what you’re told. Do your research, don’t just jump. Pioneers get the arrows, settlers get the land.”
Listening to Lynne talk, it is no surprise that she is successful. Her passion for both her businesses and the industry as a whole is unrivalled and this is clear to see in everything that she does. She has been through her own ups and downs but her determination has seen her come through the other side stronger and better than ever before. She keeps her clients at the centre of her business and it is this which makes her both well-loved and prosperous in an age where customers are little more than just a number for many other larger brands.