Q&A: Charmilla, Founder of Jet Set Go

Founder of Jet Set Go Beauty Bars Charmilla Herath saw the need for express beauty services in Australia 4 years ago, here she chats to Professional Beauty about offering services to women on-the-go and how to successfully tap into a niche.

Charmilla Herath

Charmilla Herath is a makeup artist and hairdresser who has worked in all the major cities of the world. She has worked for brands such as Laura Mercier, Bobbi Brown and Becca. In 2007, Charmilla created her own line of ethical beauty products – Nick and Milly London. She will be launching a new cosmetics brand soon on www.jetsetgocosmetic.com.

When and how did you start this business? Where did the idea come from?

I developed the first concept when I was in London about 5 years ago, influenced by my frequent travels to NY and LA. There you can find beauty bars everywhere, the availability, convenience and simple walk-in concept did not exist in Sydney when I came back in 2008!

I travelled the world as a makeup artist for about 10 years and then the Express Beauty Service was my saving grace. I wanted to provide the same convenience to time poor women here by providing express services. The focus was to create a one-stop solution for makeup, hair, nails and eyebrow shaping, so time poor, professional women didn’t have to visit multiple outlets and have to juggle multiple appointments.

My plan was to always re-launch my skin and hair line as well as my cosmetic brand. So creating a fun, quirky, brand was always key to create an amazing customer experience. I remember watching Britney Spears’s ‘Toxic’ video and thinking how cool is her outfit? Later on, watching the movie A View from the Top gave me the idea to create the aviation theme. A fit out that looked like the inside of a plane and artists dressed in retro flight attendant outfits.


Busy women are permanently attached to their smart phones so we offer an electronic queue that allows you to queue before you leave the office. The integration of technology comes from the fact that I cannot live without my phone and tablet… and cannot waste time as an entrepreneur.


Do you think this is a niche in the market that’s developed recently?

Certainly now, 4 years on from when I launched Express Beauty Bar, there seem to be more and more similar concepts popping up everywhere. When I launched we were the first, we were even featured on A Current Affair as a result.

We technically have a niche within a niche with the express bar concept as we target time-poor professional women who work in the CBD. Professional women are getting busier and busier. They are required to do more work than ever. Women in the workplace also have the added stress of being expected to look professional and polished all of the time. Women don’t have the same luxury that men have of not having to worry, to a great extent, what they look like in the workplace and that’s why we cater to them predominately.

JET SET GO Express Beauty Bars are a one-stop shop for time-poor women. While brows are our signature service (we re-engineer them), we also have hair, make up, tinting, lash extensions and nail services.

Jet Set Go girls in the zone (Source: Instagram)
Jet Set Go girls in the zone (Source: Instagram)

Why did you pick Sydney central as your location?

Can you remember how many beauty bars were available within Sydney CBD in 2009? None.

Even today, no one offers the same service range with the same quality and accessibility in Sydney CBD. Our target is busy working women, where better to do that than in Sydney’s CBD where professional women work and play?

Our location allows busy women to leave the office during their lunch break or after work, and they don’t have to walk far to get to our store. This is especially important for women who are on the go and are rushing from work to meetings, or after work drinks.


What were some challenges setting up the beauty bar?

I started on an idea and $87 in the bank! So the challenges were significant!

The biggest challenge was to change consumer behaviour, from traditional salons to our express services without appointment, queuing system, price range and so on. I constantly evolve and like to keep innovating. I am a serial entrepreneur having started many, many ventures since I was 9!

Some challenges to date: 

– It took a while for people to understand how it works with the tech savvy queuing system
– Finding the right staff that were naturally talented in threading and because its an ancient Indian technique, the best applicants were usually of Indian decent (recently arrived in the country), many of whom didn’t have great English, didn’t have a grasp on western pop culture and did not know how to SHAPE brows
– Being a start up with minimal funding, it was hard employing people. I had to employ people on full rates even though they were still in training, with no experience
– Being compared to other ‘beauty bars’ on price rather than accepting our unique proposition, which is that we cater to the time poor female. Our target market does not value money over her time! Hard to communicate that sometimes


5 pieces of advice for anyone else wanting to start a niche beauty business?

1 – Have a great support network of friends and family who will let you vent your frustrations and cry
2 – Align yourself with industry experts to call on for advice. They are different to support networks because they tell you the hard truths, give you industry specific advice, and have contacts to help you if they can’t. Find someone smarter
3 – Start a business in your industry of expertise. Know as much as you can about the whole industry before you start. Make sure you are truly passionate so you will never give up!
4 – It takes time to find an amazing team. Know how to employ, train, manage and nurture your team. Hire your team slowly and fire fast
5 – Be aware of how much things will cost. Have good legal advice, and a good accountant. Keep on top of your numbers; always look for funding options even if you’re in a good place financially because you never know when you’ll need money

For more information visit www.jetsetgobeautybar.com

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