So many estheticians I meet who are just starting their careers will tell me their dream is to open their own skin care practice someday. As someone who has owned their own skin care company for 24 years (five while in Boston and now 18 in Dallas), I know a thing or two about how to go about doing this.
I want to start my own skin care business, how do I go about doing this?
This is a challenging decision to make and one that you should give a lot of thought to. First of all, you have to make sure that you are opening up a business for the right reasons and this is not just for your love and passion for helping people improve their skin. You have to be someone who does not mind working seven days a week (because especially for the first year or two, it is going to be needed) and you enjoy the challenge of running all aspects of a business. Giving skin treatments is the easy and fun part, getting a business up and running is the hard part. Aside from being a service provider giving facial treatments, you also have to continually wear your business hat to get the word out there that you exist. In addition, you have to be your own bookkeeper (this means worrying about having enough money to pay your bills), order and manage inventory, negotiate a lease with your landlord, deal with liability insurance companies, keep your facility clean, maintain your equipment and so much more. If you also choose to hire employees, you then have to do payroll and also make sure all of their needs are taken care of. As I have always looked at it, you work for your employees and it is your job to make sure they have a nice, supportive work environment, the education and tools they need to be successful, and maintain a busy schedule with clients.
Also, before you ever venture out on your own, you must have a significant client base because the #1 difficulty all estheticians will face is getting new clients and getting existing clients to come in regularly. If you are working somewhere now, and plan for your clients to follow you when you start your own practice, not all will. It is just the nature of moving to a new location. Anticipate that you will have some clients who will not come with you, even if they tell you they will. Most people will tell you what you want to hear and not always be honest, as they don’t want to hurt your feelings. So be sure that now is the right time to branch out on your own.
What skin care products do you recommend I use in my skin care practice?
My best recommendation is to attend a trade show and look at all the lines available. The products that exhibit at esthetics trade shows cater to estheticians and have a true understanding of what it takes for you to have a successful career. Choose a line that is extensive and has something for everyone. You may consider having more than one line to give you a variety to recommend to your clients so all skin types are addressed. As I’m sure you’ve discovered, most skin care lines still cater to very limited types of skin like dry, normal, and oily. Once you choose a product line (or lines), look for ones that have a lot of training and support. It is essential to your success that you have a company behind you that really wants to see you succeed. Also, talk with other estheticians and see what lines they have had success with.
While we consistently get requests from estheticians and beauty retailers wanting to sell our line, this is simply a direction my company and I have chosen not to go at this time. I want my company focused on skin and I just feel like the minute we start having our products sold at other places, then the focus becomes all about sales. I’m sure there is a way to balance that but for now, I want to stay true to what got me into this profession in the first place.
How do you balance owning a business while also being a service provider?
This is very challenging, especially when you are starting out. For the first 10 years of owning my own business, I saw clients 5-6 days a week. Certainly the first few years, I could not afford to not take clients as the revenue I generated went to pay the bills. When I was not scheduled with clients, I would still be working on the business. I knew I had to focus on growing the business, or it would not survive. This is why running a business is a seven day a week job. Once everything was stable, I slowly cut back my time spent with clients in the treatment room to focus on product development and other aspects of running the company. My best advice before you ever decide to step away from the room and give all of the responsibility of giving skin treatments to your estheticians (assuming you have employees) is to have a really good understanding of your financials. Have someone help you with this if this is not your area of expertise, which for most estheticians like myself, it is not.
What do you attribute to the success of Renee Rouleau Skin Care?
This is a question I get asked often and my answer is simple. I am a hard worker who dedicates most waking hours to my company. Success is not magic. It is the result of putting in the time along with having a good, well thought out strategy that is continually being tweaked. Coming up with good ideas is the easy part, making the time to execute those good ideas is the hard part. I have always been less talk and all action. As the Nike motto says, “Just do it” and I do. I also believe in treating people well and staying true to my values.
Any other tips for opening a business?
Build it and they will NOT come.
I’ve always said if I wrote a book, this would be the name of it. Many people focus on their new business and all that will be offered and then wonder why they aren’t getting sales once they open their doors. It’s because you must spend adequate time on figuring out how to get people to know who you are and how fabulous you are! Same with the web, you may launch a fabulous and beautiful website, but if no one knows you are there, what good is it? Marketing, networking and risk-taking are the keys to success. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. Read books, ask for help, and work like crazy to spread the good word.
Depending on the business, PR is crucial.
I’ve never done any advertising and have always focused on public relations (editorial mentions.) Traditional paid advertising is you saying how good you are. Editorial features in magazines is when someone else says how good you are giving you tremendous credibility. For years I did my own PR, pitching my products and services to editors of magazines and producers of TV shows. Now, I have a publicist who handles it for me, but my business has been built on this very one thing. There are many great books on how to do it, it’s really not that hard. Discover the power of publicity. It’s priceless.
Don’t be afraid to take risks. There will always be naysayer’s.
I think being a risk-taker is something that you are inherently born with. It’s a confidence that allows you to stick your neck out and if you get knocked down, you don’t crawl in a hole, but you keep on going. Entrepreneurs are notorious for having this trait. Go with it and don’t let people tell you you’re wrong. My gut and my instinct has always been my guiding light and it’s rarely let me down.
It’s easier to fix the leaks in the hose then it is to get more water.
Don’t forget to pay attention to your day to day operations. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on getting new business and customers, but you might be overlooking the internal operations that may not be maximizing opportunities for business. Is the receptionist friendly and saying the right things on the phone when customers call? Are you asking your existing customers for referrals and giving them incentive to spread the word about you? Are there areas where you can cut costs? There are a lot of things you can do to run your business more efficiently and effectively, so make sure to closely analyze these things.
Make sure to develop and maintain business relationships/friendships.
People like to help people they like. Friends like to help friends succeed. For so many years I went it alone to promote and build my business, but there is only one of me and only so much I can do. When you have friends that support your success, they can help spread the word for you. But you have to remember to ask them for their help. Make it a priority to network, attend events and do lunches. It will pay off.
Focus on your strengths, delegate your weaknesses.
As an entrepreneur, we are required to wear many hats. We are the plumber, the bill payer, the bank depositer, the supply getter, the marketer, the promoter, the trainer, the manager and the list goes on and on. There are only 24 hours in a day to get your work done, and often things are left neglected which can negatively impact a business. And certainly you can’t be good at everything. I learned long ago to delegate what I’m not as efficient at, and focus on, not only what I’m good at, but what I like to do. Make list of all of the things you must do in a given day/week/month. Separate them into two columns. What you like, what you don’t like. Delegate out the items you don’t like to do.
Treat your employees well. Accept them for who they are and who they are not.
There will never be someone just like you, that thinks like you, that makes the exact decisions that you will. And the sooner you accept this, the better off you’ll be. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and it’s better to spend your time enhancing your employees strengths, rather than trying to make them into something they will just never be. And don’t forget to give lots of praise and recognition. They’ll love you for it, and they’ll be loyal to you if they are happy.
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Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”