The idea for creating a hair and beauty supplies business came to me very early on in life. I came up with the concept of creating a wholesale hair and beauty company at the age of 14. I was working part-time for someone else packing shelves and cleaning after school in the hair and beauty industry when the revelation came to me. I would often hear customers complain about the prices all the time and noticed there was a gap in the market for affordable hair and beauty products for salons.
At the age of 14, it was near impossible to bring the idea to life. I had to finish school and saved all my money to bring the concept to life. Working for others was bringing me the constant validation that I needed to make the idea work. Customers were wanting quality products at affordable prices and that just wasn’t on offer at the time.
I had no experience in business when I decided to make my first move. I purchased a cheap van and purchased some towel warmers. I then drove around selling them for $10 more than what I purchased them for. I didn’t understand the fundamentals of business or understand how to make capital, it was a learning process as I went. My first sale was one of the towel warmers to the company I worked for at 14. That eventually started to do well so I was able to branch out and try selling at shows. I made one sale on the first day and then it was nearly a week between my next sale. It was a scary experience trying to validate yourself and your concept at such a young age and lack of knowledge of business or the ins and outs of the beauty industry.
Who is your target demographic?
Customers of AMR Hair & Beauty are predominantly trade professionals. They are made up of hairdressers, tanning specialists, beauticians and lash technicians. In 2017, we started selling to the public which allowed us to gain a new audience. We gave non industry professionals the chance to purchase their favourite salon products directly from the wholesaler, which was also something that hadn’t been done before. Having such a mixed audience can make it difficult and sometimes and we are asked unusual questions. Some of my favourites have been customers trying to fix their home DIY hair jobs. Most of the time they include photos of the hair mishap and are asking for professional help.
Have you had any funny customer support enquiries?
We’ve also had other customers who call up weekly asking the same questions on repeat. Most of the time it’s because they like talking to the customer support team. We once had a gentleman called every week for nearly a year without making a purchase, just talk speak with the girls.
How did you fund the idea initially?
The business started out completely funded by me. Being so young, a bank wouldn’t even give me an eftpos machine let alone and financial backing. I worked multiple jobs, one of which was cleaning overnight just to get the business off the ground. It was a struggle trying to complete school, work for someone else and run a business on my own. I put all of my savings into purchasing products which eventually lead to manufacturing my own products, creating brands and having our own facilities. Every cent made was reinvested back into the company which helped to build a surplus of funds to make these things to happen.
How did you hire your early employees?
My very first employee was actually a customer of mine. She would often come in to purchase supplies and had a strong knowledge of the hairdressing industry. I nervously asked her to be part of the team, without even understanding how to hire someone. This employee still works for my company today and is one of the most loyal employees. I made it my mission after that to hire people who have a good understanding of the industry and the needs of the customers. Most of the people hired after have been customers or friends of friends. We like having a close knit team who want to see the company grow and succeed, and feel like this is their business journey too. Having a passion for the products and business helps staff to build good relationships with our customers.
Products that sell the best are the professional lines. Fanola would be our most popular brand amongst both public and trade customers. The No Yellow Shampoo is the most frequently purchased item which is specifically for blondes. Hair colours and bleaches would be the second most purchased items closely followed by foil and other accessories needed to complete the colouring process.
What were your family and friends first thoughts on your company?
Being so young when starting a business, I was very inexperienced. I made many mistakes and I was constantly faced with adversity and challenges daily. From financial struggles to lack of business knowledge, these small processes took a toll on the initial growth of the business. My family were concerned to begin with about my business ventures. My mum watched me work 19 hour days and put all of my money into something that was uncertain. She was concerned not with my ability to make my business grow, but the toll it was taking on my physical state. Her concern for me made me want to work even harder to make her proud and show her it was all worth it.
Growing up, my mum raised seven children on her own. I watched her struggle financially while making sure we never went without. It became a drive for me to succeed so I could take care of her and make her proud. I want her to see all the hardships she endured to give us a better life were all worth it. This was probably the biggest drive for me to persevere in times when it looked like I couldn't continue.
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
I’ve learned many things by owning a business. Some personal but many of them are business related. One of my biggest takeaways from anything I’ve ever done is to take risks. Many times I pushed forward even when there were roadblocks, I just needed to continue. The risks I took could have made me fall or rise and more often than not they were successful. It’s important to have the right people around you when making decisions. They need to be innovative and be able to take the risks with you but also have some common sense too. You need a team that has the ability to analyse data but be willing to try things anyway because there is no cookie cutter shape for any business.
What drives the most sales?
We started out as a brick and mortar store and have branched out to become and omni-channel retailer, with an ecommerce store for public and trade. My advice would be to continue to be both, or test online first. The hairdressing industry in particular still really enjoy coming in-store and learning about the brands from staff and getting personalised recommendations. This doesn’t work for every business model so try online first. Having an ecommerce store today means you can drop ship, benefiting from not needing to purchase the products yourself. It allows for you to test the market and try different ways to grow your business.
Our growth came through social media platforms forms such as Facebook and Instagram. These platforms helped us to build brand awareness through influencer marketing, lead generation campaigns and competitions. They allow for you to target a specific audience as well as reach new potential clientele. Email campaigns drive the most sales but the lead nurturing started from social media, so invest in your image. The more money you have to invest in collecting quality leads and google advertising, you’ll see rapid growth. Capital is our current limitation to preventing us from growing 3 times as big as we’d like but we are hoping expansion is on the cards soon.
How do you protect yourself from competition?
There has been a growth in competitors in recent years which could have seen our business slow if we weren’t proactive. We protect ourselves from competition by ensuring that we are constantly doing competitor analysis’. This means we are able to always be ahead of the market and are offering our customers something no one else is. This might be offering free shipping, price beat guarantees or just ensuring we are the best quality products and the fastest shipping. Listening to customer feedback and putting our customers first has really helped us to keep ahead of the competition. We also bring in brands that are exclusive to us that people can’t purchase anywhere else.
By bringing in exclusive brands and manufacturing your own products, it means you can easily get trademarks and patents. By trademarking brands and words, it means your competitors can’t bid on those words, as well as other competing products on the market to be very limited. When researching and thinking of brands to bring on, ensure they are for a niche market and something that actually has a demand. Be mindful that brand building can take some time, so if you are wanting sudden growth, you’ll need to look to other avenues as even getting a trademark can be a lengthy process.
What are the top apps your business could not run without?
The top tools that AMR could not run without include the following:
Each of these apps or tools are pivotal to the success of our ecommerce store. Facebook and Instagram help to drive brand awareness, build trust and communicate key messages to our customers. They are a great way to connect and engage with customers as well as collect leads, run giveaways and share key information with targeted audiences.
Google analytics and adwords is where everything is tracked and created. Our team use this daily to see the effectiveness of campaigns and bring to life new ideas using collated data. It means we run off real data without having to make assumptions, making a sales and social accounts more accurate.
Ahrefs allows for us to better optimise our SEO. We use this frequently to research trending keywords, competitive analysis and to analyse and understand backlinks.
Active Campaign is used for our email campaigns. We send roughly 3-4 campaigns out weekly using this tool which helps to generate revenue and create the sales funnel for our customers. It’s easy to use and offers many other additional tools we frequently find ourselves using.
Where do you see the company in 5 years?
In the future, we are hoping to further expand AMR to offer more brands and products. We want to provide our customers with a bigger variety of choices and include more professional industries. We are working on formulating new and innovative products for the hair market to meet the needs of our customers clients using popular ingredients. Using activated charcoal to create shampoos has been the latest release with new arrivals coming very soon. Our formulator is working on trialing new products free of sulphate, silicones, parabens and salts which is exciting for many customers.
In the next 5 years we would love to open more brick and mortar stores around Australia, as well as internationally like the USA and UK. At the moment I wouldn’t consider selling but would be open to the idea of bringing on investors. I still believe the company has a long way to go and I’d love to be the one to bring it to an international level.
|Company Name:||AMR Hair & Beauty Supplies|