Two girls discussing for an advertisement about referrals

By Laurel Nelson, contributing writer with Salon Today

Referral contest winner Sherrie Fernandez-Vila. Photo courtesy of Green Apple Salon.


When Sherrie Fernandez-Vila, a senior stylist at Green Apple Salon in Houston, Texas, heard her salon was going to be part of Neill Corporation’s summer referral contest, she had one immediate thought: “I’m going to win this.” And she did.

A naturally competitive person, Fernandez-Vila, who has been a stylist for five-and-a-half years, believes if you set your intention, you can do anything you want.

“You have to follow through every day,” she says. “If you’re consistent, success will follow.”


The competition, which included 42 salons in Louisiana and Texas, took place May 1 through August 26. Special referral cards were created for stylists to hand out, with a goal of getting guests to refer as many new clients as possible.

Zena Salon Spa in Richmond, Texas, had the most referrals of any of the 42 competing salons. Fernandez-Vila, of Green Apple Salons, was the individual winner, with 63 referrals on her own.

She attributes some of her success to how the competition was set up.

Green Apple Salon’s referral card. Image courtesy of Imaginal Marketing


“Guests were given a perforated card with the offer at the time of service. The person doing the referring got a $25 credit for product, and the referred guest got $20 off their first service,” Fernandez-Vila says.


“I explained to every client that the card was a double gift—one for them, one for their friend.”


“Sometimes it’s tough to get people to go out of their way to refer a guest, but when you tell them they get $25 in credit for product, they’re all over it,” she adds.

Fernandez-Vila made sure she was consistent: every single person who sat in her chair received cards every time they visited.

At Zena, owner Amira Zaghmouth says consistency also played a big role in their success. “We offered the service consistently, and constantly reminded the team to ask for referrals,” she says. “It’s the same concept as eating healthy—it’s easier if we are surrounded by encouragement and support and reminded of the benefits by our friends.”

Photo courtesy of Zena Salon Spa


Zaghmouth says they doubled their new clients at Zena during the time of the competition. Fernandez did even better.

“Through word of mouth, I would normally have three or four referrals a month,” Fernandez-Vila says. “During the May-August competition I had 63 referrals.”

When the competition first started, Fernandez-Vila had to reminder herself each day to mention the referrals, but it soon became habit.

“I’m not a hard-sell person, so at the end of the service I would just mention that I’d love to load them up with free product, and hand them the cards,” she says.


“I always gave them two or three cards.”


“I used the angle that I was helping them get something, which took the focus off me and winning the contest.”

Interior of Zena, the salon that had the most referrals overall. Photo courtesy of Zena Salon Spa.


Fernandez-Vila says the support of her salon was another reason she was so successful.

“My boss (owner Anthony Skoog) was instrumental in this,” she says. “Anytime an opportunity like this comes from Neill he jumps right on it. He updated us in weekly meetings on our progress and was overall very supportive.”

To provide a safety net, Skoog utilized the front desk staff. “He armed them with the referral cards so if a stylist forgot, the front desk was there to back us up.” Fernandez-Vila says.

They even attached referral cards already made up with the stylist’s and guest’s names that were attached to the traveler to make sure everyone got one.

“It saved us time since the card was prepped and ready to go,” Fernandez-Vila says.

The competition drove home the power of word-of-mouth, too.

“It’s bigger than advertising or a Groupon,” she says.


“The best business you can get is when someone says, ‘I love my hairstylist; you should go see her.’”


A happy client promotes their stylist and does all the advertising for them, but Fernandez-Vila acknowledges it’s sometimes difficult to stay consistent with every client.

“We get busy in our routines and get double-booked, but it’s important to slow down and do the same rituals and routines with every person, every time,” she says. “Build that consistency and turn it into a habit. Before I knew it, those cards were in my client’s hands without fail.”

Her reward for winning the competition was $1,000 cash prize and one year of free education with Neill Corporation.

Sherri and Green Apple Salon owner Anthony Skoog. Photo courtesy of Green Apple Salon.


“The education was a big incentive for me,” she says. “I’m trying to grow as a hairstylist and reach Master Stylist level. My goal was to use this as an opportunity to build my regular clientele so when we go through ebbs and flows my slow periods aren’t so slow. This was the perfect segue to get more people in my chair.”