August 2010 - December 2010
There comes a time in every successful and accomplished career orientated person’s professional life when you just KNOW that you have reached the end of the road. Same industry, same issues, same client problems, same staff stories…for 15 years. But not everyone has the guts to leave the building and to start their own thing. I wonder how many entrepreneurs know from a young age that they want to own a business. Or do they just enter the “fed up zone” and then kick-start the rebellious entrepreneurial spirit? In my case, it was a statement by our pastor that went something like this that sparked the birth of something profoundly remarkable: “Every person sees something through their own eyes that grinds and irritates them immensely. By finding a solution for this perceived problem, you will impact everyone that has ever experienced the same irritation, positively. That is your greatest niche. Only you can see it, because it only irritates you enough, to the point that you will find a solution for the rest of us.”
Hmmm really? So dirty wax pots, unnecessarily long and drawn out waxing appointments, unqualified or poorly trained staff only bothers ME? (Or should I rather say unqualified waxing staff, ‘cause if you are the manicurist who gets forced to do the next client’s Brazilian wax, you are still qualified in something). With visions of skin ripped from innocent clients, I went back to work the next day wondering if I too have a niche. Experience has taught me that the wax scenario in every big salon, or small salon or five star hotel spa pretty much looked the same. The lighting was poor, the products didn’t work and the therapists would rather up skill in facial training to retail more products, thereby earning more commission for themselves. And what about the poor male clients? There were no male salons that I knew about that caters only for men. They had to endure pink or baby blue interiors where ladies sat in rows and stare and giggle as yet another male tries to get some professional grooming done and then rather decides that it was a bad idea after all.
And so the grinding and irritation begun for me. I only lasted 5 months at the last elite salon that I worked at. Maybe it was the last comment I read that week that said: “one cannot row to the other end of the shore by holding on to the edge on this side, one has to let go first”. It was the August of 2010, the middle of a recession in South Africa and the weather was cold and definitely not conducive for clients to get undressed for any waxing any time soon. My boss sent me to collect some printing for her at the print shop one icy Johannesburg morning. I took my handbag, left the building and went straight home for some hot chocolate. And that spelled the end of my beauty therapy career, after 15 years. Needless to say, she is still waiting for her printing. I had no plan, no savings, and no idea if male waxing was what our pastor spoke about. Well, he is a body builder, so I presumed he has had some waxing done. I never, ever thought of myself as an entrepreneur. In my mind those are people like Richard Branson. Not me. My husband, Fritz, was shocked when he saw me at home, and so the discussion started about: WHAT NOW?
I remembered a client’s comment once in a salon many years ago. She was late for an appointment and I had a lot of waxing to do for her. So I pushed the clock and made sure I did a very efficient wax for her. On completion of her full body wax, she said: “Wow you wax like a machine, you should have a waxing place one day and call it Fast and Furious Waxing.” This was during the time that the Fast and Furious movies with Vin Diesel made quite an impact. And it stuck with me. Fritz and I had to register this imaginary waxing business and start making a plan fast as we also needed my income to pay bills. We wanted to register as ‘Fast and Furious Waxing Studios’ but then men would still be excluded. Surely ‘waxing specialists’ would be able to handle male waxing too. And you can’t call yourself a specialist if you are not able to handle both male and female services.
At this point I have never waxed a male before, but I figured that after 15 years in the beauty industry, it couldn’t be much different from doing a female wax. To say that nausea and fear overtook my entire body is a gross understatement. It literally felt like I died as I was completely numb and unable to make any sudden movements. It felt like that for at least three months. Even after we opened. Not funny. And apparently waxing specialists can also do Brazilian waxing without batting an eyelid. Yes, also for men. So we registered as ‘Fast and Furious Waxing Specialists’.
The big plan of action was to look for a salon that didn’t offer any waxing and to rent a room in there. Only one tiny problem, ok, two tiny problems existed. I had no rent money saved up and our first logo was of a burning panty. I read somewhere that you are supposed to make an impact with your marketing, so that’s what we did. There was a nail and hair salon down the road from where we lived that didn’t have anything on their wall outside about waxing. I went inside and asked for the owner and explained our situation to her. She said OK. Seriously?
Right, so we had premises that we could get rent free for the first month until we showed signs of activity and we had a small sign that could go up on the roadside with a burning panty picture on it. The hairdresser borrowed me a side table to pack the products on, which I later decorated with led lights for more impact, (read that somewhere too…), the nail salon owner borrowed me a bed and Fritz bought me a small wax pot as an early birthday gift.
With no funds, our only marketing material was black and white flyers that I dropped in post boxes and gave to random waiters to put into the bills of a few of their unsuspecting clients.
Our first grand promotion was tiny colour flyers with tied red plastic chillies from China mall, which got handed out by young models on the main road in front of the shop. Hence the first slogan: Hot and on the spot waxing. Ouch. It did work, as many clients phoned from their cars to claim the 50% discount off their first wax with us.
The first male in need of a Brazilian wax came for his appointment on the second day after opening. Clearly there was a great need for this service and as soon as we launched our first hand-made website, we got even more enquiries. Our first turnover that September of 2010 was only R2700. Alternate feelings of numbness and nausea, bouts of tears and thoughts of insanity haunted me daily. During those early days, I could literally only buy enough wax product to finish the next client’s treatment. I drove to the supplier again to buy more wax after the client had paid their bill. We had a grand opening anyway, and we were hopeful that journalists would be arriving in their hundreds to document this brave step. They didn't....so we asked my mom to cut the ribbon.
And that was the start of Fast and Furious Waxing Specialists. Despite comments that we should consider expanding our service offering to nails and massage treatments, I refused to accept the idea of us becoming another normal salon with average offerings. I wanted us to be true to the concept of ‘specialists’. Entrepreneur? Hardly. Rebellious? For sure. Hungry (excuse the pun) to change clients’ views about the beauty industries’ wax offering? You bet. Nothing drove me harder knowing that THIS was our niche, and that we would definitely be changing the poor waxing standards of the industry for clients, at least in Johannesburg.