Throughout her life, Piersten Gaines found it challenging to find a hairstylist to do her hair. While in Boston to attend Harvard Business School, Piersten found a stylist she loved at a blow dry bar. But when the stylist moved away, and she had a lousy experience replacing the stylist, Gaines realized she had a business opportunity: a styling bar designed to serve women with naturally textured hair.
Background in business
Gaines knew she needed to do market research and tested the concept that became Pressed Roots at pop-ups. She started in Boston, traveled to Atlanta, and tested in Dallas. The latter ended up being where she found the most significant potential market for her concept.
"A lot of customers in Dallas said they'd gone natural—which means they haven't been using chemicals for the last four to five years—and hadn't found a stylist in Dallas to straighten their hair or who could do a natural hairstyle," Gaines said. "Everyone who came in Dallas has been looking for styles for a few years. There was a gap in the market."
A soft grand opening, then a pandemic
Gaines continued to lay her groundwork by getting investors and doing her research, and in March 2020, she had her soft grand opening. "We had 400 people at the soft launch party," Gaines said. "And we didn't even promote it on our social media—word-of-mouth just got around."
The week after, she was forced to close by the COVID-19 pandemic. Gaines had to figure out how to engage potential customers who may not have had a chance to visit the salon yet.
To do this, Gaines and her staff turned to digital communication, focusing on social media and email. "We've asked our clients to submit questions," Gaines said. "We just started a new series called Hot off the Press, where we're starting to answer some of the most common questions on our social media channels."
The first episode focused on hair maintenance—a key topic for women with natural hair who have lost access to regular maintenance appointments due to the coronavirus.
"I'm getting ideas of things to talk about from questions that people are asking," Gaines said. "Nothing's off-limits. It's anything and everything haircare."
Walking into reopening—without walk-ins
The content worked—Pressed Roots kept stylists and clients engaged over the nearly two months that the salon was closed. And as the salon reopens, one thing is clear: the original business plan that allowed walk-in appointments was out.
"We used to do walk-ins, but now we're doing appointment-only because we're running out of modified capacity to maintain social distancing standards."
Gaines and her team needed to control capacity to ensure that the new cleaning protocols the salon needed to stay open could happen. From cleaning every station (including shampoo bowls and styling tools) to giving the staff time to sanitize their hands, there needed to be time to plan for appointment turnover. The solution was clear; they needed to require pre-booking for appointments.
That's where Gaines and Pressed Roots turned to Booker. With Booker, they could provide a link to their customers to pre-book appointments so that the team could focus on reopening the salon instead of scrolling through calendars or engaging in back-and-forth communication with clients.
"We're making sure that everyone stays safe and healthy from our customers to our Pressed Roots staff," Gaines said. "That's the real thing that we're focused on."