In his first month of business, Aaron Gillespie had a great problem. The Meyerland entrepreneur, who owns a Houston location of the national My Salon Suite franchise, essentially serves as a landlord for estheticians who own and operate their own independent businesses but lease salon space. Last January, Gillespie opened Houston’s first My Salon Suite in West University and quickly found his units at capacity.
“People were knocking down our doors to get in, and we were 100 percent full in that first month,” Gillespie said. “It became the problem of, ‘great, everyone’s in love with you—how do you meet the need?’”
The answer: Grow. This year, Gillespie did just that, doubling the West U flagship to 15,000 square feet and adding locations in Pasadena and The Woodlands with more to come in Katy and the Heights–all “A+ areas” to build in, Gillespie said.
Part of the appeal of My Salon Suite, Gillespie said, is its status as a one-stop-shop for anyone looking to get pampered. With 68 suites in West U post-expansion, customers can come in for a haircut and quickly spend the rest of the day discovering “every type of facial known to mankind,” nail salons, medical spas, massage therapists, waxing, microblading, and more.
“Everything else you could probably think of when it comes to beauty,” Gillespie said. “It’s all in here. Somebody does it.”
And for beauty professionals, he said, My Salon Suite affords the luxury of focusing solely on their craft.
“Every stylist wants to own a big shop, but you’re no longer a hairstylist—then, you’re a business owner,” Gillespie said. With that independence comes financial risk and the time-consuming, often stressful nature of the logistics of business ownership, from accounting to marketing. “That’s why a lot of our suite owners are former big salon owners that got sick of all that and just want to cut hair.”
Gillespie gladly assumes the managerial role, though he’s quick to clarify: “I’m not 68 peoples’ boss … I will never tell our stylists how to do hair, how to do makeup … but I can tell you all day long about marketing strategies; all that extra stuff.”
To help, though, Gillespie must believe in the businesses he represents, requiring in-person interviews before offering a lease to any salon. He’s even turned people away if they’re not the right fit: “This is more than me collecting a rent check,” he said.
“I love watching small businesses thrive, I love working on partnerships. Instead of, ‘how do I win,’ [it’s] ‘how do we win?’” Gillespie added. “People don’t realize how much is under one roof. It’s unbelievable.”