Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal care but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kaniz Shah, Founder of Silk & Stone Holistic Spa & Salon, located in Portland, OR, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Silk & Stone is a salon & Spa and a manufacturer of 100% natural and vegan skincare and hair care products. We formulate our recipes using ancient Unani and Ayurvedic wisdom along with western science to create unique products that are kind and gentle to our health and our environment. Our products are unique because they target the main problem areas consumers have by addressing the issue from its core (whether it be hormonal, environmental, stress-related, etc.).
We use only plant-based ingredients and natural preservatives so that the client with the toughest issues can benefit from them. Our customers are those who understand and value the healing power that comes from mother earth (e.g., health-conscious people, people with sensitivities who can’t use chemical-based products, chemo patients, etc.) and those who are not able to find a solution for their skin or hair problems.
Tell us about yourself
Before I got into this business, I was a henna artist. For years people asked me if I also did henna for the hair and if I did eyebrow threading. I had done threading for myself but never on another person. As demand grew, I decided to try both on others and see what they thought about it. To my surprise, it was something they loved and really wanted. This was when I realized I have talents that are in demand but hard to find in my area. I began my business from home and eventually opened my own salon and spa. My clients soon enough wanted natural products that I could offer them, which led to my mission of giving them healthy solutions to their problems.
Throughout childhood, I had been exposed to family members using ancient natural remedies handed down from generations. I had never put any thought into this until my clients told me their problems and needs, and then it just clicked! Before I knew it, I was making products using ancient eastern wisdom. I wasn’t sure if clients would use the products if they were not in their traditional form, like a cleanser being a powder instead of a liquid. It turned out that the clients who wanted the results were willing to put effort into making it happen.
My product formulations started out with herbal henna hair colors and ruhani facial cleansers and now have grown into an entire line of skincare and haircare products, thanks to my returning clients. It was they who helped me realize my talents and put them to good use and supported me and my work endlessly. They bought my formulations in bags when I didn’t have containers and in unlabeled jars when I didn’t have the time to make the labels. I really couldn’t have done this without their support and feedback.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I am the first person in my family and among my ancestors to get a bachelor's degree and build the kind of business I have built. It is a great accomplishment for a woman whose family and culture don’t easily celebrate the innovation or success of women. I really had to push myself to do this by myself when there were so many obstacles pushing me in the other direction almost every day.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The hardest thing for me did not have all the quality time I wanted to have for my autistic and disabled daughter when she was little. I had to work 14 to 18 hours a day for years to get my business going and to make a living. At the time, I didn’t know any of the conditions she had because none of the doctors we went to could give us answers. We did every test we could think of and went to so many doctors that I can’t even count. At age 16, my daughter did her own self-diagnosis and pretty much figured out all the areas she needed to be tested.
She turned out to have more than ten different conditions. Poor thing went through so much at such a young age, and I will never understand why not one doctor could address even one area for her. All this opened doors to knowledge and understanding between her and me when before, we were constantly arguing with each another and struggling to reach common ground.
It took years of work, and we were finally able to build a wonderful relationship. Having your own business is a serious commitment, but people don’t realize that a woman in a small business has to deal with the business, satisfy clients, satisfy their partners, kids, and families, take care of their home, deal with their background cultural issues (if any) and still trying to find time for themselves.
We often end up neglecting ourselves to cater to others. There are so many times I have wanted to quit, but the satisfaction of my clients and realizing they need me is my motivation. It keeps me going and keeps me loving what I do. As you can see, the final product or service each customer gets comes from a lot of thought, love, care, and dedication before it reaches them.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Believe in yourself and what you are providing to the world. "Believe" is the key word. If you truly believe it, it will happen the way you want it. You must know with all your heart that you are guaranteed to achieve it or something even better. There can be no room for doubt.
- Take care of yourself first in every step so that you can do the work long term. If you are well, you can work more efficiently and get more done.
- Don't give up. Some businesses start from one dream but lead to a better dream. Mine started from going to dental hygiene school to apparel design and went into henna art, then into a salon, and then into skincare and haircare. Everything I did and learned from each field benefitted me in one way or another for what I do now.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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