Chantal Schutz opens up and gets really personal about her past, her business, and informs us on the grand plans for the near future. Read our interview with the lovely Chantal below…
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
For many years I worked in the corporate world. From working as a teller at a bank while I went to university, to the various roles I took after obtaining my designation as a Chartered Accountant. As a child I was always a very creative person, but I also loved math and academics and was a bit of a nerd. I also suffered a great deal of bullying growing up and as a result, when I made a decision about my career, I made a choice to take a career that was primarily male oriented, as well as number oriented. After working for many other business owners, and really feeling a void in my life related to creativity and connection, I decided that I wanted to open my own business that focused on a creative field, as well as one that would allow me to help women specifically.
Tell us about your business.
Cloud 9 Beautique is a full-service beauty company. We offer nail services, medically based skin treatments, waxing, laser hair removal and my business partner, Dr. Daniel Gouws performs non-invasive facial enhancement services, such as neurotoxin injections, fillers and medically directed laser skin treatments. In October 2016 we are also adding a full-service hair salon within our space. We also have a consulting division of our company, Salon Operating Solutions, where I get to continue “geeking out” and offering consulting services. I work with other salon owners, and women-led businesses to help them overcome their fear of numbers and money to run a profitable company that is also drama-free and a customer favorite.
Where is your business based?
We are located in Maple Ridge, BC, a town about 45 minutes east of Vancouver.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
We always have great promo’s and giveaways. Launched just this week is #ThankfulThursday where the first client of the day each Thursday will draw a name from all the clients scheduled to visit that day. Who’s ever name is drawn will win their services for free that day! We are also hosting a fundraiser with another local business. Rather than the traditional pub night, they have secured our space and together we will be hosting clients to a pampering-style afternoon out. We will be doing braiding, mini manicures, chair massages and many other treatments for a donation. All the proceeds will go to cancer research.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
The very first step I took was to write a business plan! I wrote about this recently on my blog at www.salonoperatingsolutions.com. So many business owners never take the time to write their intentions out and really get clear about what it is they are doing. A business plan helps you set your intentions and create a way of staying accountable. There will be many doubts and being able to go back to that initial plan is important.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
As soon as the new space for Cloud 9 was chosen and the lease was signed, a massive effort was made on social media. I immediately started to share updates about what was going on with the construction and hiring of staff. Silly little things like posting a picture of my dog Max relaxing in his dog bed, amid the chaos of the construction helped our future clients get a sense of who we were as a company. We also started off right away by doing giveaways and asking for feedback from our soon-to-be customers about the products they liked and services they wanted to see offered. Facebook was a bit part of that initial push to bring awareness.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
The opening line of the business plan was “People are the cornerstone of our success” and nothing could me more true. Finding staff that believe in the same things we as business owners believe in can be a challenge. We expect the best from our staff because our clients deserve the best. In some cases we went without adequate staff in our business because the right person didn’t walk through the door. We have a policy “slow to hire, quick to fire” and we stick to it.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Knowing the values that we endear at Cloud 9 and being able to verbalize them to current and potential staff is important. We have some specific language that is used in our interview process that conveys our values. Once the technical interview is over, the process really focuses around fit! Does this person really believe the same things we believe about customer service, how to treat their co-workers, what it means to be a good team player and most importantly, do they keep the drama to a minimum.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I work extensively with coaches outside my business. One policy that we have within Cloud 9 to help eliminate toxic behavior and drama, is that we only “bitch-up”. What that means is, if you have an issue, you discuss it with someone who can actually help you fix it. We have a system in place where everyone knows who they go to to get an issue resolved. This concept was brought to me by my “informal” salon guru coach Julie when I went to a live event she put on in Vancouver in the summer of 2014. For me, I don’t have someone I can “bitch-up” to, so I rely on coaches outside my business who I can confide in and bounce ideas off of.
How did you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
It’s funny, because when I first started to tell people about opening Cloud 9 some of the comments were “you do know there are about 6 other nail salons within 500 meters of there don’t you?”. Yes I knew, and that was the reason that the decision to open where we are was made. There were so many salons in the area that just weren’t living up to customer expectations.
Being the “nerd” that I am, I really tapped into my “sage” and started taking the time to educate people about what risks they take when going to a salon that doesn’t put hygiene and cleanliness at the top of their priority list. I wrote blog posts about issues that aren’t often talked about. We implemented policies and procedures in the salon that made sure the customer experience and customer safety came first.
And most importantly, if someone was unhappy in ANY way, my initial reaction was to actually THANK THEM for taking the time to tell me. I would then ask them what I could do to make it better and would always be sure to go above and beyond what they expected. I understand the value of a customer (I am talking dollars here) and know that redoing a pedicure, or offering them to bring a friend for free next time, is far less costly than having them never return and tell 5 or 10 people how terrible we are.
Our customers know, 110% that they come first! We don’t sell spa services, we sell attention, and in a world that is attention starved, customers appreciate it!
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Working with my current business coach, Elizabeth Conrise McLaughlin has been amazing. We were able to really analyze how my childhood experiences of being the outcast and not being liked was getting in the way of being an authentic leader. I was allowing my need to be liked, outweigh my needs as an owner to have things run the way I wanted them run. I learned the importance of setting boundaries with my staff for healthier and less draining relationships. That has been a hard one for me but it has made a significant impact!
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
If you have not yet written a business plan, do it! If you have one, make sure you revisit it at least annually. If you need help getting started – go check out my blog. Also, get a coach! Make sure you find someone who is focused on helping you work through issues, not just be a sounding board for when you want to complain. And lastly, don’t ignore your numbers!!! I love numbers so that part comes easily to me, but so many business owners I work with either ignore them, or figure bookkeeping is not such a big deal so hire almost anyone to do it (or try and do it themselves after the end of an already long day). Spend the money on an expert, the cost of fixing a mistake made by someone who doesn’t really know what they are doing can, in some cases, cause business owners to close their doors.
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
Oh goodness, there are so many. For running my salon, it would be Booker, an online system we use to manage everything from inventory, to appointments, to our MailChimp newsletters to our accounting and reporting. The program is out of this world.
Otherwise, I have found a strong bond and connection with an organization called Empowering A Billion Women by 2020. I am a member of their Boardroom program, and recently become the Chair of the Vancouver chapter. I get a lot of support from all the women entrepreneurs in the program and the resources they have available. Having a group of women (and men), that you can bounce ideas off is absolutely critical!
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I literally read non-stop! I always have at least 5 or 6 books on the go, and probably read between 5 and 10 different articles a day (not always focused on business). Hands down, my favorite business book would be “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. It is a very old book, but has so many relevant lessons for today.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
We are looking to expand our reach by either franchising the Cloud 9 model and/or growing our Salon Operating Solutions consulting division. We will be launching Salon Business School in 2017, so we are looking for opportunities to grow my speaking experience to get exposure to those who could really benefit from what we have to offer. Many salon owners don’t have thousands of extra dollars on consultants, so creating an online business program where they can learn from the comfort of their home or office, at their own pace and at a fraction of the cost is important to make this successful!
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
On October 1st our salon will grow by 600 square feet. We are expanding and building a state-of-the-art, very high end spa area where our clients will receive their medically directed services for facial rejuvenation. We have invested a great deal in new technology that will help us grow the practice. In order to achieve our revenue and growth targets we are documenting the service-delivery process as well as investing time and money in training our staff.