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District Studios makes coworking beautiful
You might not realize it, but most salons operate as multiple, independent businesses. Chairs are rented by the practitioners. Certain supplies are included, but often each stylist is responsible for her own operation. Salon suites take that a step further and rent enclosed areas for hair, nails, skin, and other wellness associated services.
But District Studios takes it one step further.
We talked with founder Anita Wozniak to understand more. District Studios uses Coworks as its space management software.
“District Studios is a salon suite for beauty and wellness professionals. We provide a unique opportunity for passionate hairstylists, nail techs, estheticians, and laser techs, and more to have their own private space with a vibrant community. We offer a supportive and empowering environment for talented professionals to thrive rather than being on their own.
I was an esthetician and was looking for space myself. I just kept falling short. Not that there weren’t an ample amount of options for spaces, but I was looking for something similar to a coworking environment that like an accountant, or tech company, or startup would. In coworking environments, you might have a receptionist, you might have workshops — I just felt like we didn't have anything like that, especially here in our city in Canada.”
Do you think that you might be swimming upstream against some assumptions about this industry?
“Oh, absolutely. And I think even for our members, it's difficult for them because they are creatives. They don’t think of themselves as entrepreneurs. So we try to alleviate some of that pain, with amenities and education.”
What are you doing for education offerings?
“We have business building workshops that are free for our members. For example, we have an accountant that will come around tax season and explain what they can and can't write off, or why they should incorporate versus stay as a sole proprietor. We have social media marketing workshops. We have a financial advisor come and talk about how to plan for the future.
The response has been incredible. The members provide us feedback on what they liked about certain workshops, and what they'd like to see. So we really tailor it to our members. Because as they grow, their needs change, they might not need to know the basics of accounting because now they are able to outsource their bookkeeping, but they now need to know if they should incorporate or what to invest in. We scale along with them and strive to be growth-minded.”
In hindsight, what surprised you or didn’t quite go as expected when you were able to open?
“I don’t think I realized how many people in this industry craved what we were offering. Before we even opened our doors, our membership was completely full and I had a wait list. And we opened up in January 2020, so we had to close our space shortly after during lockdowns.
Then when we reopened, I didn't realize that, again, the market would shift so much in our favor where professionals and their clients would want the individual spaces and more one on one opportunities. So we actually grew because of the pandemic.
We definitely learned more along the way – for example, what we are looking for in a building. And now, each location gets better and better because we now know our members want slightly larger rooms, or how to prioritize parking and things like that.
We currently have two locations and we are working on our third.”
What did you do to end up with a full roster of members before you even opened? What was your marketing strategy?
“We hustled hard. It was a lot of Instagram, and it was word of mouth. We did a lot of guerilla- style marketing. We have a bunch of connections within our own network of beauty professionals all post on their stories in a coordinated effort. We were able to gain traction with that. We also had a giveaway where if someone shared our post and tagged us, they got entered into a raffle to win a full year's worth of rent. We had a huge ‘coming out’ unveiling party and there were quite a bit of beauty professionals at that. We didn't have a huge marketing budget. We did a lot of what we could do with our existing. network.”
So how important is lead generation and net new business for you?
“There is always turnover — people grow and go into larger spaces. That brings us lots of joy, because we were able to help support their growth and we are part of their story. I'm a big believer that we should never stop marketing.
It's like a cult — and you want that cult-like culture, where people just want to be a part of it. So we continue to work on our Instagram and TikTok and do ads through Facebook and Meta. And then we have our SEO, which brings in new people through Google. But I would say up to 90% of our new members find us through referrals. We reward our members that want to refer their friends here.”
How are you approaching technology as a whole? Because you're working with professionals who are not they're not in front of a laptop all day.
“We probably don't need the technology we use in order to grow or survive. But we want to be ahead of the curve and utilize technology in a positive way for us.
We do have a receptionist — there's an actual person that greets the clients. But sometimes that receptionist isn't there. We're open 24 hours. Sso having the Coworks virtual check-in tool was really important for us. And we use notifications as a way for the receptionist to alert our members if a client is there, or if they have a delivery, without knocking on their doors all the time.
We also use the announcements feature of Coworks. That is huge. We have over 70 members so emailing each one of them, and constantly having new people join really made it difficult to optimize communications. So because we're able to announce things via text or just through the app, and it really really does help.All our members download the Coworks mobile app when they join.
We also have a workshop space that people are able to book whenever they need it, and they do that through the app. Right now it's only for members, but at our third location, it will be available to non-members as well. So we’ll be able to use the embedded web forms for that.”
What other exciting things are happening when it comes to this new approach to beauty and wellness businesses?
“When I first started the industry, it was mostly an older generation. The technology was really old. There wasn't a lot of advancement. Seeing where the beauty industry is going now — we have a lot of these young Gen Z's getting into the industry, and being able to help them in their business really excites us. And seeing the new technologies that are available and how even hairstyling has changed so much from when I had first started in the industry — it’s incredible. So I'm just excited to see how much further it can go, and by being able to help more and more beauty professionals realize their potential and become independent — that's our vision.
And the structure of the business is such that growth is the goal. In fact, it’s a built in referral network. A client will come in for one service and they want to know what else is here. And then we also have our website directory which showcases all of our members and what they offer.
Then on top of that, we offer something most salon suites don’t: a break room. It’s not traditional. But we chose to have one in all of our locations, specifically because it allows our members to actually converse and collaborate and build that referral business. I always say, you can do it alone and it might take you two years or more to do what will take six months here.
It’s like an accelerator for beauty and wellness professionals.”