Recently, we had the chance to sit down with Eric Mokotoff, owner of Hair Studio Artists salon, and talk about what has helped his company stay on top in a competitive and challenging industry, as well as what lies ahead for him and his salon.
An industry veteran of 25 years, Mokotoff is most proud of his salon’s longevity and performance amid the highly competitive hair salon business: “My greatest achievement? That in the oversaturated market I’m still here. And I think that speaks volumes because today’s consumer is not only equipped with everything at their fingertips on a keyboard and the Internet, but salons are a dime a dozen. Consumers trust us. And that’s the most important thing, I think.”
A large component of Hair Studio Artists salon’s enduring relevance amidst such a competitive and transient industry is his marketing strategy. Mokotoff says it’s all thanks to staying ahead of the curve with social media, stating, “I haven’t paid a penny for marketing. This entire salon was built on social media eight years ago at a time where people thought I was crazy when I was making YouTube videos, and I had MySpace page, and I had a website, and then Facebook came out. People just laughed, and now the hottest thing is a YouTube video, a website, and a Facebook page.”
However, Mokotoff is also aware that when the time comes, sometimes you have to adapt your strategy. Previously, the Hair Studio Artists blog was a large part of his online presence as a business owner, but when strictly text-based blogs fell out of fashion, he followed the trend towards vlogging. Vlogging has helped Mokotoff save time by being able to spontaneously get in touch with regular viewers concerning his outlook on the industry and various topics, and maintains a sizeable audience. Mokotoff claims that his widespread renown as an educator aids his outreach, saying, “I am a nationally recognized educator in this business so I do have a very outspoken vision, so when I do a vlog I get usually about fifteen hundred, two thousand people listening and watching and sharing it.”
Eric states, “I think the greatest struggle is more of an industry-based struggle rather than the consumer. Everybody wants to work for themselves, few want to work for someone anymore. You’ve got a lot of people out there that think they know hair, and think that they can be their own boss, and they will go to a salon just to acquire a clientele to turn around and then try to leave. And it’s backfired for those people because the clients always stay here in this salon. Hair Studio Artists requires any prospective employee to show their work by bringing in a model or using a supplied model. “You’d be surprised how many people refuse to bring in a model, get scared, and never come back.” Mokotoff draws attention to how absurd it would be if this was the case in other professions, saying, “That’s crazy. It’s just nuts. You tell me you’re a surgeon but you don’t want to show me your scalpel ability until you’ve got a patient on the table.” Certainly, the high standards of Hair Studio Artists can be relied on to give customers peace of mind before they even sit down in the hairdresser’s chair.
Mokotoff has also adapted the structure of his salon to match the changing times, saying that “it’s very organic here, it’s not corporate. It’s very laid back and organic but the standards of what we do are extremely high. It’s also good for the staff because you know with the millennials, they respond better to a more organic structure than old-school dogma.” While Hair Studio Artists has high expectations, it provides a comfortable atmosphere for employees and clients alike.
When asked about possible plans for expansion, Mokotoff said that while he is always seeking to grow the Hair Studio Artists team, he has absolutely no plans to branch out to other locations. “I do love traveling and teaching so I’d like to see Hair Studio Artists get to a point where I could be here less because I’m on the road empowering the rest of the industry… I teach hair color at every major hair show, New York, L.A., all over the place. And that’s my true passion, that’s what I started out as. And so that level of mentality and education filters into what we do here daily.”
As we parted with Mokotoff, he had two pieces of wisdom to share with his peers. First, specifically, to his fellow hairdressers in the industry and aspiring entrants to the business: “There is no one staple technique for a head of hair, it’s not the Lord of the Rings, you know, there’s not one ring to rule them all. Every head is individual and you just have to really just create for that individual.”
However, for all current and hopeful business operators, and indeed, all of us in the workforce, Eric Mokotoff had this nugget of advice: “Without education for the rest of your career, you can’t expect to be great.” It seems he follows his own advice, as Hair Studio Artists is still prominent in Delray Beach, Florida, and its owner and employees are always evolving to stay ahead of the competition.