By Anna McConnell, Iowa Small Business Development Centers

Sherry Keefe had been working at Hair Designers, a Corning, Iowa salon, for 29 years when the owner decided to sell. Sherry agreed to take on a new role in the workplace by purchasing the full-service salon and becoming a business owner, while still serving as a stylist.


“I was looking for complete guidance,” Sherry says. “I had only been used to working behind the chair.”

An associate of Sherry’s suggested she get in touch with Dave McLaren, director of the South Central Iowa Small Business Development Center (SBDC), for help with purchasing the business as well as basic business assistance. Beginning in December of 2013, Dave began acting as Sherry’s business counselor by working through the feasibility of different offering prices, handling financial projections, and helping her to obtain financing.

“There is no way I could have formulated anything near what Dave provided me with,” Sherry says. “I gained confidence and encouragement in knowing that I had someone that knew what the next steps were in terms of making the business work.”

Sherry appreciated that Dave would thoroughly explain each business concept to her without judgment. Startup assistance was implemented once Sherry took over the salon in March of 2014. Dave was able to help her set up a payroll system on excel, fill out all the necessary business applications with Sherry, create many different spreadsheets for her and to train the staff on how to keep their information updated on the new computer system.

“I would email or call in a panic and he would get right back to me or meet with me as soon as he could,” says Sherry. “I wouldn’t even want to think about starting a business without that type of help.”

Having that business mentor has really pushed Sherry to put all of her ideas into practice in the salon. Hair Designers now offers an entirely new product line, a makeup line and makeup services are now available, all employees now work on a level system based on expertise and pricing, everything is computerized from client information to payroll, and the staff works harder to meet regularly and set collective and individual goals.

The salon is seeing many new clients since implementing these changes. Most of their services have also seen a spike in sales, especially during the final months of 2014. Eight out of the 13 services offered saw a sales increase during the fourth quarter of 2014 and hair coloring saw an impressive 35 percent increase. The entire staff works hard to accommodate rising sales in nail care, waxing, tanning, facials, and traditional hair services.

“Transitioning from being a coworker to the person in charge and a coworker was probably the most difficult,” Sherry says. “But I’ve had strong and wonderful support from the staff.”

Sherry manages herself, six other stylists, and a marketing director that are all considered part-time employees. The marketing director is a newer position and involves taking care of all the salon’s outreach efforts. The director has done some newspaper advertising, distributed fliers, and promoted in-salon specials across the various social media platforms.

Hair Designers is a member of the Adams Community Chamber of Commerce and does all it can to be supportive of other local businesses. If there is ever a need for a stylist or speaker on salon services, Sherry does everything in her power to make sure the salon is represented by at least one employee.

“We try to do a lot,” says Sherry. “One of our goals in to try to take part in different community events and volunteer efforts.”

In the future, Sherry hopes to continue to provide an environment that is inviting to clients as well as a positive place of work for the stylists. She would love to provide more high-quality products and services at Hair Designers that encourage community members to stay in Corning and shop local, rather than travel to neighboring cities.

To learn more about the capabilities of these stylists and the services offered by this Corning, Iowa salon, visit the Hair Designers Facebook page.