In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina hit, Neill Corporation’s Debra Neill Baker and Edwin Neill founded the Salon and Spa Relief Fund (SSRF), a non-profit organization, to help affected salons. Since then, the SSRF has helped owners and their employees rebuild their lives and businesses after a natural disaster or fire.
“After Katrina, we wanted to focus on getting salons up and running, and their biggest need was cash,” says Edwin Neill. “In recent years, we’ve activated SSRF for other natural disasters like the floods in Houston and wildfires in California.”
So what happens when the whole country is affected by a global pandemic—and everyone needs help?
Pivot and Persevere
During the months of mandated shut down, Neill Corporation conducted weekly calls and webinars to guide its network of salons through the application of loans, purchasing PPE, how to safely reopen and much more. But they knew salons still needed help. And they knew the SSRF could be a solution.
“Fundraising was more difficult though because salons were affected everywhere,” Edwin Neill says. “We only had about $25,000 left in the SSRF, and then Aveda donated an additional $600,000, which we were so grateful for.”
That donation, along with some smaller donations brought the SSRF up to $640,000.
“Ever since its inception in 2005, Aveda has partnered with the Salon and Spa Relief Fund through donations to help salons and stylists who have been impacted by natural disasters,” says April Anslinger, Aveda SVP and North American General Manager. “As a longtime partner, it was a natural fit for Aveda to partner with SSRF in a large way to help salons during this difficult time. Through aveda.com checkout and point donations, we plan to raise nearly $1 million in donations to SSRF.”
Aveda kickstarted its fundraising efforts with a direct $600K cash donation to the fund, and then encouraged consumers to join this effort with Aveda by:
- Making a donation when checking out on Aveda.com, which were donated directly to the SSRF.
- Redeeming their Aveda Loyalty Program Points by turning the points into dollars which were directly donated to the fund.
- Making a direct donation at salonandsparelieffund.org.
After a revamping of the SSRF website, those funds were ready to be given away in grant money to salons and spas on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Salons with revenues over $1 million were eligible for a $5,000 grant, and salons with revenues less than $1 million were eligible for a $2,500 grant.
SSRF received 2,085 applications, and in the first round, paid out 210 grants in the amount of $535,000. In the second round, 36 grants were awarded for a total of $105,000 and paid out in mid July.
“We focused on business grants for owners rather than individual grants this time so they owners could get their salons up and running and keep their employees,” Neill says. “We had four owners who actually gave their grants back when they received their PPP loan, which is so typical of our industry. It’s not all about the money. People care and want to help their fellow salon owners.”
Back to Business
In May, some salons began to reopen, and owners found themselves faced with extra PPE costs, social distancing measures which required new, longer hours, and new tech needs.
Deana Berg, owner of Moxie in Bozeman, Montana, shut down her business on March 19 and did a soft re-opening on May 1. She has already received her PPP loan, but hasn’t used it due to conflicting information from her bank.
“I’m trying not to touch my PPP until I know if it will be forgiven,” she says. “And the answers I get from my bank change weekly. I have some debt in my business and don’t want to go into more debt from the loan,” she adds.
Berg learned about the SSRF grant from her Aveda SDP, applied immediately, and received it in early July. Since re-opening, Moxie has been busy, and Berg says her clients are purchasing a lot of retail.
“We’re running out of our top sellers like Nutriplenish conditioner and Control Paste constantly—I can’t keep them on the shelf,” she says. But now she can. With her SSRF grant, Berg plans to stock up on inventory.
“We’re a tight community and people want to support small businesses,” she says. “They’re supporting Moxie with generous tipping and spending more on retail. And now I can keep up a robust inventory.”
Before March 22, 2020, business had been going well for Dorene Lindsay, owner of Salon Estetica in Riverview, Florida. The salon had just undergone a remodel, increasing chairs from 10 to 14 and Lindsay was looking forward to increasing her staff and productivity.
Shutting the doors to her business for two months was not in the plan. Lindsay applied for multiple loans, and then waited. And waited.
“The bank made me feel like we were at the bottom of their priority list,” she says. “I tried other banks and started to feel desperate.”
Through The Salon People, Lindsay learned about SSRF and applied. This time, the process was streamlined.
“I did most of it online, and just had to fax over some documentation,” she says. In the meantime, Lindsay finally received her PPP loan, giving her business much-needed relief.
“So when we received our SSRF grant, I felt guilty accepting the money,” she says. “I called to let them know we would give it back, but was told it wasn’t based on whether we got a PPP, and I should keep it.”
Lindsay decided to keep half the grant to help her with PPE expenses, and donate the other half back to the SSRF.
Lux Hair Bar in Lexington, Kentucky, was shut down for 10 weeks—March 14 – May 25. Owner Nikki Paley (with co-owner Justin Vaughn-Greer) quickly got her team on unemployment, shut down online booking and applied for a PPP loan.
“It was so confusing—even our CPA was having trouble keeping up with the changing rules,” she says. “Every day it was something new, but we did get our PPP, which we used to cover two months of payroll.”
Before she applied for the PPP, Paley went online and applied for an SSRF grant. “It was a simple process,” she says. In July, she learned she received the grant, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, since she recently broke her wrist and can’t work on clients.
“The salon has been busy since we re-opened,” she says. “We have extended hours and an extra day on the schedule, and everyone has been working hard.”
In fact, her staff’s hard work and positive attitudes during the shut down and the busy months that have followed inspired Paley’s use of her SSRF grant.
“Our initial reaction was to share it with the team and do a bonus payout,” she says. “We are stable and paying all our bills, but our team members have had unexpected costs, so hopefully this will help, as well as boost morale.
“We’re a close team, and they have all done so much—the cleaning alone has been much more work,” she adds.
Show Your Support
Berg, Lindsay and Paley are just three of hundreds of owners who received SSRF grants. Want to get involved? You can help rebuild the salon industry with a donation to the SSRF (click here to donate).
“I’ve been a salon owner for 17 years, and I believe Aveda really showed up during this pandemic,” Berg says. “It’s easy to feel disconnected to a huge corporation, but Aveda and the SSRF was there for me—and keep showing up.”
Anslinger says, “We are honored to have had the opportunity to partner with such a wonderful organization that’s truly making a positive impact on salons and spas. Aveda’s donation to and fundraising effort on behalf of the SSRF is one facet of our larger Aveda Cares program. We wanted to lessen the financial burden for salons as much as possible, which is why we created the Aveda Cares relief program, with initiatives such as the increased commission program, extended payment terms, and our contribution to the SSRF.”
This story was originally posted on AvedaMeansBusiness.com.
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