Owners: Neal & Dawn Carter
Opened in 1997, 1800 sq ft
Current Sq Ft: 6200
Number of locations: 1
Total Annual Sales:
Pre-Summit: $1,000,080
1 Year: +20 percent
2 Years: + 8 percent

Favorite retail campaign/contest: Buy 3 and the 4th is free. We ran this along with the take the products to the desk system for two months and increased our retail by 43 percent.

Lead with Purpose

Dawn Carter was a hairdresser with great leadership skills. She opened the Avenue Hair Studio and Spa in 1997 with Neal, who is now her husband. Using her natural instincts, Dawn was able to grow the salon company, bringing in a million dollars in annual sales, yet she wasn’t able to generate any profit. Read on to see how Summit Salon Business Center helped Dawn transition from leading with passion to leading with PURPOSE, complete with a plan to begin earning a profit.


Dawn entered the professional beauty industry because she saw it as a quick way to start earning enough income to move out of her parent’s house. Fortunately, she fell in love with the industry and was determined to make this her career. “When I decided to open my own salon company I was working for a multiple-location salon that was struggling,” Dawn explains. “I was frustrated by the lack of communication between ownership and stylists. There was simply no direction. The salon was in a great location, but the owners had too many locations and too much on their plate. I didn’t see the chain lasting, so I left and opened my own salon. The salon company that I worked for closed a year later.”

Dawn opened Avenue Hair Studio and Spa in 1997 and never looked back. Within four years, they had outgrown their original space and were looking for a new location. “Around this time my landlord came to me and asked if I would like to purchase the building where I was renting space,” Dawn explained. “We went from 1800 square feet to 6200 square feet. We moved the salon to the other side of the building (4000 sq. ft.) and added a day spa. I had never been into a spa and had no idea how to market to a high-end salon/spa type clientele. I raised my prices to match the new image and brand, but I did not adjust the commission scale. So everyone was making 60 percent and I had quadrupled my overhead. It was a nightmare!”




The stylists at Avenue had no idea how bad things were.
Neal and Dawn had to remortgage their house to make ends meet. She began resenting all of the sacrifices that her family was making while not being profitable. “I was out to dinner with my husband and we were discussing the salon. It always ended up in a fight, because it was such a burden on us financially,” Dawn said. “We started reminiscing about the old salon and how we never should have bought the building and made the salon so big. We were talking about how much easier the small location was to manage and how we had money in the bank and could take vacations, etc. It was then that I realized that something needed to change because with the bigger location we had thirty-eight employees and those people were depending on us to make good business decisions on their behalf. They trusted me to know how to run my salon company. What I learned very early on is a great hairdresser does not automatically make a great business owner. That’s when, even without being able to afford it, we decided to go to The Summit.



At The Summit Dawn identified three problems she needed to address:

  1. Inadequate goal setting and tracking
  2. Not coaching with purpose of running the salon as a company
  3. Commission rates that were too high


Labeling these issues was a huge first step for Dawn.  “I realized at The Summit that I had a clear vision of what I thought ‘being the best’ was, but I hadn’t made that vision clear to my team. Now thanks to the Summit, every new hire learns about our customer standards. Expectations are made very clear by defining what it means to be a market leader in our community. This is probably one of the things that I am most proud of. It is ironic because I left the salon I was at before to open my own salon because of lack of communication between owners and stylists and what I realized is I wasn’t doing a great job myself at making sure that the team understood the vision!”


“I knew that my problem was not that people wouldn’t listen to me or follow me,” Dawn explains. “It was exactly the opposite. I am marching and they are following; the problem is I was leading them off of a cliff! I did not understand how to get my company moving in a sustainable direction.”


After attending The Summit, Dawn felt a sense of confidence. She now had a plan that she could articulate to her team. Her culture grew from this and now she was not only leading with passion but with purpose. “My goal as a business owner is to make sure that I run a sustainable business by using sound business practices,” she explains. “My goal as a leader is to make sure my team has a fulfilled career where the sky is the limit if they choose it to be.  Goal setting had been the biggest “Aha” moment for all of us. I lead before with great passion but never with purpose, and that totally translates differently to my team. Now although we may be on different levels in the salon or have different roles, we are able to come together as a team and help each other because the objectives are clearly defined.”


“I find that the longer we are in the Summit program, the more ingrained in our culture it becomes. There is a mutual respect that is different now. Before I think that I had the need to be liked as their leader. Now it is more important that I earn their respect for the things that I have been able to teach them, things that some of them are now passing on to our next generation of employees. All of this creates a mutual respect that is so necessary for the success of our salon company.”


As a salon owner you are never “there”. Our industry is changing so fast that sometimes it’s hard to keep up. There is so much valuable information at the Summit, that even if you only took one or two things and applied them, it could make a huge difference in your company. If you’re like me and are a great hairdresser but are discovering that being a salon owner is much harder than you thought, then the Summit can make all the difference in the world!



Total Annual Sales: $1,000,080

Average Retail/Month: $7,416


One Year After Summit Launch

Total Annual Sales: $1,200,080

Average Retail/Month: $8,700

Average Services/Month: $100,000


Two Years After Summit Launch

Total Annual Sales: $1,300,000

Average Retail/Month: $16,500

Average Services/Month: $116,000