We were recently joined for a lunchtime masterclass with Cynthia Chua, entrepreneur and founder of multiple beauty enterprises including Ministry Of Waxing and Browhaus threading salons.
Cynthia's experience stems from having successfully launched 13 beauty and catering brands in cities across the world, including London, Shanghai, New York, Hong Kong and Bangkok. Take a look at some of her tips and advice on how to run a successful global business, below.
Picture credit: Getty Images
Inspiration and motivation
I am wondering, why beauty? Where did you get your inspiration from and how did you fund all those businesses?
Beauty is close to my heart as I used to travel to New York for my treatments because I could not find the perfect beauty services in Asia.
Inspiration? It's a collection of my travels and my local experience.
Funding, all came organically, each business has funded the next.
What inspired you to start up Browhaus?
Browhaus followed Ministry of Waxing, which too was a unique salon concept focusing on something basic and glorifying it.
It's important to focus on something basic and make it perfect and special.
Who is your biggest inspiration and why?
My biggest inspiration is my Dad, he has a great outlook on life, I have such confidence as he has always been so encouraging. I have 13 brands because I am willing to take a risk and I am not afraid to fail, as I know I have the support I need.
What you would be your best piece of motivational advice for any budding beauty product entrepreneur?
You really need to love what you do and believe in yourself and prepare yourself for the hard work ahead.
Also, ask yourself why you want to do this! If your drive and reasons are strong you will be able to achieve your ambitions.
After all your experience in start-ups, if you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
Work with people you love and love what you do.
If you don't love what you do you will never have the energy for success. If you cannot find the momentum to succeed you will never manage success. You must always be prepared for the worst, there is no such thing as the midas touch, it's hard work, be prepared for this
I would love to know what your tips are for getting into the beauty business?
You need to love beauty and you need to understand the global beauty trends. If you love what you do there are no limits. You must be a subject matter expert, find the best, know who they are and better their standard.
You trained in the banking and marketing industry, did you think this helped you into the beauty sector?
Yes, because knowing the numbers means that know one can bull@£$t me and marketing has been the strength of all of our businesses.
You are an inspiration. I want to set up my own beauty business. What would be the key books you would recommend me to read? How did you go about writing your first business plan and are there any other resources you would recommend at all?
I prefer beauty magazines to keep on top of the global beauty trends. I enjoy Nylon, Elle and all the beauty bibles. WWD beauty is also great for insider news and of course we love Stylist!
It is very rare to come across successful beauty ventures that specialise in one area such as yours (e.g eyebrows, waxing), as it is more common for beauty professionals to provide more generalist services. What kinds of challenges arose from this and how did you overcome them?
At a dedicated salon, people's expectations are higher, you are expected to be the specialists. We have had to ensure that we are the very best.
To ensure we achieve this we have built infrastructure before launch, this includes a dedicated RND [diploma in beauty therapy) teams and training schools with dedicated technical specialists for all treatments in all salons.
What has been the biggest obstacle you've come across in growing your businesses and how did you overcome it?
Growing the business in nine different cities, has meant that we have to understand the ever-evolving culture of each country and then we have to localise our business to suit this.
Also securing the right teams in these regions is challenging, we have to find the right people.
You have beauty business' in cities all over the world; which did you find the most receptive to your products? Did you tailor your product different in each respective country?
Both London and Hong Kong are incredibly receptive to both our Brazilian waxing and brow treatments. Our treatments have remained the same on all countries but support marketing campaigns have evolved.
Compared with other countries, good beauty salons in the UK are often unaffordable for most women. You can find cheaper, but the experience reflects the price - poor quality products, unhygenic rooms, rushed service etc. Do you think it is possible to start a salon business which offers affordable treatments without sacrificing on the quality of products, service etc.?
Of course, I think that is what we do. The vision when we launched was to give tip top but affordable service, we are able to keep prices low as we have economies of scale.
Out of all the brands you have created, which is your favourite and why?
My favourite has to be Ministry of Waxing as it completely revolutionised how the Asian market perceived body culture.
And now to be able to bring this brand around the world and create international excitement is so rewarding. It is so exciting to be able to compete with larger international brands, just incredible.
Products and design
I am a regular at your London Ministry of Waxing and Browhaus outlets. The salons are unlike any other salon I've been in; they have attitude! Why did you decide to style them this way?
The design is very important in the beauty outlets for us, we want to build a brand which is representational of our attitude and character and what we are passionate about.
In this era beauty salons cannot just be about the service, it must be the whole experience which includes salon design.
What is your opinion about trends within your beauty sectors? Vajazzles, and coloured eyebrows for examples? As a small independent salon owner, should I invest and offer these types of services?
You should focus on the basic treatments first and get that right. Offering services like coloured brows are perhaps too runway for salons? As a small independent you should invest in your basics and focus on the efforts of your core offering.
A girl has to treat herself now and again doesn't she? What is your favourite treatment and why?
My favourite treatment is a massage, specifically our Back To Balance massage which uses natural essential oils.
I love everything about your companies and although I can't be an intern as I haven't been able to go to university, I would love to do a work experience placement with your Social Media/PR team. Any advice on how I would go about doing this?
I am currently sat with our social media team, who say of course! You can find Ministry of Waxing and Browhaus on Twitter, tell us on Twitter why you should join the team and we will be in touch.
In order to run your businesses successfully you must have a fantastic team behind you. What skills do you look for in your staff?
They must be fun loving, love design, look good and work hard!