Revolt. Refine. Succeed.

Profile by Sara Altizer

Cara & Company began as a revolution. Four stylists joined forces, leaving behind a salon with bad morale, poor interpersonal dynamics, and unfortunate customer service. They left a salon where everyone did whatever they wanted, which ultimately had a negative impact on the responsible and business-savvy stylists. These four knew that they could build a company capable of nurturing young talent, growing beauty professionals, and serving the community as a whole. They had the passion, and with the help of Summit Salon Business Center, they discovered the salon business knowledge they needed to make their dreams come true.


Cara and her coworkers were running on pure adrenaline and excitement when they decided to open their own salon company. But there were a lot of personal sacrifices right off the bat. “Banks consider a salon a risky investment,” Cara explains. “Because of this, we had to refinance our boat and pull out a second mortgage of 25K on our house to be able to open. I can’t stand debt, so for the first year I only paid myself enough to cover afterschool care for my kids and one tank of gas per week. I lived off of my husband’s income and tips.”


Owner: Cara Hughes

Due to the negative experiences she had at her previous salon company, Cara was full of new ideas to enhance customer service and create a healthy culture for her stylists. And she vowed never to lose that stylist perspective now that she was the boss. “I honestly thought I had all of my bases covered and that I knew everything,” Cara says, “But my lack of salon business knowledge became clear very quickly. I needed ideas to promote the business and guidelines on how to pay my stylists. I just made up some things based off of my experiences and how I felt. Because of this, budgeting and handling conflict with employees was challenging—I had no idea when it was okay to fire someone or when I needed to be more than just frugal with my money.”


Years before she opened Cara & Company, Cara had heard about The Summit from her State Beauty Supply Representative, Blake Kennedy. “I would hear him trying to talk to my boss about The Summit, but she was never interested in any change,” Cara explains. “Fast forward a few years to when I had my own salon. I had been open for about ten or eleven months when Blake asked me one day if I would be interested in attending The Summit. He thought we would really like it and benefit from it. Blake and his wife traveled with us to Tampa, Florida to attend the class. It was life changing, and it paved the way for my salon to be successful.”


The Summit Salon Systems introduce standards of practice into the salon company, putting the stylists’ destiny in their own hands. The team knows exactly what they need to do in order to become successful, and this provides motivation. Since the level system has been implemented, the average stylist salary at Cara & Company has increased by an astounding 62 percent.

“Before implementing the Summit Salon Systems, my experience was that if you wanted to raise your prices, you just did, there was no rhyme or reason for it,” Cara explains. “I love that the level system makes it easy for me to determine who is in fact worthy of a price raise. The numbers don’t lie! Plus, I now have a foundation to be a true mentor to my stylists. When we have our monthly one-on-ones, I can confidently coach them in the areas they need to work on to achieve the success that they want.”

“My relationship with my employees has gotten better since we became a Summit Salon,” Cara says, “I have always tried to keep the lines of communication with my staff open. I always try to explain exactly why we are doing something so they understand it. When I worked for someone else, I hated being told to do something ‘just because’. Summit has helped me be a better boss/business owner by giving me the tools to be the best and grow our salon further than we ever imagined.”


The Summit Salon Systems empowered Cara to let people go who were hindering the type of culture she was trying to create. “When we implemented everything, Dave and I evaluated everyone and placed them in an appropriate level at which to start,” Cara explains. “We did decide to grandfather in stylists who were already working at Cara & Company with a higher commission rate than suggested because we didn’t want to take away anything that was already promised to the stylist. Each of those stylists have met goals and jumped since then.”


Stylist: Mariet Kennedy

Mariet Kennedy found Cara & Company because she had heard of Summit Salon Business Center and wanted to be a part of a Summit Salon. She completed the Associate Program in four weeks, jumped to a Level 2 within nine months and today, after only three years and three months, she has jumped to a Level 4 stylist. “The Summit Salon Systems push me to get out of my comfort zone,” Mariet explains. “It inspires me to be a leader for our newly licensed stylists.”


One of the biggest takeaways that Cara experienced at her previous salon company is that she wanted to really pamper salon clients and make them feel special. Cara & Company now constantly has some sort of promotion going on for the clients, as well as the stylists. Now it is more about the total experience, including how the clients perceive the comradery of the team. “Clients keep telling us how much they love all the promotions that keep them involved and make them feel appreciated,” Cara explains. “We are constantly told that we run a well-oiled machine.”

One of these successful promotions is the Referral Program. “We have always wanted to reward our existing clients,” Cara says. “It seems that a lot of the times we focus on first-time clients getting the deal and forget that our regular clients have gotten us where we are today. The referral program gives them $20 off their next visit. They love it and it makes them feel appreciated. At the same time, it increases our word of mouth in the community!”


It is one thing to be given the map to success, and quite another to be shown the way. Summit Salon Consultants live and breathe the professional beauty industry. They provide the accountability, encouragement, and support to grow a successful salon company. “I always leave my meetings with David Hodges feeling encouraged and excited about not only what has been happening, but also for where we plan to be in the future,” Cara says. “It is always nice to know that ‘yes, you are doing a good job!’ He always asks me, ‘if you could change one thing what would it be?’ Then he helps me make a plan to work towards that goal. He literally helps me cover everything from monthly promotions, to encouraging employees in one-on-ones. I couldn’t be the salon owner I am without his help, because I would lose my mind.”


If you are considering implementing the proven salon business strategies of Summit Salon Business Center, Cara has this advice for you:

“Do it! Don’t look at the expense of the class as a financial burden, but as an investment in your future. If you actually follow what they say to do, you will get that money back within the first months. We started out with an average month around 21K. Now it’s not uncommon for us to get over 70K during our busy season.”


  • Total Annual Sales 2012: $375,434.63
  • Average Retail/Month: $4,256
  • Average Services/Month: $24,000

One Year after Summit Launch
Total Annual Sales: +24 percent

Two Years after Summit Launch
Total Annual Sales: +29 percent

Three Years after Summit Launch
Total Annual Sales: +13 percent

POST SUMMIT: Total Increase in Sales: +81 percent!

Favorite retail campaign/contest? Buy any three products and get a free cosmetic bag. We have three different bag sizes depending on what the client purchases. Three travel-size, three full-size and four or more full-size purchases each come with a different size/type bag. Everyone loves to get something for free! We will also do Buy three full-size products, get a travel size for free.

Favorite SSBC products:  We have used the Summit Salon Associate Training Program and the Summit Salon Stylist Trackers. I feel like they work wonderfully together. Both the master stylist and the associate stylist benefit from using them, and I benefit because I have an associate doing the tracking for me as she works to meet her daily goals. The associate is also learning how to maximize her schedule when she hits the floor. It’s a win-win for everyone.