Q&A With Meraki: Salon Sparks Love, Soul & Creativity
We recently sat down with Chenelle Farmer and Nicholas Maple, co-owners of Meraki, a salon in Stony Stratford, in Buckinghamshire, England.
Independent hair stylists since the age of 16, the couple decided to open their first salon together in 2019. They recalled the long hours and challenges they faced getting it off the ground, and how Vagaro aided with the liftoff and continuation of running things smoothly. They also shared how they balance being partners in life as well as business, the significance of the Meraki name and the future of their brand & business.
V: Why did you both choose to become salon owners?
C: Being happy, in the end, was the reason for me. We’ve both worked full-time in the industry since leaving school and were doing our own things when we met. I always felt like there was something missing when I worked in another salon. I’d come in every day and think, “Well, okay, what’s next?”
So, we decided to come together and create an atmosphere that we both wanted to work in, where we could grow together.
V: What was that discussion like?
N: Chenelle was very much the driving force behind it. At the time, I was quite content with my lifestyle as a mobile hairdresser. But when she’s got her mind set on something, she usually gets it. Well, she got it, and we’ve never really looked back.
We are looking at starting a family at some point, so, my primary reason, long-term, was to create something that could support the lifestyle we wanted and allow us to provide for our children in the future.
V: Were there any challenges to opening the salon?
C: When we got our space in 2019, we had to do a big renovation. There was a lot of work involved, which Nick did a lot of. We were both working full-time and trying to make our business known all while doing this renovation. It was exhausting, but that experience taught us that we’re capable of a lot more than we think at times.
N: It was also obvious that we had to raise capital. We had to work very long, difficult hours around our preexisting businesses. But we accomplished it together, with blood, sweat, tears and some family support. It was definitely worth it. Even with all we’ve been through in the first few years, I don’t think we’d trade it for the world.
V: How did you decide on the name? What does it mean to you?
C: We had loads of different name ideas in the beginning. The word Meraki means soul and passion. It’s your work. It’s love. It’s what you do. We love our jobs, so we just felt that it meant something to us.
N: Meraki summed up who we were as people. And we felt it was a good mission statement for our staff. The minimum requirement of Meraki is to put your soul into it, to be passionate and have a degree of creativity. We’ve used that since opening and push that to our staff, daily.
V: Were you ever scared that the business wouldn’t work out?
N: Personally, no. I always thought, “just go for it!” My mum and dad had a business, and they went for it. I just believe. I especially believe in Chenelle, and in her passion.
C: I’m the creative one; he’s more financial-minded. We’ve got different roles in the business that we’re just starting to really define. In September of 2022, we’ll have been open for three years. It has been an exciting time, but one of constant change and evolution.
If you follow stories of businesses that succeed, they all evolved in the face of challenges, or “speed bumps.” In the UK, sometimes, you have a lot of speed bumps to get over.
N: I also think we are in a fantastic new world now where we can utilize software, apps, free marketing, Instagram, and so on, which makes being a business owner today a lot more achievable than it was in previous generations.
V: And Vagaro provided that for you guys? When did you start using it?
C: I’ve been using it for 8 years now—half my career. I was renting a space within a salon and the owner was using Vagaro, so I started there. When I left, I just continued with it, and since we’ve opened the salon, it has been great.
V: What features have been the most useful?
C: Deposits and online bookings are fantastic. Our nail technician is now fully booked most days because it’s so easy to go through our Instagram or our website and book an appointment. That takes a lot of stress away.
I do hair extensions and we do a lot of color work, and the forms feature allows me to create a questionnaire to send over to clients, so I know exactly what to do before they come in. We sell our own products here to push our brand, and if I need to do an inventory check, I can just click a button and it’s there.
And, at the end of the day, the digital reports show us how much money we’ve made, so we don’t have to stand there and count cash anymore.
N: Overall, Vagaro helps us know where we are hour to hour and minute to minute on any given week. It helps us run our business more efficiently on a day-to-day basis and has everything we need all in one place.
V: What does the future of the business look like?
C: We still do have big dreams. There is a big plan to open 2 – 5 salons over several years and spread into London.
Again, I don’t think our dreams are to be in another stratosphere and change our lifestyles too much. We’re very content with what we’ve got. Right now, I think we just want to sustain that and continue to grow the team and create an environment in which we’re all happy.
N: When we opened, we also wanted to create an academy-type environment with young apprentices we could train. That’s the business model we had been involved in growing up and that inspired us to do what we do today. We wanted to give a bit of that back.
Vagaro is a cloud-based scheduling software commonly used by beauty, fitness, and wellness businesses to manage booking, credit card payments and processing, marketing, payroll, inventory management, reporting, and much more.