* Please tell us about your education and professional experience
I graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh with a degree in Communications. I focused on public speaking and was on the
debate team which gave me more confidence to speak in front of groups and it has definitely helped me to be more assertive in my career.
I worked for Nordstrom for 14 years. I started in cosmetic sales, spent several years managing the cosmetic department and then moved into a buying position where I was responsible for marketing and event planning for all of the cosmetic lines that Nordstrom carried throughout the Midwest. Nordstrom taught me many things that I have carried over to my current companies. The most important lesson I learned was to empower your employees to make decisions- if they do what is in the best interest of the customer, it is never a wrong decision. I let them run their divisions as if it were their own business but give them the support and tools they need to be successful.
Deciding to start Prescription Well-Being (PWP), Beauty on Call (BOC) and Haute PR
* When did you start your businesses?
I started Prescription Well-Being in 2001, Beauty on Call in 2003 and Haute PR in January 2006.
* What inspired you to start each of your businesses?
* PWP: My mom is a cancer survivor and I had a co-worker at Nordstrom who lost her battle with cancer. I wanted to donate more than just my time and I thought that helping women deal with the changes in their appearance while undergoing treatment was something that would be beneficial. I met with the Oncology dept at Northwestern Hospital, put together a volunteer group of experienced spa professionals and began providing weekly spa services to the patients.
* BOC: I realized that there was a void in the cosmetic industry that was not being filled. There was no staffing agency in the country that provided beauty industry professionals to cosmetic companies, spas, retailers, brides, hotels etc. From the time I came up with the idea to the time I started my business was only a few months. I dove in head first realizing the potential.
* HAUTE PR: I started my PR firm out of frustration of not being able to find quality, but yet affordable PR in Chicago. All of the PR firms I looked into wanted high retainers, a 1 yr contract, but gave no guarantee of being able to secure me any press. I realized that I wasn’t the only business in this situation so I decided to come up with a performance-based firm. We are pay-per-placement and offer month to month contracts to our clients.
* What were your goals and your personal requirements? How did you fit them together?
My goals are to continue to expand and grow my businesses nationwide. We evaluate what is needed in the marketplace and we set out to fill it. With BOC, I started out focusing on retail staffing, but soon realized that brides wanted on location beauty services and corporations and hotels wanted on location spa services. We now see a niche and are recruiting for permanent placement for executive level positions within cosmetic companies as well as experienced professionals for spas. With regards to my lifestyle, the challenge has been to live a balanced life. My husband owns his own business also, so we both put in a lot of hours. It’s been great because we both understand the demands and so we work hard, but make time for each other. We manage our time so that we get our work done, but are able to attend family functions, nights out with friends etc. We also love to travel because it gives an opportunity to truly relax so we try to get away every 8-12 weeks for a long weekend somewhere.
* How did you evaluate each opportunity in terms of the elements for success?
With Beauty on Call, we have been very fortunate in that we don’t have any competition that does specifically what we do. For retail staffing, we allow our clients to determine which cities we roll out next based on their staffing needs. We currently have freelance staff in over 20 cities and are rolling out new ones each month. With regards to our bridal division, we analyze which markets have the most potential. Our focus now is rolling out our services in Las Vegas- there are weddings 7 days a week all hours of the day and night so it is definitely a great place to offer hair and makeup. For HAUTE PR, there is no other pr firm in Chicago offering what we do. We target smaller businesses that want quality representation at an affordable price.
Prescription Well-Being (PWP), Beauty on Call (BOC) and Haute PR
* Beauty on Call is a full service staffing agency focused on the beauty industry. We provide quality professionals and pair them with the highest quality products. We offer freelance, temporary and permanent staffing for retailers, cosmetic companies and spas. We are an ‘on location’ spa providing manicures, pedicures, massage, brow shaping, facials, brow shaping etc for corporate events, hotels, home spa parties, prom, special occasion, conventions etc. We also provide hair and makeup services for weddings (we are expecting to do over 700 weddings this year).
* Haute PR is a public relations firm specializing in beauty, fashion and lifestyle. We are a pay-per-placement firm which means the client only pays for the press we get them. We put together a list of the media that we think would be the best fit for the client and they approve it before we get started. We focus all of our attention on pitching to the media that will really drive the client’s business, as opposed to just sending out blanket press releases to everyone. We offer month to month contracts so a small boutique can choose to hire us for a few months to help with a grand opening. We communicate with our clients weekly so they always know what we are working on. We also offer Ala Carte PR, meaning, when we have a good lead on a story, we contact the ala carte client, quote them a price and if they agree, we pitch them. There is no monthly retainer or contract.
* Prescription Well-Being is a 501 c3 non profit. We provide free beauty and spa services to women living with cancer. Our goal is to help women deal with the changes in their appearance such as hair loss. In addition to our work at Northwestern Hospital, we also visit women’s homes to provide services and our ultimate goal is to raise enough money to open a spa in Chicago that will offer free wellness programs, spa services and support.
* What were the most difficult problems to solve as you began to grow?
Cash flow has always been the most challenging. I always wanted to avoid taking on investors and have tried to keep my loans to a minimum. It has been difficult keeping up with the needs of our clients without having the cash flow to immediately hire more staff. It was also difficult in the beginning to find qualified employees that shared my vision and knew that their hard work and dedication would eventually pay off. I wasn’t always able to pay people what I knew they were worth and understandably, people want and need to earn a certain amount so unfortunately I went through several employees who weren’t willing to stick it out. I now have found some great employees who have an entrepreneurial spirit and can see the potential growth and it’s great because I am finally at a point where I can compensate with benefits and a bonus as well. They are my investors- only they are investing with their time and effort- and eventually will reap the rewards.
* What are your plans for the future?
We are going to continue to expand Beauty on Call nationally. We have gone from 2 employees to a staff of 12 in 1 year and plan on adding many more in the coming year. We currently have 7 clients with Haute PR and are going to be hiring another full time publicist within the next month. For Prescription Well-Being, I would like to secure some grants and corporate donations so that I can hire a full time Executive Director to develop a fundraising program that will enable us to raise enough money to open the spa.
* What things do you find personally rewardingas an entrepreneur? What have been the trade-offs?
I find it personally rewarding to see all of my vision and hard work evolving into something much larger than I ever would have anticipated. It is great to have the flexibility to make decisions without having to ask for someone else’s permission. I love the flexibility of working from home. I can work as little or as much as I want, whatever hours work best for me etc. Although I work more hours than I ever did before in my life, it somehow doesn’t feel like it because I have the ability to leave mid day for an appt, stop work for an hour to have dinner with my husband, or work from my laptop on vacation. The only trade off was in the early stages- I traded the security of a good job for a dream. Luckily, the dream paid off.
* What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur?
1. Do your research. I jumped in head first without writing a business plan because I was so excited and I knew I wouldn’t allow myself to fail but it would have been smarter to think it through a little more and to find a mentor who could have advised me on legal issues, accounting matters etc. I could have avoided some costly and time consuming mistakes by doing so.
2. It is important to have enough money set aside to carry you for the length of time you think it will take until your business starts bringing in a profit. Try to keep your overhead as low as possible. My businesses are still run from my home which keeps our overhead very low. I am as frugal as possible when it comes to advertising and other things so that I can put all of our profits into hiring more staff to build the business. Instead of running an ad, I prefer to focus on PR and to participate in events that market to potential clients so that those clients can see first hand what we do and we can build a relationship with them.
3. Hire people that are smarter than you are and have something to bring to the group. They will add more to your business than having people that need to be told what to do all day. I love when my employees come up with great new ideas or challenge me on my decisions or ways we have been running the business. It keeps the business moving in the right direction.
* Are there any other questions you wished I had asked, from which you feel Women and Biz’s readers could learn valuable lessons?
What are the first steps you should take when turning an idea into a business?
Do your research. Estimate what your initial costs will be and then double that because things pop up that you don’t expect. Get recommendations from other business owners as far as attorneys, accountants, web designers etc. Determine a name for your business and make sure it has not already been trademarked, and that the web domain is also available. Once you have determined your name, incorporate and trademark immediately so that you can move forward with creating your brand identity, ordering business cards, designing your website and marketing materials. Most importantly, be prepared to work hard if you want to be successful.
To learn more about Stacey Koerner and her businesses, please visit www.beautyoncall.com.