Entrepreneur Wilson Nolley Jr. had a mission: To help beauty industry professionals prosper.
He set forth on his mission and founded Salontra Select Suites—a 35,000-square-foot space that houses 135 suites for salon professionals. The business is still thriving 10 years after launch.
Call it a “co-working space for stylists,” if you will; Salontra allows beauty professionals to lease their very own salon suite within a larger community of fellow professionals.
Professionals using the space include cosmetologists, barbers, estheticians, nail technicians, and more. As with other co-working spaces, Salontra Select Suites offers those using the space a number of amenities such as concierge service; café with complimentary Starbucks coffee bar; and more. This community has grown rapidly over the last 10 years and it all started with Nolley’s vision.
Black Enterprise caught up with Nolley, the founder, CEO, and president of Salontra Select Suites and Salontra Property Management, to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey and his venture.
Who is Wilson “Mr. Will” Nolley Jr?
I am a visionary with a strong emphasis on making life better for the members of my community through entrepreneurship.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Baltimore City: Projects of Mt. More Court (West Baltimore); Harford Road (East Baltimore); and Poplar Grove (West Baltimore).
How did you get started in entrepreneurship?
I was inspired at an early age. At the age of seven, I began working with my dad who owned his own business. My father owned an ice cream truck, and at the age of 11, I was making $100 a day…that was 1975…a lot of money for a little boy…good money for any boy now.
How did you come up with the concept?
The concept had been around about a decade before I came along. I wanted to make the suite concept work for my community. I took the concept and added amenities that were relevant to my community: drop-in center for children; catering services for the busy stylist and client; hospitality service for stylists and clients; and retail vendors. In short, we allowed smaller businesses within our community a place to expand their businesses without the high overhead of opening a brick and mortar.
How did you come up with the name “Salontra Select Suites?”
Early in my career, I learned that catchy names and phone numbers were really important to retail businesses. So, I had to come up with a name that would flow off of everyone’s tongue.
What preparation did you take prior to launching your business?
Months of interviewing stylists and cosmetology professionals in my community to determine what they were missing, and what was going to help their business grow.
What was the biggest challenge you faced launching Salontra Select Suites?
The biggest challenge was convincing national real estate companies that this was a viable business concept.
How many locations do you have to date?
Three: Catonsville, Maryland; Laurel, Maryland; and Bowie, Maryland.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting their own business?
Research. Research. Research.
What’s next? To open locations nationwide through partnerships and private equity.
You can take a virtual tour of Salontra Select Suites here.