Marsha Power has owned Garbo A Salon, in Austin, Texas for 35 years (and in 2016, opened a second location). From the beginning, philanthropy has been at the heart of her business, but not necessarily by design.
“It started off organically,” Power says. “I was working hard behind the chair and clients would ask me if I could donate something to this fundraiser or that charity,” she says.
The requests came in so often, that Power decided to give gift baskets to all who asked (with only a few exceptions), and eventually developed a strategy that not only helped her community, but also marketed her business.
Here’s how she did it:
Branding the Baskets
Power’s gift baskets are usually a $250 value and include a haircut with a new stylist and products. But sometimes, for a big gala, she donates a basket worth $500, and she makes sure it screams “Garbo.”
“If I need to get into an organization to show them what we can do, and I can’t donate time or money, a basket with Garbo-branded products, services and other goodies helps me build client loyalty and an audience with new organizations like the children’s hospital or neighborhood associations.
“Now, people approach me because they want us in their programs,” she says. “It wasn’t intentional, but we’ve become known for our baskets and philanthropy.”
Empower the Team
Power has found giving her team the freedom to help clients has also added to the salon’s reputation as a giving organization.
“If a client lost a job, I encourage the stylist to gift them a haircut—maybe even two or three haircuts until they get back on their feet,” she says. “Or maybe it’s just a hug or a product that they need—we’re not here to judge, we’re here to serve.”
Power has found the people who become loyal clients to Garbo have a similar mentality about giving, and even offer up ideas for fundraisers.
“We recently did a fundraiser for dog adoption and called it ‘Yappy Hour,’ she says. “We had a booth where you could take photos with dogs, and we served appetizers.”
They advertised the event to clients on social media and generated buzz for the salon.
Sometimes, opportunities for community involvement come in the most unexpected packages—like the time a food truck, also named Garbo, landed in Austin.
“I kept getting calls about my food truck,” Power laughs. “It turns out the owners’ last name is Garbo, so I made up a basket with some private-label Garbo products and Garbo swag along with a story about Greta Garbo, and sent it to them,” she adds.
That led to inviting the Garbo Lobster Roll truck to park in front of Garbo A Salon for a pop up.
“If you can lend a hand, you get 10 hands back,” Power says. “The Garbo’s are now my clients, and their food truck was at the salon for our 30th anniversary party. And now, some of my friends hire them, too—it’s fun with us having the same name.”
Power has also hired other food trucks to come park in front of the salon for the day. With 40 employees and clients coming and going, she can easily promise 100 customers for the truck, and create a great opportunity for social media photos for both the salon and the food truck.
Put Clients First—Always
Power maintains giving back starts in the salon every day with her clients. If a client needs a re-do, she sees that as an opportunity to wow them. Whether it’s gifting a couple hundred dollars of products to them, or adding on another service, she wants every client’s last impression of their visit to be a positive one.
“I think that’s all part of our philanthropy,” she says.
Power also keeps her clients in the know and raises funds for national philanthropies as well. Last year, she focused on HairtoStay.org, an organization that helps fund cold caps for women undergoing chemotherapy. Coldcapping allows women to keep their hair throughout treatment. And for Power, it was personal.
“I used the cold cap myself when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and we used my personal story on our social media to do a fundraiser for HairToStay,” she says. “I made it my goal to educate everyone about this organization, including my own dermatologist and nurses.”
Whether she’s raising money for small local charities, donating baskets to school fundraisers, or building relationships with other small businesses in her community, Power’s clients are watching, joining in, and remaining loyal to a business with heart.