Using Technology to Drive Change

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Detroit has always been known as a city of innovators.

Dating back to 1913 when Henry Ford installed the first assembly line, Berry Gordy, Jr. used the assembly line concept to develop artists while creating the Motown sound to now providing newer innovations, Detroit’s entrepreneurs have made national and global contributions with historical significance.

Today, this innovation, based on the Motor City’s heritage, continues in the hair salon industry.

After spending years in salons in New York and in the Middle East, Dana White noticed hair salon efficiencies, but also observed inefficiencies in operational processes.

She studied the automotive industry’s lean manufacturing principles to help identify and develop processes focused on improving the customer experience in an efficient manner, without sacrificing overall quality.

White launched the Paralee Boyd salon in Southfield in 2012 and recently opened a second location in midtown Detroit in late 2017.

I recently visited and toured her salon and spent time talking to White about how the lean manufacturing process has impacted her business model.

Lee: You were working in corporate in NY and decided to move back to Detroit and start your business.  Why did you leave and decide to become an entrepreneur? 

White:  I decided to launch my brand from Detroit in 2012 because I understood that Detroit was on the verge of its revitalization.  I believed that Detroit and/or metro-Detroit would have organizations and programs in place to help small businesses.  I also decided to come back to Detroit because this concept had not been introduced to my market here.  I lived in Detroit for 5 years prior to moving to New York and I know this market.  It was a gamble, but a gamble I was confident in taking.

Lee: How was the transition from corporate to entrepreneurship?  

White:  The transition from corporate to entrepreneurship presented some challenges at first, but for the most part it was a smooth transition.  The challenges of the transition presented themselves as my business grew, but not initially.  In the beginning, I was self-employed and worked along side my employees daily by working “in” my business.

As my business grew, I began to work “on” my business and became a small business owner/entrepreneur.  The challenge that presented itself was realizing that I am the final decision maker and as a small business owner that role is proactive as it affects my employees, the ‘buck stops here’ so to speak.  As an employee my positions held autonomy, but I carried out the objectives of the company I worked for.

Lee:  Why start a hair salon?  How did you come up with the name, Paralee Boyd Salon?  

White:  I opened Paralee Boyd with the idea that women with thick and curly hair deserve timely and quality hair care.  As a woman with thick and curly hair I too was being controlled by the decisions of my hair.

I started a hair salon because it was the vehicle to solve and unaddressed problem affecting my market.  Most women today don’t have time to make an appointment weeks out and be in the salon for 4+ hours during that appointment.  The use of time in our lives had evolved, but the salon industry had not evolved to reflect that.

Paralee Boyd is the name of my maternal grandmother.  In 1940’s Kentucky, she had dabbled with having a small business by selling pomegranate hand scrubs to the bridge club of the family who had once owned my family and at the time we had worked for. However, small business ownership was not a viable option for my grandmother.  She married a soldier who had a great job waiting for him at GM, moved to Highland Park, and the rest was history.  In my business, she is not only the face of the brand but the reminder to our staff of the service level that we give our guests.  That was how she treated all who came in her home.  They were guests and that’s how we see our customers at Paralee Boyd.  They are our guests and we wouldn’t be here without them.  In honor of them, I’ve adorned the walls of my Midtown location with pictures of guests to the salon.  It will be that way in all future locations.

Lee:  And your business model is “walk-in” only.

White:  In order to achieve both timely and quality hair care, I developed a walk-in only business model.  I had grown tired of waiting, waiting to get a hair appointment, waiting while being serviced, and waiting until my next hair appointment.

Lee:  What does it represent and what makes it unique?

White:  The salon represents an answer to a problem that has not been addressed for this market and in this industry.  Many aspects of the salon industry have evolved-tools, products, etc.  However, the service level by which women of color and women with thick and curly hair are serviced had not evolved.  Paralee Boyd represents freedom from hair constraints that standard hair salons for women of color and women with thick and curly hair impose.

What makes the salon unique is not only in how we have provided a solution to this pain, but also in how we service our guests in doing so.  In short, we care.  We care not just when you’re in our salon, but we want to make sure our guests are working to attain their hair goals outside of the salon as well.  It is my hope that as the salon grows that the name Paralee Boyd becomes synonymous with quality of service and hair care.

Lee:  You tapped into Detroit’s automotive manufacturing principles—specifically, Lean manufacturing.  Please talk about how you’re using it to technology to stream processes–from reducing time in the salon to enhancing overall quality standards.

White:  Yes, Paralee Boyd is the first to work with a company to design a software that is tailored to a walk-in only salon.  Most salon software and technology is appointment based.  The level of detail we will be using in our software will allow our managers and front desk staff to fully execute our lean principles on the back end and allow for our guests to have more insight in to their hair care on the front end.  Our technology will not only allow us to measure the time our guests spend within our salon, but also allow us to measure our guests hair care over the life span of their time with Paralee Boyd.

With the help of process engineers, I lean manufactured the process of getting the hair done for women with thick and curly hair.  In order to be effective at walk-in only and seven days a week, I had to exclude appointment-based services such as hair cutting and coloring.

Lee: In addition to Southfield, your newest location is in Midtown.  Why Midtown and what are your future plans for the brand?

White:  I chose Midtown because I believe the area was ready for a revolutionary brand.  The infrastructure in Midtown is ready to receive a business who will launch its national brand from Detroit.  The future plans are just that, to launch a national brand from Detroit.  To me, it’s time and Detroit is ready.  Everyone is coming to Detroit to bring what is already had in major cities around the country.  I wanted to tap in to the innovation that is at the foundation of Detroit and innovate with my business.  What better city than the city with innovation at its core.

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