Moving forward with technology

Tell us a bit about the backstory of The Lash Spa and how you got started.
It started in my spare bedroom in 2011. At the time, I was one of only a handful of businesses offering lash extensions in Australia. I found the process of applying lashes so relaxing and even though it was ‘work’, it never felt like it. I was so excited to answer my front door and greet clients, allowing them to step away from their stressful lives for an hour. 

Once my son entered the world, we realised it was time to find another space to work from — it may come as a surprise but a teething baby isn’t very relaxing for clients. From there, we found a house with a studio out the back where I worked from. It wasn’t long before we outgrew that space too, once my daughter came along. Two toddlers and a new business is a juggle and looking back, I honestly don’t know how I did it!

Last year, we moved into our beautiful salon in Varsity Lakes. I’m a qualified interior designer too, so every part of the space has been considered, from our iconic phone booth we imported, to the French pendant hanging lights. From the moment our clients step through the door, I want them to feel relaxed.

Why do you love doing what you do? 
I’m a mum to two toddlers so I know first-hand how hectic life can get. Between working, raising a family and general life, there’s very little (if any) time left for yourself. Many of our clients are busy mums or women in high-stress jobs, so to see them walk in stressed and one hour later, step out visibility relaxed — nothing beats that!

We’ve turned a routine lash appointment into a day spa experience with a hot towel, tea and chocolate when they arrive and a complimentary ring clean. We value all of our clients and aim to make them feel special at every visit, from handwritten welcome notes to simply walking them to the door after each treatment. 

Our clients really value their ‘me time’ and I absolutely love creating a space where they can escape their busy lives and truly relax. We also encourage ‘lash naps’ during our treatments which many women take us up on. Over the years, I’ve realised it’s the little things people remember like how you made them feel. 

Melissa Bergen says the Square payment system has helped to grow her business through the pandemic.

How has the current COVID-19 crisis impacted your business? 
It’s still surreal for me to talk about COVID-19! It’s been absolutely devastating to see the impact it has had on people’s health, as well as their livelihoods. 

For my small family, we’re so thankful to have our health and have put the health of our team and clients first. We had to shut our doors, like many other businesses, for a period of time which has been a financial struggle. We also lost a valued team member of our team who had to return home to Canada. During the closure, we kept the salon afloat with our personal savings to ensure we could open our doors once we were allowed to trade again. Now, more than ever, we need to put self-care first. Since opening back up, our clients appreciate that hour to themselves so much more. 

It was such an amazing feeling to open our doors again, our whole team came back to work with refreshed enthusiasm after lockdown. We truly love what we do and feel incredibly lucky to be able to work as we know many others are still suffering due to COVID-19. 

What are some of the operational things you’ve had to change over recent months?
Since our salon is designed for a private experience, we’re lucky that we didn’t have to change too much to make it COVID-19 safe. However, we have implemented a string of measures for the reception area and new screening measures too. 

Our therapists have always worn face masks but we now change them more regularly throughout the day to protect clients and team members. We implemented new safety measures for clients, including a hand sanitisation station at the counter and COVID-19 temperature screening. We wipe the salon down multiple times a day (all door handles, light switches, check-in iPads) and record a log of when each cleaning is completed.

Our team shifts are staggered so there’s less people in our reception area at any one time and all visitors have their details recorded. Two of our waiting chairs are out of action to ensure social distancing is followed. And our much-loved treat station has been made more hygienic by moving treats out of jars and into bowls for easy access, plus we only stock wrapped lollies now. 

What technology and tools have you used to help your business get through this time? 
During lockdown, many of our clients were wondering how they could maintain their lashes at home. We didn’t want any women picking off their extensions and damaging their natural lashes so we put together some lash removal kits. It was complimentary and we covered the postage too. The offer was so in-demand that we decided to extend it to all Gold Coast women and we were blown away by the response. It was so popular that we even received a shout out from the local radio station, which was surreal. 

In terms of the technology we’ve been relying on, we used social media to stay connected to our base during lockdown. It has also been so convenient having access to the Square payments app on my phone, so I could take orders or send invoices over the phone without being in the salon. The reduced fees were great during the period we were shut down too when every dollar really counted.

How has it been getting back to business since restrictions were lifted?
We’ve had ups and downs since restrictions were lifted. We have a loyal following because we go the extra mile for our clients during their treatments, so many of our regulars were so excited when our doors opened again. We are also being extremely cautious so if any client or team member has even a hint of a sniffle, we politely ask them to reschedule. As you would expect, that leaves empty gaps in our roster on busy days which is a bit of a juggle trying to shuffle everyone around. Overall, we’re absolutely thrilled to be open and trading again and feel very lucky to be able to! 

What is the best advice you could give other beauty salon owners about reopening and persevering in challenging times like this? 
COVID-19 is by far the biggest challenge small businesses have faced in recent years, so don’t lose hope! Everyone is navigating this new world together and no one really knows the best way to approach it. Owning and running a salon can be very challenging and stressful at the best of times, let alone in a global pandemic. My advice would be to just take it day by day, and always make time at the end of each day where you completely switch off so you can keep your own mental health in check too. I also  highly recommend keeping in touch with your client base on a regular basis, even during lockdown. Whether it’s social media, an email or text message, keeping engaged certainly helps once your doors are open again. 

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