Innovation Saskatchewan is responsible for implementing the province’s innovation priorities and helping grow Saskatchewan’s tech sector. Effective April 2022, this includes operation of the Innovation Place technology parks in Saskatoon and Regina.

SalonScale Centres Community Over Competition

Interview with Co-Founder and COO Kim Badiuk

SalonScale has been lauded for its ability to adapt and react during the pandemic, growing its business and supporting customers even as salons shut down in March. One of SalonScale's most impressive achievements is harnessing the power of social media and pivoting its online platforms to bring customers together and build strong community-based foundations.

SalonScale's success can be attributed to the entire team refocusing its mission and centring the salon community and the tenacious salon industry itself for never throwing in the towel, SalonScale Co-Founder and Chief of Operations (COO) Kim Badiuk told us.

We spoke with Badiuk about the resilience of the salon industry, the effects of the pandemic on SalonScale's business strategy and the importance of embracing social media as a tool for change. Read below for more!

Let’s start off with a bit about SalonScale. Tell us about the company and its mission.

Simply put, SalonScale is a software platform that helps hair salons globally make data-driven decisions in their businesses. How do we do this? Well, we are an application that allows hair stylists and owners to accurately track the cost of each bowl of hair colour to price out their services through a parts and labour pricing method, keep digital records of hair colour formulas and manage supply based on actual usage versus estimation.

What originally started as a solution to a problem SalonScale Co-Founder and CEO Alicia Soulier was having in her business here locally in Saskatoon, turned into a company-wide mission to develop and innovate technology that promotes sustainable economic growth with the salon community as a whole.

As we have evolved as a company, I would be lying if I said our mission didn’t evolve as well. We started out with the full intention of saving one single salon at a time, but we quickly learned that we had the ability to bridge gaps in industry-wide issues with technology and a promotion of business education.

Has that mission shifted since the pandemic? How has SalonScale adjusted during the pandemic?

When the pandemic first happened, we had a slight moment of feeling helpless. How were we to create sustainable growth in salons when they were being mandated to close?

What we underestimated in the moment was the resilience of an industry like the beauty industry, with a large group of individuals not willing to throw in the towel, but rather focused on building strong foundations within their business. Our entire team dialed in our mission and identified that we had a responsibility to our users and to our community to provide them with the tools to support them in coming back stronger and more successful than ever.

At the onset of the pandemic, SalonScale shifted its financial model and stopped collecting payments from clients until July 1, choosing to focus on building a community online and addressing clients’ needs through an engaging social media presence with original content like the webinar series #TogetherWeTalk. Why was this important?

The moment salons were mandated closed, we truly feared for our business. Were we going to come out on the other end of this? I remember Alicia calling me and saying to me “I have an idea, and you are going to think it’s a bit crazy.” It was at that moment that she let me and our other Co-Founder Tyler Gatehouse know that she wanted to waive all subscription payments to our 500+ customers. I briefly panicked -- how were we going to maintain our operations? But when you have a group that has such a passion for the industry it wasn’t hard for Alicia to convince our team that the salon community needed us to show up for them in a different way. When at our very core we are promoting profitability in salons, how could we be comfortable taking any profit out of a business that was needing to close its doors?

Without hesitation, we redirected our focus and asked the salon community how we could show up for them. What did they need from us and what could we provide to them that would be of value in this new landscape they were having to navigate?

It was time to centre our attention on community over competition and within one week we were able to reach out to thought leaders and influential people within the industry and create a weekly webinar series called #TogetherWeTalk that allowed open and honest conversations about what our community needed to do to rebound.

We really took that time to listen. It wasn’t about what we assumed the industry needed anymore, it was about listening to what they actually needed and then taking that to the drawing board and acting on it.

On Startupville, SalonScale CTO Tyler Gatehouse noted that SalonScale has released two completely overhauled apps with more salon-focused features and services during the pandemic. What do these look like and were these updates generated in part by the feedback from customers?

We are fortunate to have the product team at SalonScale that we do. It’s refreshing to have a group of individuals that have such a passion for really solving the problems of their users (we even had our development team spending time working on our customer success during this time!).

With each feature we released during this overhaul, we asked ourselves if it is going to really be of value to the user. In other words, is this a “nice to have” for them, or is this a “need to have” to get them back up and running smoothly when they have the green light to do so.

We overhauled features like “suggested orders,” which allows salon owners to keep better track of what product needs to be re-ordered based on usage. We added in features like a “remix” button, which would save stylists time by auto-populating formulas from past appointments. We really wanted to provide a product that was easy -- they are navigating enough new changes that if we could simplify the technology and give them time back to focus on what they love to do, then that was a win for us.

SalonScale continues to be incredibly innovative on social media, now shifting towards an emphasis on having a strong business plan through its #SalonScaleMovement. What is the #SalonScaleMovement and why is it important that SalonScale has this holistic approach?

It’s been long overdue that salons are taken seriously as profitable and sustainable businesses. The #SalonScaleMovement is empowering those individuals to see themselves as successful business owners, as business-savvy entrepreneurs, as leaders to the next generation of career stylists.

It’s providing the business education and tools to stylists and salon owners to help them use data to make objective decisions in their businesses. It’s creating transparency about all that goes into running a successful salon.

Lastly, it’s about coming together as a community, and allowing professionals to know they have support and resources in navigating this new economic landscape in the beauty industry.

Have you seen a shift in how your clients conduct business?

We saw the impact SalonScale had on businesses and how once they were able to spend time working “on” the business versus strictly just “in” the business, they were able to set the foundations that were going to allow them to not only sustain, but grow their business. When salons historically have an 8/10 failure rate within their first three years, it is time we change that narrative.

SalonScale has noted that streamlining efforts and doubling down on a commitment to customers helped it survive and grow during the pandemic. Now that the company is out of the initial pandemic-mode, what does the future hold for SalonScale during and post-pandemic?

We are certainly very cognizant that we aren’t out of the pandemic yet -- with a large portion of our customers in the United States, and specifically in California, we know that there are some obstacles we as the beauty industry are still going to need to manoeuvre. That being said, at SalonScale, we are looking forward to innovating solutions for both old and new inefficiencies.

Without spilling too many beans, one of the positives of the pandemic was the ability to build new relationships from the comfort of our home offices (or kitchen tables…). While we are continuing to build solutions for stylists and salon owners, we have also developed new solutions to optimize the supply chain at a larger scale (no pun intended). Within the last two months, we have added eight new SalonScale team members that are consistently pushing the needle and we are looking forward to maintaining this momentum.

SalonScale offers a mobile app that measures the exact quantity and cost of hair colour, a technology solution that improves the financial well-being of salons. A graduate of Co.Labs, Saskatchewan’s first technology incubator, SalonScale is a tenant at Innovation Place in Saskatoon.

Learn more about SalonScale in their Meet the Tenants profile.

Subscribe to the Scene newsletter for the latest information on Innovation Place and our tenants.

- September 18, 2020