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Local entrepreneurs team up to create ‘A-list’ operation

Studio: Pair opens full-service salon to prepare myriad clients for presentations

Posted: November 30, 2010 9:37 p.m.
Updated: December 1, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Co-owners Sally Van Swearingen and Catherine Weber work on a client at the AList Hair and Makeup Studio in Newhall. Co-owners Sally Van Swearingen and Catherine Weber work on a client at the AList Hair and Makeup Studio in Newhall.
Co-owners Sally Van Swearingen and Catherine Weber work on a client at the AList Hair and Makeup Studio in Newhall.

When Sally Van Swearingen and Catherine Weber joined up to launch their full-service hair and make-up studio a year ago, each brought a specific expertise to the business. Their collaboration has allowed the burgeoning business to branch out into working with studio and professional business people, brides and commercial videos.

The AList Hair and Makeup Studio works with both men and women in preparing individuals for any occasion whether it is for promotional commercials, a wedding or a corporate event, from still photos to high-definition broadcasts. Each requires a different approach to “dressing up” the client.

Entrepreneur at heart
Co-owner Van Swearingen  was one of the first to build a business specializing in the wedding market before the bridal business became so fashionable. Opening her first shop in the 80s, Van Swearingen was nominated by Inc. Magazine for the small business Entrepreneur of the Year award in 1990.

As her business grew, Van Swearingen built a growing list of clients in the studio business. She has worked with actors, business celebrities and newscasters.

Van Swearingen also has worked on commercials and promotional videos for companies such as Princess Cruises and Guess?.

And the savvy business woman was featured in the 2000 edition of Small Business for Dummies for her business and marketing strategies.

Most makeup and hair salon specialists go into salons and pay up to $800 a month to lease a work station and chair inside an existing salon business.

Van Swearingen took the opposite approach. With the help of local commercial Realtor Jeff Lui, she said she and her partner Weber leased space inside a medical-office building making the rent much more affordable.

“I am an entrepreneur,” Van Swearingen said. “This business is my second go at it, and we’re doing it at a time when it’s rough for business.”

Van Swearingen and Weber met each other after Van Swearingen moved to Santa Clarita. Both worked at a salon at the time.

Last October, Van Swearingen called Weber to ask her if she wanted to go into business together and open a studio. The decision to join creative forces was made in a day. Weber instantly said “yes.”

Van Swearingen was featured in Allure magazine as one of the best make-up artists after she opened her Encino studio. Weber, who specializes in hair styling and hair extensions, competed in the Miss Pennsylvania and Miss USA contests.

“We worked well together,” Van Swearingen said. “We really worked in synch together.”

Business clientele
Today, the pair works with everyone from brides to business leaders. Van Swearingen and Weber also take on a lot of commercial work.

“We prepare business executives,” Van Swearingen said. “We’ll handle their makeup and hair for commercial or promotional videos.”

Some of the commercial work involves video shots, such as those promoting a television series for broadcast. Other jobs involve preparing a business leader for corporate videos that will be broadcast internally within a company.

“We also work with a lot of local professional women,” Van Swearingen said. “Some of the business leaders are going to present at a special event, or need a business photo, or are even going to be televised for an event.”

The AList has worked locally with business owners who are shooting videos to promote books as well as product lines. Both women have worked with business owners, as well as well-known actors to prepare them for the commercials. Fees are very reasonable, the owners said.

When working with clients, the medium that will be used is important.

When working with the writers and directors of the ABC television series “Desperate Housewives” for a shoot, Van Swearingen said a sheer lip color with coral tint looked bright red on high-definition television.

“Print is different than camera,” Van Swearingen said. “For camera, I do a clean make-up look. For print, the make-up detail is more blended.”

Business strategy
Van Swearingen said the AList is not a typical salon environment in terms of where she located the business, but the décor is similar. She also said that her husband and Weber’s husband both encouraged them to open a bigger studio.

But she insisted on keeping it small, saying the business could always grow. The studio secured first right of refusal on the office space on either side of their salon.

She said there were a lot of naysayers when she and Weber first opened their business. People asked why they would open a business during the economic downturn.

She said the business is surviving and paying the bills.

“We did well because we didn’t bite off more than we could chew,” Van Swearingen said.

The AList is located at 24868 Apple Street, Suite 203-B in Newhall, and can be reached at (661) 260-1136.


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