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What They've Learned
Cozy Friedman's hair salon for kids found a ready market
THE FLAGSHIP SHOP OF COZY'S CUTS FOR KIDS , a deluxe children’s hair salon and toy boutique, sits on the corner of Madison Avenue and 84th Street in downtown Manhattan. Six haircutting stations, some with toy jeeps for seats, are intermingled amongst shelves of action figures, Barbies, and board games. On this weekday mid-morning, a few preschoolers are getting their hair cut or waiting for a sibling to get coiffed, their eyes bright with the sheer excitement of the place. During their haircuts kids can play video games or watch movies, keeping their thoughts distracted from the sharp silver scissors coming at their heads. - http://www.cozyscutsforkids.com/ -
At 11:30, Cozy Friedman ’87 enters the shop. The atmosphere immediately changes. The boss has arrived. She is a petite, 40-ish woman, with eyes that take in everything around her at once. She wears a loose-fitting bohemian tunic and jeans; her long hair shines. Manager Jennifer Ninive grabs bags from Cozy’s hands, allowing her to take off her coat and settle into the place. She doesn’t have an office here, so she sits down amidst the action and surveys her domain: It is filled with children laughing, hairstylists talking, movies playing, and mothers hovering.
Cozy was a “typical little girl—playing with Barbies, dressing up in Mom’s heels and playing outfield in ‘Lassie League.’” She laughs and says that Cozy is indeed her real name, adding that “everyone asks me that.” In college she wanted to be in advertising, and after graduation she followed that path for six months, only to be completely turned off by it. She quit her job, “without a backup, which was completely unlike me,” and took a job as a part-time receptionist at a garment company, eventually working her way up the ladder to sales manager of a denim line.
All the while she saved money. “I always wanted to own my own business, but I wasn’t sure what, exactly,” she says. When a friend told Cozy about a day with her nephew ruined by a salon that wouldn’t allow him to get a haircut because he was crying, Cozy had her answer. She now knows that haircuts can cause anxiety for kids and their parents, but at the time she was shocked and curious. She researched the children’s salon market and found that it was wide open and waiting.
Cozy jumped in. She attended barber school for a year, working all the while in toy stores and kids’ retail shops to learn more about the needs of the under-15 crowd. “I think you should be able to do everything in a business,” she says. And learning all aspects of the business allows her a lot of control. It took two years to find the space on Madison Ave., and in 1994, the first Cozy’s Cuts for Kids opened its doors. That was also the year that Cozy married her college sweetheart, Joey Friedman ’87.
Business was slow at first, and money was tight, so Joey helped on weekends, sweeping up and making deliveries. Toys were brought in as a supplement to the haircutting. Soon business picked up, and two years later, Cozy opened her second location, on Manhattan’s west side, to meet demand. A third location, on Second Ave., opened earlier this year. Cozy’s Cuts for Kids is clearly on a roll.
What’s the secret? Parents know a child’s hair cut is often a battle, yet none of the kids getting their haircut in the Madison Ave. shop seem to mind one bit. In Cozy’s shop, “it’s all about the distraction,” she explains. The hairstylists treat the children with respect and attempt to make the haircut as fun and painless as possible. They have names for the haircutting equipment: The shaver is Mr. Tickle, the blow-dryer Mr. Wind, and to warn the kids when they’re going to spray water on their hair, stylists tell them it’s raining. “Our shops are an experience,” Cozy says with a smile.
Since she’s providing more than a haircut, Cozy can charge a premium, and parents are happy to pay. A child’s cut costs $28; adults pay $35 and up. Cozy’s also hosts birthday “Glamour Parties” for girls, which includes hairstyling, mini manicures, makeup, temporary tattoos, beauty art projects, a jeweled tiara for the birthday girl, and dancing and music. These parties run $595 for 12 kids.
But Cozy knows she must innovate to stay ahead of the competition. Her new Second Ave. store is designed around her So Cozy hair-product line. With packaging reminiscent of Fruit Stripe chewing gum, both the products and the shop are awash in bright swirls of blue, green, red, yellow, purple, and orange. The regular barber chairs and Jeep seats have been upgraded to Porches, Mercedes, and giant plastic hands.
The product line was in development for two years, during which Cozy worked closely with a pharmaceutical lab to formulate gentle, tear-free, fruity-smelling hair care, such as Fruity Delight Detangler and Really Raspberry Styling Gel, with prices ranging from $5 to $30. The idea was to use the products in the shops, but they soon became so popular that Cozy started selling them. Now they can be purchased at department stores, at pharmacies, and online.
Cozy sees interest in beauty and grooming as a growing trend among younger children and men. “Our So Cozy Styling Gel is currently sold-out, and we have a waiting list for our next shipment. We had no idea that we would sell this product the way we do.
There is an obvious need in the marketplace. People—adults and children—want to be well groomed,” she says.
Cozy’s days fly by filled with the work of managing three shops and the new hair-product line. She often appears on television shows like The View, the Today Show, and Entertainment Tonight, sharing her expertise on children’s hair care. She and the business have been featured in numerous newspapers and magazines, some, such as Parenting, with regularity. She also makes time for her two boys, Riley, who is in nursery school, and first-grader Shane.
Cozy sees the business continuing to grow. She frequently gets calls about opening salons in cities like Los Angeles and Chicago. She’s currently exploring options for expansion. But she wants to take it slow, building the quality and the brand before she expands too far out of the city. “I will definitely expand into new markets, I just haven’t yet decided which path we will take,” she says.
Cozy heads off to check on her other stores. Down the steps she goes, the goodbyes of her staff still ringing. She strides fearlessly to the center of the street to hail a cab, standing her ground while cars whiz past, her arm raised high into the air. A cab pulls up, stops, and she hops inside. Today’s path is clear and she’s on her way.
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