AJ Johnson is the owner of AJ’s of Chicago, which is featured on Style Network’s reality TV show Chicagolicious. AJ styles high profile celebrities and high society clientele like Iman, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett and now Community Leader, Cecilia Stanton.
Entrepreneur For over 20yrs
AJ Johnson has been an entrepreneur for over 15 years, and AJ’s of Chicago is a legend in the Chicago beauty scene. AJ is on a mission to expand his business to a national level. He recently launched a new styling system product called Lavish Locks. He is constantly in demand for star-studded celebrity events and he has landed a job as a regular style contributor on a local news show.
There is a two month wait to sit in AJ’s Chair so Cecilia and I went straight to the salon from the airport. We arrived about a half hour early and sat in the waiting area. We were a little star struck, neither of us knowing what to expect.
As we sat in the waiting area , a native Chicago family joined us in the luxurious lounge area. I could tell by looking at their wide eyed faces that it was their first time at AJ’s too. We all began to talk about how exciting it was to be at the salon featured on the show Chicagolicious .
A stranger would have thought we knew each other for years. The couple’s two children quickly went into who their favorite person on the show was. The father said “nah Howard is the man, he seems so cool”. For those of you who may not be familiar with the show Howard is the Barber extraordinaire Although “Barber” doesn’t do justice to the quality of service he offers his clients.
AJ arrived with his Louis Vuitton tote tucked in the nook of is arm. When he walked in, the salon lit up and came to life. I even sat up in my seat as if I was in the presence of royalty.
AJ swooped Cecilia up and proceeded to work his magic mean while I got my hair cut by Pierre. The quality of care I received was something I hadn’t seen at other salons.
I have been to many salons; I have been looking for a barber here in Minnesota since I moved here from New York three years ago. The atmosphere at AJ’S of Chicago was better than any salon I have been to.
Upscale Salons Don’t Skimp On Service
AJ’s is an upscale salon so I expected some luxury, but AJ’s of Chicago exceeded my expectations. At AJ’s everyone has a unique way of making you feel engaged, less like a client and more like a friend.
The diversity of the staff, the aesthetic, and the attention to quality customer service makes AJ’s salon standout. Cecilia and I felt like we were hanging out with family instead of at a salon. I admit we may have stayed longer than we needed to because we just felt so comfortable. AJ didn’t mind us lingering either he had his assistant offer us some champagne.
Before we left I asked Aj a couple a questions from one Entrepreneur to another.
You have been in business for over 20 years what would you say has been the secret to your success?
“I do what I love…” He went on to explain how as a young man growing up he had a flare for fashion and expensive clothing and that his father ( a police chief) and his mother ( a school teacher) told him he would wear what they purchased or he could buy his own clothes.
Growing up Aj was creative he started out sketching and designing fashion and found an outlet for his creativity at Hair Design School. Upon graduation he immediately began making a good living.
“I was making as much, or more, money than my siblings who were in college. I can make my own hours and I can decide who I want to work with. At the end of the day I don’t feel like I am at work, everyone here was hand-picked by me… so I don’t have to worry about coming here and being aggravated.”
Aj says he wants his team to succeed right along with him, so he is fiercely loyal and so are they.
What would you do differently if you could do it over again?
“More Marketing and Advertising” AJ said without hesitation. He went on to talk of how he had studied Marketing in College and loved it but when starting out he would have focused more on that area. Today marketing seems to be a great deal of what AJ does.
He is also stepping into the product design phase of his business. Cecilia was so happy with how her hair was styled that she wanted to purchase the products that were used in her hair. AJ’s assistant showed us the Lavish Locks Style system or the Locks Box and the products that come with it. The product sells itself we had to ask about it–it’s AJ’s little secret.
For entrepreneurs in the service industry it is important to design products that complement your services. AJ has developed a business model that is definitely working. Superior customer service and quality styling is what makes AJ’s of Chicago a successful enterprise.
Sophisticated Chicago Style
Visiting Chicago is a must if you enjoy luxury and sophistication, it feels like a cross between L.A. and New York. AJ and his team had plenty of ideas when it came to places to eat and shoppes to vist. It wasn’t too hard because, all the great restaurants and shopping where in Downtown Chicago. Before we went back to our hotel we stopped at a diner up the block from the salon recommended by AJ and all of his staff.
This should get your goat.
The restaurant they suggested was the Lil Goat; the name peaked my interest. As an entrepreneur I stepped into the Lil goat and was blown away by the layout. It looked like a soda shop or burger joint from the 60’s and it had that same fun feel to it too. The place was packed and there was a fifteen minute wait for a table so the hostess asked “Do you want to sit at the “Community Table””. I thought to myself wow what a great idea “Sure” we said in unison.
We sat down at the community table and I could feel the energy in this diner. As I checked out the menu I felt my head begin to bounce to the old school hip hop that was playing in the back ground. The customers were also very diverse, in one booth there was an older couple, a family sat at another booth, and at the bar there was a group of profesional guy’s on their lunch break.
Dressed in their shirts and ties, they fit right in with the rest of the customers some of whom were dressed down. Everyone was laughing, talking and enjoying themselves.
The owner of the LiL Goat (Stephanie Izard) is the winner of Top Chef, season 4 and she is also the owner of The Girl and The Goat.An upscale restaurant located directly across the street. This restaurant is high end, so much so that it may take up to three months to get a reservation. But it is certainly worth it (at least that’s what I’ve heard) I haven’t made a reservation–I am pretty impatient. So one should expect a bit of a wait to get into The Girl and the Goat, in the mean time you can get into the LiL Goat anytime
The food at the LiL Goat was great and the customer service was also bar none. The valet hailed us a taxi and we jetted to our hotel room, where we debriefed our amazing first hours in Chicago.
If there is one ongoing theme throughout this post it is that–Chicago is a sophisticated, culturally diverse city full of Entrepreneurial Growth. If you are ever in Chicago visit AJ’s Salon but remember (be sure to call in advance) it is an upscale salon for sophisticated clients who are willing to pay a little extra for quality service.
Price and Value
Often entrepreneurs fail because they set prices without enough information about their cost of operations and their customers. Price is the most important part of building long term relationships with your customers. Many entrepreneurs mistakenly set the lowest prices and think their prices are high enough to make a profit.
Later they find that improper pricing was the beginning of the end. Pricing decisions cut across every aspect of your small business, impacting everything from it’s marketing to operations.
Price: the monetary value of a product or service in the marketplace; it is a measure of what the customer must give up to obtain various goods and services. Price is a signal of a product or service’s value to an individual, and different customers assign different values to the same goods and services.
Pricing is not just a math problem it is a psychological test so if you are thinking of setting a low price remember “you get what you pay for”.
AJ’s of Chigaco Located in the River West area ,648 W. Randolph in Chicago
Be sure to catch AJ in episodes of Chicagolicious every Monday at 9/8c, only on Style!
To learn more about AJ Johnson check out these sites
AJ”s of Chicago: http://www.ajsofchicago.com/
To learn more about Stephanie Izard check out these sites
Lil Goat Website: http://www.littlegoatchicago.com/