Beard Oil & Brows: The Business of Being a Beauty Entrepreneur

Staying up to date with current trends and active engagement on social media are integral to standing out in a crowded market.

Whether a company sells moustache wax or concealer, ombre hair dye of controuring make-up, it is absolutely vital to a company’s success to stay on trend in the beauty business. A strong brand identity is a plus, but nothing can replace passion for your product and providing a premier service.

A panel of industry experts offered the following hints, tip and advice for beauty business newcomers at a recent Q&A with The Guardian:

How can I stand out in a crowded market?

One piece of advice shared by almost ever panel member was to listen closely to your customers, actively engaging them for feedback. Customer research is essential to growing a beauty business brand.

Maleka Dattu, founder of Meremaya Integrative Effective Skincare confirmed:

“Keep an eye on competitor activity but not to the point that you are so busy looking over your shoulder that you don’t focus on your brand.”

Customer research should focus on gathering information about products and services that local customers are currently missed and meeting the demand generated by this gap in the market.

Katie Hill, founder of Totality Day Spa, offered the following advice:

“Have your own stamp on the industry, stand out from the other 15 salons in your area and make a difference.”

Social media provides a key source of research into customer needs and responses. Sophy Robson, who established her nail art company in 2005 and currently has more than 15,000 twitter followers, recommends engaging and interacting with brands and people who offer a similar service. This helps to build a network of industry contact, whilst maintaining awareness of the image and the tone competitors project through social media platforms.

Debra Morris, education development officer for the Confederation of International Beauty Therapy anf Cosmetology, suggests to:

“Always ensure there is a part of your day you dedicate to growing your business. Between 10 minutes to an hour a day dedicated to thinking ahead works wonders.”

One thing that the panellist all agreed on was that anyone getting into the business should already know that running a small business is not your typical nine-to-five.

Mark Robertson, a partner in the Manchester office of chartered accountants UHY Hacker Young, agrees:

“You need to be continually reassessing your business model and direction. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask if you are offering what your market wants.”

As well as social media, traditional media mentions can obviously also improve public awareness of a beauty brand.

Sophy Robson recommends actively pursuing the press:

“When I started I read every article I could about beauty in the press and if it was about nails I would track down the journalist and send them an email.”

Additionally, though staying on trend is important it is also integral to a beauty business to remain true to the spirit of its initial identity and keep their brand on-message.

Brendan Murdock, founder of Murdock London barbers affirms this:

“Ensure your business comes from a sincere place. There is nothing worse than a brand simply born out of market opportunity.”

What are the trends of the moment?

Several panellists repeated highlighted the widespread popularirt of brows and brow-related products. Three years ago, Kerie Hoy was part of the introduction of the US Billion Dollar Brows business to the UK, and has seen her business expand exponentially ever since. Rachel Kavanagh, managing director of GlossyBox UK and Ireland confirmed that brow products are now one of the “most lusted after” by her brand’s own customers.

The panel also agreed that contouring make-up and integrative skin-care (a combination of vitamin supplements with lotions or creams) were on-trend for women at the moment.

According to Brendan Murdock, though, grooming is not restricted to the female beauty market:

“[There is] a growing market that’s already quite established. Beard oil is a new addition, which [I expect] to grow in popularity. There is demand as long as men are enjoying fashioning beards.”

Rather than simply chasing trends, if a brand can commit to a product or service with confidence and passion, combined with an individual approach that defines their differences from their competitors, their business has an increased chance of survival.

Sophy Robson says that these attitudes are essential to brand longevity:

“A successful beauty venture needs to be ahead of the trend or set the trend. The nail market became over saturated with nail wraps for example and only a couple have survived.”

How can I hire the best employees?

The business of beauty is all about customer service. With this in mind, staff must be courteous, approachable and reliable if a beauty business is to succeed. The panel offered plenty of advice on recruiting the right people as a beauty business grows, emphasising the importance of traditional avenues of recruitment.

Sophy Robson discourages brands from recruiting their most active social media fanatics from Facebook or twitter:

“It’s the quiet hard-working ones who are not on social networks who have turned out to be the most loyal and long lasting employees.”

Through thorough planning, persistence, and a comprehensive interview system, beauty businesses can weed out problems early on. Katie Cropton, who had recently started out with her hair salon Cherry Bomb, recommended a “trade test” with applicants who showed the most potential.

One things that split the panel was the hiring of staff straight from training.

Maleka Dattu warns that:

“Attitude and work ethic cannot be taught and in my experience is critical.”

Kerie Hoy confirmed that, while colleges were a wellspring of fresh and talented recruits, “newbies” will always require further practical training on the job:

“Realise you have to dedicate two years to them. This includes in-house training, mentoring and teaching them how to work in a salon.”

What’s the best strategy for growth?

One oft-repeated tip was that new starters in the beauty business should always “underestimate sales.”

According to Mark Roberston starting small can be an important learning curve:

“Cost control is your main concern. [For example,] use a spreadsheet rather than spending on expensive accountancy software.”

That said, Robertson also advised hiring a trusted accountant as soon as it becomes practical:

“As you grow, profits and therefore tax liabilities grow – make sure you get the best, most relevant, tax planning advice. So many clients rely on ‘the man in the pub’.”

There’s a practicality in pessimism, according to Maleka Dattu:

“underestimate sales; overestimate expenses, as that gives you a buffer of protection.”

As already mentioned, social media can be a great outreach tool, but as well as engaging customers and brands in conversation it is also worth using the internet as a means of developing professional networking opportunities by adding people on LinkedIn and maintaining a presence at industry events.

Debra Morris recommended going to trade shows and encouraged professional engagement membership groups such as the British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology (BABTAC) in order to keep an eye on major developments and to stay relevant to the industry as a whole.

Developing connections with other businesses, particularly those in your local region, can offer many benefits, Kerie Hoy says. She works with nearby businesses and retailers to offer regional discounts:

“Become friendly with local business that are helpful to network with.”

Rachel Kavanagh drew proceedings to a close with this last piece of advice:

“When launching a new business invest in people, never presume you know it all, you will always need people on your team who can do one thing better than you, so you are always learning.”



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Words: Peter Cribley

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