We recently chatted to Laura Smyth, who owns Lush Skin and Body in Melbourne and has recently opened a second location in Perth. She told us about how she got started in the industry, how she manages two businesses remotely, and her top tips for other business owners.
How did you get started in the beauty industry?
“I was actually one of the lucky ones I think, because I knew from an early age that this was the industry that I wanted to be in. So straight out of high school, I went and did my Diploma of Beauty Therapy and absolutely loved it. I went straight into working in the industry and I instantly fell in love with it!
I started out working in a salon then moved through the industry and worked for a skincare company for a while before taking the leap and deciding to open up my own business.
At the time, it was just a very small site. I literally had this tiny little room that I rented, and I used it for everything, like facials, spray tans, manicures and pedicures.
I hustled pretty hard. I wanted to make it work because obviously it’s a big step opening up your own business. So I worked really hard on growing that business.
Two years in, I was fully booked and I thought okay, I need to grow this, I need to keep moving.
I was lucky enough there was a shop downstairs that was getting built and I negotiated with the landlord and opened up a six treatment room salon.
I started with only one therapist when we opened in 2012 and just grew from there. Now we’ve got 12 or 13 therapists in our Melbourne salon, and we’ve just opened up a new salon in Perth.”
What do you love about the industry?
“I think for me, I’m such a people person, I love being surrounded by people. I love making people feel better about themselves.
Being able to provide a service where you show them a mirror and see their big smiles and see them feeling happy. Also being able to build relationships with clients who then become friends and then they become like family. So you don’t feel like you’re working, you feel like you’re just hanging out with mates.
I also love that feeling of being able to inspire the younger generation of therapists coming through and being able to grow and develop them and those experiences as a business owner and manager sort of changed what I love about it.”
How are your two locations unique?
“Both Melbourne and Perth are full service salons, which is what I’ve always wanted to provide because I feel like the beauty industry has become very niche. So, you’re generally like a brow clinic, or you might be a lash clinic or a dermal and skin clinic.
In our Melbourne space we do a lot of facials, lashes and brows. At Perth, we do a lot of skin, so a lot of facials. We’ve also got our couples treatment room there. So we do a lot of couples facials, a lot of couples massages. It’s definitely more of a spa feel in Perth, sort of like a sanctuary of relaxation where people come and just get pampered.
The two salons are still very similar, and the customer journey is still the same, in terms of what we do and the experience that you feel. We just know that each location may have some services that are more popular than at our other salon.”
What do your clients really love about Lush Skin and Body?
“I think it’s an overall picture. It’s the small things and it’s the big things.
At Lush, as soon as you walk in the door it’s the smell. I know it sounds very simple, but it’s the smell. It’s the lighting, it’s the feel, it’s the luxurious little bits and pieces, it’s the furniture, that makes people instantly feel comfortable when they walk in.
I want them to feel like they’re walking into a friend’s house, or a home, or just a beautiful space.
Then we just provide that full customer journey when they come in. We’re providing big smiles and consultation forms and really delving into what they’re wanting and making sure that we deliver on that for each of our services. Then we’re also providing prescriptions and after care.
We always make sure we text all our facial clients afterwards, especially at the Perth clinic we’ve started operating that way and to check on how their skin is.
So it’s just providing that full customer journey. I’ve always said to my girls, I want clients to feel like they’re coming home. I want them to feel they’re home, and they’re safe that they’re with friends. That this is just a place of sanctuary for them to get away.
The girls have built such strong relationships with their clients over the years that they’re so loyal to them. So it’s really about building that rapport and that friendship. And just creating that full experience when they walk through that door.”
Tell us about your team
“I love my team so much. My very first employee, Jackie, has been with me since I first started ten years ago. I want to keep my team for as long as possible, but I still want them to grow if they want to have their own journey and have their own business as well.
It’s important to me that there’s that respect that we both have for one another, and I love to invest in them and watch them grow. You’ve got to support their goals and dreams too.
It’s tough losing staff, and of course ideally I’d like to keep them, but for me personally, I really want them to grow. I want them to spread their wings, and I think that they know that. So when they’re there and they are with me, they work hard and they really want to see lush grow and support my dreams and support their dreams as well. And when it’s time, you have to let them go and be proud of them as well.
My Perth team, we’re still at a growth stage, we’re still kind of getting to know each other and building those relationships. And we’re consistently growing, so we’ve just added two new girls in the last month or so. So I’m really excited to see where it goes.”
How do you find new talent?
“I normally just hire through Seek, but it’s hard at the moment to find beauty therapists. So I use a recruitment company, National Salon Recruitment, and I do like to hire directly from the school as well. I email the schools and recruit some of the newer, emerging therapists.
I love supporting new and emerging therapists. I’ll get them to start off a reception, and then we can grow them from within as well.
So that’s always a great way to get new talent, because then you’ve sort of molded them from the start to suit how you work. So whoever is on reception, I grow them into a beauty therapist as well.”
How do you manage your businesses remotely?
“I think it was made easier because I had already removed myself from the floor. So I was already focused on managing the business and not doing clients.
But when I moved to a different state, there were a lot of emotions flowing. I was feeling guilty about being away from the salon and thinking “How am I going to make this work?”
I was initially traveling back every six weeks to Melbourne, which was quite tiring. After I had my baby it was even harder.
But I think the key for me was communication, obviously having a really good management team that you trust, that knows what they’re doing, that is feeling comfortable and supported. And just communicating, having those conversations, being really open and transparent with your team at all times.
It’s great obviously having Kitomba, because I’ve got access to my business at any time. If I want to check the calendar and see how it’s looking, or look at my reports, I can see really what’s going on in my business without having to be there anyway.
My business grew huge once I removed myself from my salon because I was able to focus on my marketing, my recording, my training, all those things that you just physically don’t have time to do. I think business owners as a whole really struggle with the idea of removing themselves from the floor, it’s definitely a challenge, but I recommend you do it.”
What does success look like for you?
“So for me personally, success is freedom. Like just being able to take that holiday when I want to take that holiday, buy what I want to buy. Obviously, it’s a bit tougher now with Perth as I’m really investing a lot of time right now. But for me, success is the freedom to be able to live the life that I want to live without having to ask permission from anybody.
Secondly, I guess success to me is having an amazing team around me as well, a team that inspires one another. A team that is both passionate about growth within themselves and within the business.
So they’re the two main things that I find for me that defines success in my business and in my life.”
What’s your favourite Kitomba feature?
“I love Kitomba obviously, it’s been so good for me as a business owner, and I’ve always loved it because I have been away from my business, and now I have two businesses, and Kitomba makes it easy to manage both salons from anywhere on Kitomba 1.”
“We have ipads in all our salons, and I think we’ve got maybe 15 consultation forms all set up and ready to go.
We text and email them out prior to the client coming in, so it saves us so much time compared to a client sitting there and filling it out in the salon, because when they come in the forms are already on their file, ready to go. So we love that sort of thing.”
Getting started with forms
“To get started, we just looked at a consultation form that we already had, and we recreated that in the system. Then worked on adding things and deleting things that we just didn’t think were necessary as well.
It takes time. But once you do it, it’s done, and then you don’t have to worry about it. I just delegated it to my staff who I knew would be good at this sort of thing and they loved doing it.
The clients love it too. They feel like it’s innovative because they’re getting sent this form before they’ve even arrived. They feel they’re being listened to and that we’re hearing them and understanding what their needs are even before they walk in the door.
So our process is that the form is filled out first. Then we sit down with the client and we go over it once again to confirm that they don’t have any allergies, and what they’re hoping to get out of their visit. It just gives us a really quick insight about them and makes sure that we’re following all the protocols and providing a better service for our clients.
It makes the consultation process a lot quicker and more efficient, and cuts down on the clutter in the salon. When we used paper forms, you can imagine, after 10 years in business there was just so much paper in our Melbourne salon. We really wanted to go paperless because it’s better for the environment as well, and reduces so much admin of filing and finding the forms again when a client comes back in.”
What are your top tips for other business owners?
Tip 1: Don’t be afraid of your numbers
“I think when I first started in the industry, I was too scared to look at my figures and my books and understand my numbers.
Now I’m obsessed with them. So know your numbers. Know your business. Know what your break even is.”
Tip 2: Invest in yourself and your team
“Think about whether it’s time to look into getting a business coach, you need a role model to look up to so that you can grow as a business owner.
Really invest in a great team. Make sure you have a positive, collaborative team environment that supports your dream and allows you to support theirs.
To be honest, your team is everything. I couldn’t do it on my own. My team is really what has helped create Lush today. So, I’m really thankful and grateful for them and everything that they’ve done. I can’t wait to help Lush grow further into something more exciting and bigger.”
Tip 3: Know your salon software
“I work with some businesses, and they’re just not using Kitomba to its fullest capacity. And I think you only need to use it to see how amazing it is at doing all their marketing and their stock control and how it allows them to be innovative with their consultation forms.
So if you have the time, especially during Covid if your business is locked down, work on getting to understand your point of sale software because it’s so valuable to your business. It can just really make running your business so much smoother.
We just added the new Facebook and Instagram buttons, which I’m loving, and our online bookings have just increased hugely, just by having that book now button on my Instagram! So if anyone hasn’t done that yet – actually do it!”
Read more customer success stories:
- Customer success story: FMK Hair Design
- Customer success story: Ella & Jade
- Customer success story: Vivo Hair and Skin Clinics
All images in this post are by Ochre and Sage Photo and Film