Award Winning Business Does Beauty Best

Chatters Canada

Mr. Volk broke into the beauty industry at the end of his first year of college when he purchased a salon in downtown Red Deer, Alberta. He continued attending school part-time, taking as many business courses as he could over the next two years while he got his business up and running. Mr. Volk credits this education, business partner Ken Fisher and his parents for much of his chain’s current success, stating, “My classes certainly helped but a lot of what really gave me the foundation to propel the business were my parents, who were entrepreneurs.” This year, Chatters is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and is now one of the country’s most competitive salon Franchises.

Mr. Volk also took advantage of community-based professional development opportunities, enrolling in a twelve-week marketing program set up by the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce. Reflecting on the experience, he states, “This experience assisted in laying down some good solid building blocks that would help generate the propulsion of my business.” Partnering with Ken Fisher, who offers an off-setting skill set, was the major factor in propelling Chatters forward.

Mr. Fisher comments, “The most important link in growing the chain for me was bringing Jason Volk on board as a partner. It’s probably the best thing I did. Building success is about building a strong team. I recognized Jason’s abilities and needed someone like him on the team. Over the years we have consistently offset each other’s strengths and weaknesses, like a great partnership should.”

Turning Chatters into a multi-million dollar franchise, Mr. Volk has seen incredible transformations in the lives of the company’s franchisees. “When new franchisees come into this business and discover life changing success, I’d say that is most rewarding. Just seeing their success and watching them is really a thrill. I’ve been lucky enough to witness people starting from adversity with little foundation, and then growing to become millionaires. It’s just incredible to watch hairdressers go from ground zero to management, then owning their own franchise. ”

Canada’s climate can wreak severe havoc on hair follicles, skin and nails; the summer humidity is a killer for people with curly hair and sensitive skin. The diversity of hair, skin and nail care products from Chatters makes it easy to find something that will work well for everyone. Being in such a competitive industry, trends are changing daily. Some of the chain’s most popular products in North America include the Redken line with its many treatments and specialty products, along with the company’s own Kenneth Bernard brand with its specialty Flattening Iron. “It’s really fascinating to have developed this bestselling iron that is a number one seller out there right now in the entire chain. We have now added to that and have five products in that brand and have a whole new line coming out under that brand name,” shares Mr. Volk. Chatters is currently looking to promote Tommy Guns Original Barbershop products, currently in their development stages, with fifteen locations working on the building of the brand.

For potential employees with exemplary customer service skills, getting into the beauty industry can be quite rewarding, with many opportunities for lateral and upward momentum. Some new employees may start at the front of the house in Retail Sales and later work toward earning a Hairdressing Diploma. They can also take various administrative courses and work toward management and later ownership if they so desire. Prospective hairdressers can attend hairdressing school and then go through Chatters’ apprenticeship program to become a fully licensed hairdresser, or alternatively they can start the apprenticeship directly and take a shorter stint in school before becoming licensed.

Mr. Volk explains, “We are really working hard on bringing people up within the organization from, say, beauty associate, to assistant manager, manager to administration and human resources, all working toward higher level positions, making more money as executives as so on across the upper echelon.” Hiring and promoting from within is important at Chatters. Mr. Volk observes, “We are growing so quickly, but when we hire people from the outside – they might even come in at higher levels with experience from other companies – they almost never seem to work out quite as well as the people we organically grow from the ground up within our company.”

There are some prevalent misconceptions about the beauty industry, particularly that salon products are more expensive than what one might find at the drug store. Mr. Volk explains, “People often think that salon products are considerably more expensive, and some certainly are, but with Chatters, our whole goal is to provide a large selection of professional beauty products at prices that are very affordable and available in one litre bottles.” He adds, “in fact, if you shop at Chatters, we are very promotionally driven and have promotions all the time. When you are buying through the centre of the store, the prices are much lower than expected.”

Staying on top of changing trends is also key. Moroccanoil, for example, went from being an unknown to being one of the bestselling hair care products in the world in only a couple of years. Having just one successful product can help an entire brand explode off the shelves.

Chatters is also actively improving the environmental impact of its products. Aerosol hairspray always outsells its pump counterpart, but aerosol is more difficult to keep within environmental regulations. “Because of the new Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) rules, we have just recently developed a new Kenneth Bernard aerosol that complies with environmental standards and we really hope that this new product will be an aerosol that will be well received when it launches in July of this year,” Mr. Volk explains. “We are hoping that we hit it out the park with this one as the VOC levels have been significantly reduced to support a green approach.”

The company also does its best to make its operations as environmentally friendly as possible. “We try to take full advantage of recycling programs in every market. People can return their bottles and we recycle all our old flat irons and electrical appliances through our exchange program. The nonoperational ones are sent to a recycling depot and are stripped for parts and the ones that do work are donated to local charities and women’s shelters.” In addition to those services, Chatters also uses energy saving products such as LED lighting in its salons.

Chatters has little trouble maintaining strong relationships with its suppliers. Mr. Volk notes, “For the most part we are the largest retailer of professional hair products in the country of Canada so for that reason we are an important component in terms of top line sales for most manufacturers in our industry. They are as important to us as we are to them.” The company regularly meets with its suppliers, whether at each other’s respective offices, or at the massive industry trade show every July in Las Vegas. Many also attend Chatters’ annual conference in Red Deer, where they have the opportunity to make presentations to franchise owners, managers and stylists on the latest products and trends.

In 2006 and 2008, Chatters Canada won Global Salon Business Awards in Entrepreneurial Excellence as rated by Ernst and Young. This is quite an honour as it rates the company as one of the best in its industry in the entire world. Chatters can also boast a long standing commitment to the communities it serves. “Along with our involvement in our charities and service clubs we are always coming up with ways to stay ahead in this fast paced, undoubtedly competitive and growing industry; if we get recognition for that along the way, well that is just a bonus,” shares Mr. Volk.

Chatters uses a multi-pronged approach to build a strong foundation for business success. Location is a key component in that success; as Mr. Volk explains, “Chatters are always located in premium shopping centres close to major department stores for convenience.” Hiring and keeping strong staff is another factor, along with pricing and even the very layout of the salon. “It is so well laid out with beautiful imagery that it doesn’t actually look like a hair salon, but more like a fashion retailer. We then price things very competitively so we can compete with the mass market out there and do as well as we do.” It is proving to be a winning formula indeed.

August 21, 2017, 8:05 AM EDT

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