I think it is safe to say we have all had those moments when we have thought of an idea for a business or new product that would make life better or easier, but taking an idea and turning it into an actual business is a whole other story. It takes guts, vision, and a lot of hard work. This is exactly what Jen Rinehart and Heidi Gregory have done with Prep, a hair studio located on Sacramento Street that caters to children of all ages with a focus on teens and tweens — those in between a child and teen.
HOW IT STARTED
Gregory worked in advertising for 15 years before taking some time off to raise her two children. Rinehart worked in technology sales before taking nine years off to be “CEO” of her family. They met when their kids were in preschool and became fast friends. One day, after all their kids were in elementary school, the women met for coffee and were sharing frustration over their kids’ haircuts. Their children didn’t like going to a “baby” place, but it didn’t work to take them to an adult salon either. Realizing there was no place for the “in between” age group to get a good haircut, the women decided to open their own, and viola, the idea for Prep was born. Neither have a background in cosmetology, so before jumping in, Gregory said, “We did so much research. We were not going to just jump in — we wanted it to make sure it was going to be a viable successful business.” Two years later, Prep opened its doors, and they haven’t stopped cutting since.
MAKING IT WORK
Both Gregory and Rinehart will be first to tell you that their secret for making it work lies in their partnership. They are both at the salon most days, and alternate Saturdays and school vacations. Often they can be found bouncing ideas off one another, chatting with customers, and building rapport with their stylists. A work-life balance for both is extremely important. “The timing was right — our kids are now all in school a full day — so we work while they are in school,” says Rinehart. It was also important to both women that the business be a place where their kids felt welcome. The salon is walking distance from their schools, so they are often there after school helping make popcorn, showing someone a new game on the iPad, or doing homework. For Gregory, “I am happy that our kids saw that we had an idea and followed through with it. They were able to see the business unfold, and it is something they can participate in.”
NOT YOUR AVERAGE KIDS’ SALON
You don’t have to go far beyond the front door to understand that Prep is not an “in and out” kind of place. As Rinehart says, “You come here for the experience.” That experience starts with a friendly greeting and then a wash, cut, and blow-dry all while munching on healthful organic snacks with an iPad in your lap. For the older customers who may have their own cell phone or Internet access, they are able to make appointments online and choose their stylist, which Rinehart says creates a wonderful sense of independence. All of the art on the walls is from local middle and high school students and is chosen on a rotating basis. One of Gregory and Rinehart’s biggest priorities is hiring stylists who are able to work well with kids. Their stylists are continually undergoing training and are expected to keep up with the latest trends and styles, which is a major task. “Those tween/teen years may be a bit awkward, but it doesn’t mean you have to have bad hair, [so] we want them to feel good on the outside as well as the inside,” says Gregory.
Another area they have focused on is products, which is big business for this age group. According to the Global Association for Marketing at Retail, tweens are responsible for spending over $200 billion on products and services a year. After realizing that many hair products catered to babies and young children and most of the adult products were full of harsh chemicals, Gregory and Rinehart decided to create their own line that includes shampoo, conditioners, detangler, and hair spray. One of their popular products for boys is a pomade that Gregory and Rinehart say even their husbands swear by.
Prep has been open a little over two years and has clients that come regularly from all over the city and Marin. For Rinehart and Gregory, the most exciting part has been seeing their vision become a reality. But these mom-preneurs aren’t slowing down — they are focused on growing their product sales nationally and are hoping to franchise in the coming year.
Prep: 3235 Sacramento Street (near Lyon), 415-763-7737, www.prepcuts.com