Millions of women around the world face the annoying conundrum of dealing with unwanted facial and body hair.
As a pubescent teen, it can mean continuous ridicule from classmates. As a woman, it’s an annoying inconvenience that requires taking time out of your busy schedule to get it taken care of. And while the market is flooded with hair removal products and specialist laser clinics that promise ‘pain-free’ permanent hair removal, many of them fail to live up to their claims. This was Hermann’s experience growing up and the sole rationale behind The Laser Beautique, the business she co-founded with her husband Neil in December 2009.
“Growing up, I tried everything from waxing, tweezing and laser treatments in South Africa, the UK, New York and Israel, but nothing worked,” she says.
By chance, she stumbled onto US medical reality TV show The Doctors that was profiling the Soprano, a permanent hair removal laser developed by Israeli company Alma Lasers. Coincidentally she was due in Israel the following week for a wedding and took the opportunity to test the product. For the first time in 20 years, Hermann had found a product that worked for her.
On her return to SA, she immediately drew up a business plan with the intention of approaching banks for funding. She asked Neil, then her boyfriend, to proof read it for her but he liked the proposal so much that he offered to put up the R1 million needed for the Soprano and became her business partner.
Franchising is like a marriage. You need to make sure that the people you bring into the business are on the same wavelength as your business otherwise it’s not going to work
They started small, operating from home with one trained Alma Laser therapist, her sister Rochelle whose salary the couple paid from their own salaries.
Three months into the business, Hermann and Neil left formal employment to open the first Laser Beautique clinic in Morningside. While they always knew they wanted to franchise the business, she never expected it to happen within 18 months of launching. The seventh franchise is due to open in the next month or two while one is scheduled to open inside the SWEAT 1000 gym in Cape Town and another in Witbank later this year.
“I wanted to franchise the business because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to open 20 clinics and be able to have an impact at all 20. I believe that unless our clinics are owner run and managed it doesn’t work because your attention gets spread too thinly. For something so personal, you’ve got to have someone running it who has a vested interest in the clinic to make sure the service levels are right,” she says.
All franchise owners started off as clinic clients and went through extensive training before opening shop. Franchising, she advises, is much like a marriage so finding the person with the right fit is crucial. “You need to make sure that the people you bring into the business as a franchisee are on the same wavelength as your business otherwise it’s not going to work,” she advises.
Hermann attributes her business success to two things: upskilling herself and her staff and honesty.
“Very few companies spend money on training especially in the beauty industry and it isn’t a regulated industry so anybody can buy any laser and put any therapist behind it. That’s really dangerous when you’re dealing with something that’s so personal and sensitive as your face and skin.”
“My girls go through training and refreshers every week to make sure we provide the best trained therapists for our clients. We’re trying to bring a high level of standard in the industry,” she says.
Another important ingredient to success, Hermann believes, is being prepared to work on demand. “Our clinics are open from 8am to 8pm and we work on demand so if a client requests an early appointment before operating hours or late hours we accommodate them and this has worked well for us,” she says.