Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Business

Lil' Divas and Dudes: small clients, big business model

ST. PETERSBURG — No more sitting on stacks of phone books at dad's barber. No more boring grownup gossip at mom's nail salon. The children of St. Petersburg now have their own place to get coiffed and pampered.

Lil' Divas and Dudes Salon & Day Spa just opened at 4200 Fourth St. N, offering haircuts and styling, manicures, pedicures and facials. At their own salon, kids sit in a miniature airplane or pink classic convertible, gripping the steering wheel and watching Anastasia while they get their locks trimmed.

The business is the brainchild of two parents with a 7-year-old daughter who loves to get her nails done. "We would take her to adult places but they don't want to deal with the kids," said Matt Taneja, who owns the salon with his wife, Amy.

He's a numbers cruncher from Ford and Mercedes-Benz, she's an obstetrician with Women's Care Florida. Neither had experience in the hair industry, but they knew what little girls liked. So about a year ago they researched children's salons and found that 7-year-old Lil' Divas and Dudes in Bradenton was for sale.

"We were actually going to start one from scratch in St. Petersburg but we really liked this one. It needed a lot of sprucing up," Matt Taneja said. Now they have opened in St. Petersburg and hope to expand to Tampa and possibly Clearwater.

"We want kids to be able to walk in the front door and say: 'Wow. This place was meant for me,' " Taneja said. The salon features eight reproductions of antique metal cars or airplanes on elevated stands for kids to sit in, along with personal DVD players and a library of movies. There are also vanity lights for styling and rhinestone-studded velvet lounge chairs for facials. Several rooms — one with a disco ball, another with glass walls — are available for parties.

Taneja declined to say what it cost to transform the 2,500-square-foot former insurance office into a kids' hangout.

At the Bradenton location, hair services account for about 70 percent of businesses with spa treatments and birthday parties making up the rest. Girls dominate the spa clientele but once in a while a boy comes in for a nail trim and even some clear polish.

Birthday parties can be catered to either gender. Boys like the rock star theme, which includes inflatable electric guitars, limbo, freeze dancing and a spiky, painted hairdo. Girls can be rockers, too, of course, or princesses. Two-hour party packages start at $295.

Haircuts start at $4 for a bang trim and $16 for a shampoo, cut and style. Manicures cost $13, pedicures are $16 and a facial is $20. Parents are asked to stick around for haircuts but can drop off their kids for spa treatments.

"I'm very excited about this," said Robin Wilson, who brought her 6-year-old daughter, Sadie, in for a cut and shampoo. Her 4-year-old son already has picked out the fire truck he'll sit in for his appointment coming up soon. "He usually screams bloody murder, so this will really help."

Contact Katherine Snow Smith at [email protected] Follow @snowsmith.

     
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