The name of Coral Pleas’ hair salons – Cutting Loose – may have more to do with her personality than French hair styling. Her mottos are: “Failure is not an option.” And “be fearless.” What she tells her two children is to “be kind.”
These mantras, are, on the surface, diametrically opposed approaches to life and business. But it’s the yin yang that Chinese philosophers claim makes it all come together.
This successful business owner started Cutting Loose with one salon and four stylists; eight years later she has three salons (Main St., SR 70, and off University Parkway) with 170 employees. Her business manager Nicole tells me “she’s the most empowering, fierce, motivating woman I’ve ever met.” And her long time client Judi Gallagher says “she’s a force to be reckoned with.”
I found her super busy and having a “crazy day” this Friday afternoon but she pulled it together and immediately showed me her warm, approachable, thoughtful self. Nothing fierce about it. Not too long into it, as we discussed the challenges of running three salons, she was brought to tears. She’d just had to let someone go earlier this day.
“No one intuitively does the wrong thing,” Coral said as she dried a few tears. “They just don’t know any better.”
Coral takes her employees’ success personally and it, of course, is never easy to let someone go that’s not cutting the mustard. Interestingly enough, Coral says she spends $1,700 every Monday alone to bring in four trainers to teach her assistants. That’s just one of many examples of her commitment to training as a key to success. But she uses an 80/20 rule. The 20% (or 30 sometimes) applies to hair technique. The rest? Role playing, etiquette, conversation.
“Anyone can give a good haircut,” Coral says. “It’s more about how you make them feel… it’s the experience.”
Coral says they have the challenge, but do it successfully, in training millennial (20-somethings) to tend to mostly women between 40 and 60 years old,” Coral said. So she brings them on fine dining experiences. Travels to hair shows. And even invites them to her home for a fine dining experience and tips on etiquette.
She started “Protégé,” a program that allows new students to be in their own environment on the floor with customers seeking a budget-friendly hair styling. It takes 18 months of apprenticeship before they can assist a master stylist. And longer yet to become a master. And while it sounds like a long path for someone who simply wants to cut hair, she has a long waiting list of stylists waiting to have the Cutting Loose experience.
Coral is inherently approachable and friendly, and an extrovert she says, and her two children, Taelor and Travis are also extroverts. All have married introverts, which she thinks is interesting. Coral’s husband Michael ‘keeps me grounded,’ she says. He works as a bartender at The Ritz, which makes it nice when the two travel with Ritz benefits. Coral doesn’t travel for fun, however, and admits she doesn’t have any hobbies other than her business and being a good grandmother to her two grandchildren. She travels to learn more about her industry, because “I’m an education junkie both in and out of this business,” she says.
New York. Paris. Atlanta. Wherever the stylist trends are starting, she’ll be there. In order to pass along that knowledge to her trainers, to pass along to the stylists. This master stylist/teacher is also offering to teach others with “The Pleas Formula,” a $1,500, three day course for other stylists and salon owners, teaching everything from technique to marketing.
One would never know that Coral started out cutting hair 30 years ago ‘and hated it.’ Her teacher told her she had the skill, now she needed the passion. She stuck with it as ‘just a job,’ but started getting inspired after she met Paul Mitchell and became a national training stylist and started a salon.
She opened Cutting Loose, her third salon, in 2008, and it continues to grow exponentially. Coral just signed up for space next door to her already large, over 5,000 sq. ft. University location and is starting a separate call center. It seems to be one of the challenges – keeping customers happy while checking out and calling in – and she’s fixing it with yet another innovative model – the call center.
In addition to its unique industry models in training, styling and now booking, Cutting Loose’s University facility also serves up a genuinely nice ambience. Its color room, for example, is set up like a lounge, where customers can sip wine or cappuccino, read a magazine, or chat with others around a table as their color sets up. Shampoo sinks come with comfy seats and ottomans. No booth is next to another – providing intimate space. And even the lighting is soft and non-intrusive.
Founded by master stylist Coral Pleas in 2008, Cutting Loose Salon has quickly garnered a reputation as one of the top salons in Sarasota with the best trained team to be found anywhere. The Sarasota Chamber of Commerce voted Cutting Loose Salon “Young Business of the Year” in 2013, and Salon Today Magazine recognized Cutting Loose Salon as a Top 200 Salon in America in 2011-2014. The salon has also garnered the accolade of “Best Hair Salon” by Living on the Suncoast in 2012, “Best of the Best” by Sarasota Magazine 2010-2014, and “Best of SRQ Local” by SRQ Magazine 2012-2014.
Stop in for a quick blow dry styling. A cut. Color. Or just to see what’s new. If you haven’t been to Cutting Loose, call for a first-time customer free hair cut in the Protégé room. Because once you do, Coral says, “you’ll be hooked.”
For more information, call 358-6009 or visit the website at www.cuttingloose.net .