Seeking to provide cutting-edge services in the cosmetology industry, Richard and Connie Ouelette moved from Newport Beach in 1987 to open a hair salon in what was known then as North County Fair. While Richard had already created a name for himself as a hair stylist in Orange County, he wasn’t sure how he would be perceived in Escondido. It turns out he didn’t have to worry.
The couple now operates four locations of Collections Salons & Day Spas and three Angles Salons. They also employ over 140 employees at Angles Beauty Care Group Inc. and manufacture beauty salon equipment sold under the name HAIelite in an 8,000-square-foot building they own in Poway.
Not bad for a hairdresser who wasn’t sure if he could cut it in San Diego.
Hair, Art and Information has received many accolades, and the HAI Fine Ceramic Styling Tools have recently been featured in Vogue, InStyle, Lucky, Glamour, Elle, Allure, Redbook, Hype Hair, Modern Bride and numerous other publications.
“My uncles and grandfather were barbers,” said Richard. “I’m sure they could never have comprehended our growth.”
The Ouelettes may have doubted their ability to make it big in San Diego, but Bank of America’s (NYSE: BAC) Senior Vice President Susan Couch and Vice President Patricia King were optimistic.
“They applied for their first loan, a 7a loan in 1987 and then a 504 real estate loan, totaling four loans over the years,” said Patricia King. “It’s been a real win-win situation and we’ve been very happy to assist them in their success.”
The SBA’s basic 7a program guarantees business loans up to 90 percent of the approval amount, which is great for businesses that don’t have much or any collateral. The 504 program is geared toward real estate and equipment acquisition. Bank of America is the No. 1 overall SBA lender in the United States. Bank of America, one of the world’s largest financial institutions, serves a wide range of customers, from individuals all the way up to large corporations, and recently introduced Business 24/7, which allows small businesses to manage their day-to-day business needs by obtaining credit to manage cash flow, processing payroll, paying employees through direct deposit, paying and filing taxing electronically, managing invoices and improving money management processes.
Richard laughs when he remembers his first loan application.
“We projected that we would make $680,000 that year,” he said. “And we made exactly that. The bank must have thought we were geniuses. Since then we’ve had a wonderful relationship.”
While Richard creates the flat irons, dryers and other essential beauty supplies that he sells globally, Connie runs the day-to-day salon operations in Escondido, Fashion Valley, Santa Ana and Ontario Mills.
“I focus on the marketing, the operations, and the training,” said Connie. “It’s challenging, but I love it.” Connie oversees a top-of-the-line training program for cosmetologists, which sets her salons apart from others in the county. She also reaches out to local charities and homeless shelters.
“They really give back to the community,” said King. “Everything they do is impressive.”
Running a salon makes for a viable business opportunity, but running a salon successfully takes more than beauty wizardry; it takes planning and proper management, which the Ouelettes seem to have figured out. They choose locations where there is heavy foot traffic, such as shopping malls.
In an age where people pay $3 for a cup of coffee, the price of a haircut probably doesn’t seem very high. The baby boomers that now constitute the largest population segment in America are more than willing to spend money on personal care services. As a result of their desire for a youthful appearance, the hair color segment of the salon industry continues to grow, according to Professional Consultants and Resources, a Texas marketing and consulting firm. The Ouelettes have been a part of this stylish boom for almost two decades and they are looking towards 20 more years through inventing hot hair products.
Richard’s HAIelite styling tools not only impress hairstylists, but also celebrities like Lisa Kudrow and Shannon Doherty, who use the products he has invented. The products, combined with the salons, generate about $16 million for the former hair stylist. Throughout the life of their business, the Ouelettes have been able to count on Bank of America for their business needs, and of course for quality service.
“It’s been like a roller coater ride over the past 20 years,” Richard said. “But we’ve had the same bank from the beginning which is pretty impressive when you think about how we started out.”
For more information about Bank of America and its services visit www.bankofamerica.com.
Reed is a San Diego-based freelance writer.