Carte Blanche

Hair Apparent

Carrie McAbee had never owned a business before--in fact, she'd been a cosmetologist before she opened her HairDiamond kiosk in August 2002. But this 20-year-old mom wanted something a bit more flexible that would let her spend more time with her family and still make a good living. When she discovered a HairDiamond kiosk on a shopping trip with her mother, Jeannie Kuhns, they both thought it was a great idea--hairpieces that attach to a person's own hair like a ponytail to give the illusion of a full, lustrous head of hair. Whether to hide thinning hair or simply to cover up a bad hair day, this product, McAbee believed, would be a godsend to women in her Bakersfield, California, community. "When I would [do people's hair], I had to travel all the way to Los Angeles to get extensions," she says. She asked the kiosk owner how to get into the business and was referred to Specialty Retail Stores Inc. (SRS).

As partners, McAbee and Kuhns set up shop in their local mall. SRS arranged the leasing and secured a prime location--right near a Macy's and other women-focused stores in the mall. Consequently, says McAbee, "The product sells itself." A good thing, since she confesses their biggest challenge has been hiring employees--people who are knowledgeable and trustworthy enough to mind the store and give good customer service. "I didn't expect it to be this hard to manage employees," she says. "Especially in a kiosk, your business [depends] on your employees. [Some people] think it's OK to sit down and not help the customers . . . they think it's not really a big business."

Fortunately, McAbee and Kuhns, 46, have each other to lean on when employee difficulties occur and are able to work the store themselves when necessary. Next on their agenda: possibly growing their concept with a kiosk in Santa Barbara, California, adding even more to their $400,000 annual sales.

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This article was originally published in the August 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Carte Blanche.

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