Following that role, I headed off on my OE to the UK and spent the next 10 years in London and then Sydney working primarily as a management consultant specialising in training, process improvement and change management.
In 2003 I returned to NZ and continued consulting work in Auckland but started thinking seriously about opening my own business.
Having experienced the increasing prevalence of niche beauty services like dedicated waxing salons overseas I felt that there was a gap in the market for something similar in Auckland. And of course being a 30-something the idea of owning and running my own salon business very much appealed. All those free treatments I’d have access to! The irony… we probably all know that as Salon Owners or Therapists we probably invest less in treatments for ourselves than our clients do.
At the time of starting my first salon there was still quite a trend toward Spa treatments like facials, massages and body treatments; I felt like there was an opportunity to focus on a treatment menu based around the core essentials (like brows and waxing). Bare’s initial treatment menu was targeted at the things my friends were telling me they were doing consistently on a regular basis.
Whilst I’m not a qualified beauty Therapist I did undertake a number of short courses in Auckland and Sydney prior to opening (and ran a home salon from my spare bedroom) to ensure I was able to perform all of the treatments we planned for our menu.
I opened our first salon in June 2008 in Glen Innes and we now have four salons across Auckland – Grey Lynn, Albany and Belmont. I’m quite conservative so we only look at new salon opportunities once each of the pre-existing salons are standing on their own two feet.
It’s been incredibly hard work, and I’ve continued to do consulting work to help make ends meet as we have grown to four salons It’s only in the last few months that I have finally given consulting work away and am now full time working on the business, something that I love!
I sometimes look back now and think how naïve I was at the outset. I have been incredibly lucky that my husband Dave has picked up so much of the business in a GM capacity leaving me to focus on Marketing and delivering on our values – the stuff I’m passionate about (not accounts and payroll!). We also have an incredible team of therapists who manage to make me laugh on a daily basis as well as great Salon Managers and our Area Manager Sam who is like a walking encyclopaedia of rosters. I get to feel like a proud mum every day when I receive feedback from clients about how professional and welcoming my team have been.
And for us the Client Experience is king. It’s about making it easy for our clients to do business with us. From the ability to book their appointments online, to on-site car parking at each salon, the welcome they receive when they arrive at the salon, to being respectful of their time and busy lives. We use the word "absolutely" a lot and we try our best to avoid expressions like "we are fully booked" as they act as a barrier to the client.
I very rarely use the word beauty in relation to what we offer. I always think that we’re in the business of connecting people back with themselves. Often that 15 minute brow tidy is the only time that a client has to themselves that month so making that experience as fantastic as we possibly can is incredibly rewarding and important.
Being consistent is critical. It means customers know when they walk in the door what to expect. You can’t keep changing the experience on them. Therefore, training and procedures are essential. Another favourite saying I have is sticking to our knitting – doing only the treatments we know we are great at. And that extends to keeping our product lines simple so that we know them inside and out.
In terms of marketing – much of our focus is on social media, predominantly facebook as well as using our online database to personalise our contact with clients. Most of our clients are either referrals or via our website so getting the customer experience right, and having a trusted voice online is key. We don’t need to be cool, but we do need to be genuine and trusted. We have to earn that trust and then ensure we keep it. We utilise technology as much as possible but sometimes nothing beats a personalised email, phone call or letter.
As one of my manager’s wrote on the staffroom wall recently,” be the loveliest person your client meets today”. To me that says it all. It’s why we do what we do.
By Vivianne McIntosh
Bare Waxing & Skin Centres