The Brow Bar Boutique first opened its doors in a beautiful environment, in Midleton Co. Cork in 2017 – a small but perfectly thought out space. The décor attending to every detail, colour, sound, scent and texture, to make your visit particularly enjoyable. It was inevitable that the business would grow. Along came Boutique number two. Drawbridge Street is an urban retreat in the middle of a busy shopping environment. You can relax to get your lashes done or have a superb brow created right in Cork City Centre. In March this year the hat trick happened, and The Brow Bar Boutique brought their talents to Dungarvan. Mel is the lady behind this burgeoning success that keeps on growing. We were delighted to have a quick chat with Mel who gave us a fascinating insight into how The Brow Bar Boutique has gone from strength to strength.
Congratulations on opening your third Boutique, was it always going to be a beauty business for you? Is that your passion?
Thank you! I was in business for many years, in property and doing several different things but I was always very interested in beauty. I decided to just go for it and The Brow Bar Boutique really took off. We opened three boutiques in 14 months! Compounding this, we have our own products that are used on our clients and by the students in our academy, so we are always thinking of ways our business can stand out from the crowd.
You need business knowledge to make a brow bar a success, from knowing how to write a business plan to working out your pricing and staff salaries, did you study business?
I formally studied business up until leaving cert equivalent (I was educated in the UK) but from my previous experience in other sectors of business I garnered a lot of diverse experience and we are both pragmatic when it comes to defining budgets and pricing.
How did you decide on the décor and branding?
When you are an establishing business, you’re a small fish in a big pond and distinctive branding is essential. For us, uniformity is key and therefore our three boutiques have the same grey and yellow colour schemes so customers can easily identify the business. Additionally, practicality is very important for us too. Many beauty businesses across the city don’t cater to buggies for example, but we welcome mums popping in and try to make them as comfortable as possible. A lot of our treatments take just 20-25 minutes too, so they’re ideal for the time-starved!
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Who is your inspiration?
My late father, Martin Maverley. He was a publican and a businessman and worked incredibly hard all his life. I really admire and try to emulate his incredible work ethic.
Attending beauty industry shows, awards and conferences is a huge part of the beauty industry. Do you think that has contributed to your success?
Most definitely – networking is key! Attending events such as the Hi Style Awards were key to the growth of our business and getting our name out there. Being named Hi’s Most Stylish Brow Bar 2018 was a real feather in our cap!
As a business owner motivating, training and sometimes even disciplining your team – strong leadership skills are important, do you and Orla contribute equally to this?
Certainly, with myself and Orla everything is 50/50. We have a truly stellar team though and everyone really pulls together.
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Chatting to customers and motivating your staff to do the same will build relationships that last. What do you think the key to repeat business is?
For us, it’s delivering a five-star service 100% of the time. It’s making our customers feel at ease and relaxed. We also try and cater to people’s hectic and often unpredictable schedules by operating a walk-in service, which can be a gamble but not all businesses offer it and we always want to have some USP’s about our business that makes The Brow Bar Boutique really stand out.
As a brow and lash bar owner, your business exists to make your customers feel fabulous! How do you achieve this?
We treat our customers like royalty (not being dramatic!) We provide individual consultations before each treatment so we know exactly what look the customer would like to achieve.
Many women and men regard skincare and beauty therapy as a priority in their grooming routine. How big have guy brows become?
Huge – you wouldn’t believe it! We have seen a 40% increase in men coming into the boutiques since Christmas and we could have as many as 16 men in Cork city coming to get their brows done on any given day. There’s a big age profile too – our oldest male client is a gentleman in his 80’s who was gently coerced by his wife to sort out his brows!
A brow and lash bar is a business with a steady and largely recession-proof future, what advice would you give someone looking to break into the beauty business?
Do your homework! Find out what sets you apart from the competition, so for us it’s things like using our own brand products on customers and things like our academy, and really tailoring our services to our customers needs. It’s also important to really stay true to your identity as a brand – be consistent and authentic.
What was your pinch me moment of 2018?
It really was winning Hi’s Most Stylish Brow Bar 2018. There were some amazing competitors in that category and we felt very honoured to be able to share the news of that accolade on our social media. We’ve worked so hard and it felt great to be acknowledged for that.
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A brow and lash bar owner is the passion behind a beauty business; the person with ultimate control of every aspect of the business. You’re responsible for making a profit, and in charge of branding, marketing, finding premises, hiring staff and cash flow. How do you balance this?
It’s just about managing time really. As I say, we have a great team which makes everything a lot easier. In the digital era, it’s also vital for us to have a strong social media presence and a lot of this work is done in the evening because during the day engaging with customer’s face-to-face takes precedence.
What is next for The Brow Bar Boutique?
There’s a lot of very exciting plans on the horizon for The Brow Bar Boutique this year. We have an online store in the pipeline and maybe even a fourth boutique!
Watch this space we think! Indeed, with the courage to dream and the grit to succeed Mel and Orla along with an incredible team propelling their success have created a formidable business in The Brow Bar Boutique and somehow, we think they are just getting started. The future of Cork’s brows is in safe hands with these ladies!