When Terri Brooks describes her first year as a franchisee, she’s quick to point out that it certainly had its ups and downs.
This isn’t to say her sales numbers haven’t been trending upwards since she opened the first Glamour Secrets Beauty Bar on the West Coast in June 2016. But being a brand-new business owner in a brand-new area can have its challenges. It takes a whole lot of hard work to get people to recognize and trust you, she says.
“Since we’re the first, there’s been a ton of product and store awareness that I’ve had to do. There’s definitely more work to it than if you open where there’s already 30, and people are like, ‘Oh yeah, there’s that place.’”
Brooks’ place is on the outskirts of booming Chilliwack, British Columbia, in a shopping centre development called Eagle Landing. Nearby are about 40 other businesses, including anchors like Tim Hortons, Walmart, Home Depot, and Cineplex.
Inside her bright, 1,200-square-foot space, seven staff are busy offering more than 70 beauty services. That includes everything from blowouts and manicures, to waxing and threading, to eyelash extensions and cosmetics.
In Ontario, there are seven other Glamour Secrets franchises — five in the Toronto area, one in London, and another in Ottawa. All are competing in an aesthetic beauty services market that in recent years has been growing by 30 to 40 per cent in Canada.
The difference between Glamour Secrets Beauty Bar and many in the market, however, is that all of its services are offered under one roof, and service is quick.
The concept grew out of the ideas that GS Beauty Group gleaned from Trade Secrets, one of Canada’s largest beauty retail and salon chains. Along with Trade Secrets and Glamour Secrets Beauty Bar, GS Beauty Group also owns and operates Glamour Secrets and Taylor & Colt.
That established presence in the market was a big reason why Terri Brooks wanted to open the first Glamour Secrets Beauty Bar outside of Ontario. Plus, as a single mom with a laser technician background, she thought it would be a better fit than other franchises she was considering.
“My parents had restaurants when I was younger, so I was initially looking there,” she says. “But I have kids, and being a single mom trying to make all that juggle and work — all of those hours — it would be crazy.”
Still, getting the doors open in Eagle Landing wouldn’t be easy either. One of the first major challenges was negotiating a decent lease price at Eagle Landing. Like elsewhere in B.C., the cost of commercial lease space in Chilliwack is pricier than almost anywhere in the country. There was a lot of back and forth, says Brooks, and it took some time. But GS Beauty Group was a huge help, she adds, and they eventually negotiated a lease that was almost $10 per square foot less than what was initially asked. “They were just clear with what we were willing to pay and what we weren’t. They really showed that knowledge and background they have.”
GS Beauty Group also showed that during training, she says, which happened over three weeks in Toronto. At the head office in Woodbridge and a couple of different stores in the Greater Toronto Area, she learned everything she needed to get going, from product details to the software system.
On top of that training and lease support, the franchise also offers complete store design, construction, and equipment; advertising and marketing support, including national and regional programs; turnkey purchasing, inventory, and operational systems; and grand opening assistance.
Brooks had her grand opening on June 7th, 2016. And that’s when things really got going.
Getting the word out
Looking back on those first few months in business, in particular, Brooks says it was definitely a learning curve. “I do laser and aesthetics, so I was comfortable there, but then there’s worrying about pedicures and hair and all of our other services. So finding the right staff, doing the proper training — that was a challenge.”
What helped was simply doing the job, being persistent, and learning from her mistakes, she says. Now her staff are what brings her the most joy, and the whole process of working together as a team has been extremely rewarding.
As has been getting involved in several community groups, which Brooks says was a great way to get the word out about a business that almost no one had heard of. “If you don’t support your community, they’re not going to support you.”
One of those groups is a local charity that donates 1,000 backpacks stuffed with school supplies to local students every fall. This winter, her franchise is also raising money and organizing a fundraiser for a program that gives 1,000 warm coats to kids who need them in the community. The franchise supports a local transition house, too, and provides free haircuts to the homeless once a year.
Brooks is also getting the word out through newspaper and radio ads, and a loyal following on social media.
“We do all of that, and still we get a lot people that say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were here!’” she says with a laugh.
Overall, though, it’s paying off. Just take a look at the franchise’s Facebook page, and you’ll find a review rating close to five stars and comments like: “Great service, was so warm and relaxing.” And: “Always love getting pampered and these women make sure you feel that way.”
Words of wisdom
As good as things are going, though, Brooks is still learning, and working her tail off every day. It’s a good lesson for any rookie franchisee.
“You have to be prepared to work hard and spend a lot of time at your business,” she says. “But I think the biggest thing is to make sure you don’t underbudget on marketing, especially if you’re in a new area. The marketing side can be shocking.”
As for marketing-specific advice, she recommends getting involved with community groups and focusing on delivering a clear and concise message on social media. “You also want to market your stuff to look the same,” she adds. “You want that brand recognition. You want people to see you and say, ‘Oh yeah, I know who that is.’”
It’s advice she’ll continue to put to use herself as she looks to grow her business in Chilliwack, and perhaps open another location elsewhere. Her contract states that she has the first right of refusal for any new franchise between Hope and Langley on B.C.’s Lower Mainland.
She’s in no rush to open that second location, however, and is instead focusing on paying off debts and enjoying a much smoother ride.
“There can be some really big highs and there can be some big lows, because not every month is going to be golden. You just have to have a lot of persistence and patience,” she says.
By Jordan Whitehouse