Building a Black beauty brand requires service

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By Starlett Quarles

Contributing Writer

I’ve been getting my hair done at a salon for more than 30 years, and like most Black women, have had to often settle for poor customer service. From having to deal with a stylist double or triple-booking clients at the same time, to not showing up for a scheduled appointment I’ve dealt with it all and I know I’m not alone.

So when I came across the RVM Salons in the Mid-Wilshire area, I was quite surprised to see how the salon was being run, and how my stylist, Don Ellis, got me in and out in two hours. Not only did I love my hair and experience at the salon, but I was also impressed to see that there were two other salons across the street: RVM Twists and RVM Cutz Barber Shop.

Wait a minute. There’s a Black beauty franchise off Wilshire and La Cienega? And all these businesses are bursting with energy and full of masked clients? I had to ask Don, “Who owns this salon?”

And when he pointed out this young millennial named Rashard Marshell, I just had to interview him and spotlight his amazing entrepreneurial spirit within the beauty industry.

In Part 1 of my conversation with Rashard, we discussed the evolution of his RVM Brand and why he stresses the importance of providing quality customer service.

SQ: Where were you working before you started building the RVM Brand?

RM: I first started [doing hair] inside of my home, and I had a lot of clientele. So it pushed me to [have to] go inside of a salon. [And] when I went inside the salon for I think about seven, eight months, my clientele grew [bigger] so I needed to get my own salon. And from there I went and opened up my first salon off [of] La Cienega.

When I got to La Cienega, I hired two stylists. And [we] worked [there] for probably for a year by ourselves. But then at that time, I realized that it was time for me to start hiring more stylists. So at that point I started to grow the business.

SQ: What is the RVM Brand and what makes your beauty franchise so unique?

RM: Well, we’re unique because I pretty much cater to the clients around the clock. So clients can call me 24/7. They can request weekend appointments, early morning, evening appointments. I send people to hotels. Like, I’m very accommodating to everyone that needs service. We take last-minute clients, walk-in clients. I pretty much work for my stylists.

I’m not like one of those owners that are like, “Oh I’m in charge. You need to listen to me, my rules.” I let my stylists have the free will to be [themselves] and to have their own creativity. So we’re unique because we have a lot of different personalities, and I let them be who they are so their creativity can show.

SQ: Now I know you’ve heard black women like me complain about their stylists, braider or makeup artists being either flaky, taking too long or over booking. So how do you ensure that your stylists provide customer service that is reflective of the RVM Brand?

RM: So when I hire people, I let them know from the gate, this isn’t a traditional salon. I feel like it’s not the 90s, it’s not early 2000s, it’s not the 80s and 70s when people would go to the salon and sit all day long. The older generation would go to the salon at 8 a.m. and they probably didn’t expect to leave by 5 or 6. Now if people get there 8, they want to be out of there by 9 or 10.

So I think it’s just about hiring the proper people to get the job done, that understands the sensitivity of people’s time these days. We’re not just trying to sit around anymore.

SQ: No, we’re absolutely not. So what is your advice for stylists who don’t make customer service a priority?

RM: Well it’s not really advice but what I would say to stylists who don’t make it a priority is that you’re going to fail; because without customer service, or without the will to make people happy, you’re not going to have anyone. Everyone’s going to start falling off.

No matter how popular you are, everyone has their time when they’re going to get tired of it. So you can be amazing and have so many [clients], but every time someone gets tired and they leave; [then] you’re going to look up and no one is going to be there.

So [stylists] have to keep in mind that “yeah you’re your own boss, you’re an entrepreneur, you are whatever you want to be in your mind,” but at the end of the day you work for [your clients] because they pay you. And without getting an income from your client, you don’t have anything.

So if you cannot embody great customer service, or even embody things that will make your clients happy, then you’re not gong to have a future in this industry, or any other industry at that.

Next month in Part 2 of my interview with Rashard Marshell, he shares how the RVM Salons not only survived COVID-19, but also how he was able to open another salon on the same block.

Starlett Quarles is a Gen X Advocate, public speaker and host of the internet TV Talk Show, “The Dialogue with Starlett Quarles.” For more, please visit www.TheDialogueLA.com.

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