MICKI STIRSMAN Education at heart of growth Continued training is part of her biz plan Your face might be Micki Stirsman's canvas.
Instead of applying paint to paper or molding clay into sculpture Stirsman and her staff use their artistry to transform their clients' appearances. The Speedway native is owner of Salon 01, a business she started with a $10,000 contribution from her grandmother that has grown into a million d o l l a r- p l u s o p e r a t i o n with two locations-one in Fishers and a new location in Carmel's City Center.
Growing up, Stirsman watched her mother style hair but decided instead to pursue a marketing degree at IUPUI. In her sophomore year, her passion for an artistic career propelled her to leave the school and enroll at the former Speedway Beauty Academy.
"I wanted to do something more than just hair," Stirsman said. "I wanted to teach and be involved [in the industry] at a different level."
After graduating, Stirsman began working for Glemby Ltd., a European firm with salons throughout the world. Locally the salons were found in large department stores like L.S. Ayres & Co., William H. Block Co., and Lazarus. The chain was sold to Minneapolis-based Regis Corp. in 1990.
Stirsman eventually became an educator for Glemby, traveling regionally to learn new styling techniques, which were then taught to local hairdressers. In 1996, after 13 years with the company, she decided to go out on her own. Her husband, David, an attorney and real estate developer, found a salon for sale at 136th and Meridian streets in Carmel.
Over the years she has continued to expand Salon 01, opening a Fishers location at 101st Street and Allisonville Road in 2004. With each acquisition, Stirsman's client list has grown.
To accommodate that growth, Stirsman and her husband signed the lease on a 15,000 square-foot space in Carmel's downtown City Center, directly adjacent to the Monon Trail. The new shop opened Sept. 17.
The salon occupies 7,500 square-feet on the upper level, with ample space for her nearly 40 colorists, stylists and spa staff. Plans include using the lower level for e-commerce, parties and classes for clients.
Always the educator and student
Stirsman. 45, is a member of Intercoiffure, an international membership organization that boasts the leading salons and hairdressers in the world, including Frederic Fekkai, stylist to the stars, including A-list actress RenÃ©e Zellweger. Members must be salon owners, receive an invitation for membership and be sponsored by another member.
As a young salon owner, Stirsman was asked by Intercoiffure to participate on a panel of owners, and in 2002 she was one of 50 hairdressers selected for the Intercoiffure World Congress of Hair in Germany.
"The difference between our industry and some others is, when you get involved in a group like Intercoiffure, they are already the top 500 in the world," Stirsman explained. "You go to the meetings knowing that you'll talk to other hairdressers and salon owners about things that will change your business. You can ask questions and they freely offer advice."
Her willingness to ask questions and change directions, if needed, is one of the reasons why Salon 01 was named one of the 200 fastest-growing businesses by Salon Today magazine, a leading publication for the industry, in its January issue. The business was recognized in the $1 million to $2 million revenue category.
Stirsman says she wanted to create a salon where people actually enjoy coming to work-and education is the key to that.
"If my staff is treated right and they treat their clients right, then we will continue to have a successful salon."
Continuing education is a constant part of her business philosophy. "Education is not an option," Stirsman said. "I've been told by others that my salon is called the 'boot camp' and I'm OK with that. I don't want every hairdresser, I just want the best."
She expects new hairdressers to complete a rigorous apprenticeship before they're able to work independently.
"There are forms that are completed that show progress, their strengths and weaknesses. There are certain book requirements that they're tested on before they can move on to the next level. There are five levels [of stylists] here, and they truly earn those levels."
This extensive training isn't required by state regulations, Stirsman said, but being a successful hairdresser is more than just graduating with a foundation in the field.
"I truly didn't begin to learn until I graduated and found a company who wanted to not coach me but train me-there's a big difference," she said. She uses a sports analogy.
"It's like being on a basketball team," she said. "Once you make the team, a coach just barks out orders at you...but if you're going to be a better athlete you train every day. You're up at 4 a.m. working out, eating right and doing things to make your body better."
At Salon 01, Stirsman said, she teaches her staff life skills-proper etiquette and appearance and how to be better, more confident business people. Her staff receives 401(k) contributions, profit-sharing opportunities and additional perks, like paid time off between Christmas and New Year's Day-something rare in her industry.
Her client list includes Susan Brooks, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, who recently began a new career at Ivy Tech as senior vice president of work-force and economic development and general counsel. Brooks was Stirsman's first client, going back to her Speedway Beauty Academy days, and was a member of her bridal party.
"I followed Micki to a couple of salons until she opened her own salon in Carmel," Brooks said. "What I admire about Micki is not that she's internationally known but how she takes care of employees and her customers and uses her skills to benefit the community."
Two organizations that Stirsman supports are the Indiana Children's Wish Fund and the American Heart Association Indianapolis Chapter. She and her husband serve on the steering committee for the Children's Wish Fund, helping to raise thousands of dollars over the years to benefit children with life-threatening illnesses.
On Jan. 28, Salon 01 will offer $25 haircuts, with the proceeds benefiting the Heart Association's Go Red campaign. For the fourth straight year, Stirsman personally will match funds raised during the event.
The mother of two-daughter Shayne, 13, and son Clay, 6-has also learned as a business owner to reach out for support. Having a strong business plan in place and hiring the right business experts were critical.
"When I came to the conclusion that I couldn't manage, do hair, keep the guests happy and put a business together, I relented," she said. The pressure definitely was lifted.
"I didn't have to be good at everything," she said. "Like a mother, you don't have to do everything. You just need to be there when you're needed."