Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal care but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sally Parks, Owner of Plum Natural Nail and Skin Spa, located in Austin, TX, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Plum Natural Nail and Skin Spa offers nail and skin care services in Austin, TX. Our clients are a broad mix of ages, backgrounds, and personalities! We don't cater to any group but offer an inclusive environment that welcomes anyone! Our clients tend to have an interest in using products that are curated with the purpose of being more healthful and environmentally conscious.
Tell us about yourself
It all started in the mid-1990s when I was a student at the University of Texas. I had suffered from eczema since I was a kid. Itchy, scaly, red spots on my arms and knees that seemed to get worse the more I moisturized. I started using a prescription steroid cream from my doctor, and it helped, but it always came back. While at UT, I had my first experience visiting an Aveda hair salon. I loved the ethos of the line and learned more about the products and the ingredients. After starting to use the line at home, I realized one day that my eczema wasn’t as bad as it had been. I didn’t make the connection at first but finally realized that the heavily fragranced hair and body products from the popular mall stores were what was causing my outbreaks.
After graduating, I went into the marketing field. I loved what I did but always had the plan to start my own business one day. I even kept a notebook that I filled with ideas for my future endeavor! Around 2011, after 15 years working for others, I started earnestly planning for the future, researching some of my ideas and trying to figure out what would I would do.
Sitting in a nail salon one day, getting a pedicure, something I’d done 100 times before, the technician brought out a big 5-gallon tub of fluorescent blue “scrub” that she used during my service. Having been so careful for so many years about what I put on my body, I thought to myself that there had to be a better option for salons. That’s when the idea of creating a nail spa that focused on using clean products came to me. Since artificial fragrance was what caused me so much pain for so many years, I was determined at that point to create a place where I knew I, and others like me, would appreciate a cleaner alternative. One that was free of fumes from acrylic nail services and that only used products that were free of parabens, phthalates, and artificial fragrance. And from there – Plum was born.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Starting! Overcoming my doubts and fears just to leave the security of my corporate job and start my business is what I am most proud of.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Focus. In the last several years, the pace of change for many industries has increased exponentially. Whether it’s technology, products, or how services and goods are being delivered – keeping up with innovation is the hardest it has ever been. By the time you’ve adopted something, it is obsolete!
And the beauty industry, especially, has been turned on its head with the rise of social media influencers and how quickly trends proliferate. Every week we’re asked about the newest product or treatment, and it can be hard to ignore the hype. FOMO is real! But you can’t rush in to be an early adopter of everything. That can lead not only to financial problems, but you have to look at the bigger picture of how those changes fit into your corporate ethos.
To deal with this, I’ve made it a practice to review my business plan once a year and remind myself what our goals and principles are. Yes, we do pick up on some trends, but only with deliberate intention – and a lot of research!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself what your weaknesses are and how you will accommodate them. A lot of people start a business because they know how to deliver a service or make a product, but if you don't have the foundational knowledge of finance, contract negotiation, or employee management, you have two choices: learn how to do it or hire someone who knows how.
- Take your time. In my industry, it's common to see someone finish cosmetology school, get their license, and immediately open a solo practice. It's estimated that up to 75% of people who are licensed will not stay in this profession for more than five years. I think there is a correlation there. It's okay to work for someone else while you make plans for your future. But don't be passive! Watch, learn, and take notes. Even bad bosses can teach you a lot about what to do and not to do!
- All business isn't good business. I'm definitely not the first person to say this, but I think it is important enough to include here as a reminder for new business owners. It can be hard to turn down a customer at any point in your career, but during those first few months or years when you're getting off the ground, it is even harder. It's during this time that you'll find clients who want to take advantage of the fact that you're new. If you find yourself drained whenever you deal with a person or feel taken advantage of, or if they intimidate you to try to get more and more from you, it's okay to end the business relationship. Your future self will thank you!
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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