Local Day Spa Takes Advantage of E-commerce Opportunities
On the brink of the COVID 19 pandemic when the country was in the beginning of what would be a long lock down, so many businesses across many different industries were hit with uncertainty of what the future would look like for them. One industry that relied on in-person human interaction was the beauty industry. Salons and spas across the country were basically put out of business and not allowed to open their doors for what would be months. With no idea of how long these circumstances would last, leaders in the industry had to get creative and bring out their true entrepreneurial spirit in themselves in order to keep their livelihoods a float, that is exactly the situation Lee Saathoff of Merle Norman Salon & Day Spa Washington found herself in.
The services they offer to the community are: doing makeup for special occasions along with providing make up lessons; hair salon services; esthetic services; massage therapy, and ear piercing. They retail American-made cosmetics, skin and hair, as well as handbags and purses in addition to locally made jewelry. With a twenty-year history in the beauty industry, the challenge of the COVID 19 pandemic was definitely a first for Mrs. Saathoff. One thing Lee knew from prior crises in the community was that even in hard times women still need skin care, cosmetics, as they want to continue to feel like themselves in a time of change and uncertainty. Right out of the gate, Mrs. Saathoff came up with creative solutions to service her clientele the best that she could, given the circumstances. She reached out via Facebook, called, and personally emailed her clients to let them know they can pick up products (contactless) from her home or she would mail them to whoever needed them.
She tried everything she could but with still not being able to provide her clientele with the services they normally would, Lee had to use resources that were out there to help business owners like her be able to save her employees and her business space. Mrs. Saathoff was skeptical, like many small business owners, to take the small business loans that were available from the government for COVID assistance but with the advice of the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC), at Bradley University, and a few other trusted sources, she was able to take advantage of that assistance and it really helped to save her employees and her business. At the time Mrs. Saathoff was also looking to relocate her business to a better location, which was already a large investment that had been in the works prior to the pandemic. So, with more expenses than usual, her clientele as well as the business loans were able to keep her business on track and be able to open in a brand-new location.
Lee was still wanting to grow her business in these hard times, so she reached out again to the Illinois SBDC and was able to get connected with two e-commerce business advisors, Chris Youngmark and Greg Douglas, who were able to help guide her on how to take her business to the next level. In talking about Chris and Greg, Mrs. Saathoff said “they really opened my eyes to areas I was under-valuing before in marketing, branding and visibility, and it made me not question if it really was worth it to stay up to date on things, now I see it as a necessity”. A goal of Mrs. Saathoff's meeting with the business advisors was to obtain a newer, younger clientele base. They discussed the benefits of having a good online presence and how that attracts the younger generations of clients. Lee admitted that “after doing things the same way for almost twenty years, you get into a routine of doing things the same way. We use to do newspaper, TV, and radio ads, but that’s not the thing anymore”. So after that Lee began to use free advertisement outlets which includes taking her online and social media presence for her business more seriously. She found resources provided by her franchiser, Merle Norman, to help her make a better website as well as have better managed social media pages, something she had never found or used to her advantage before.
As far as coming out of the pandemic, Mrs. Saathoff has found a way to see the crisis as a blessing rather a setback, she was quoted as saying “The pandemic has given me a way to connect with my clientele in a way that wasn’t possible before, I think it’s made all of us more thankful for each other and not to take people for granted”. In terms of expanding her salon and spa, Lee is looking forward to working with pleasant, reliable, accountable, and sociable cosmetologists, esthetics, and massage therapists. Although it has been challenging to find such individuals to fill those roles, she has hope for her beauty community to bounce back even stronger and for her business to become bigger and better.