Congratulations on your 40th birthday celebration of Smooth and Tan. Tell us how it all began.
Smooth and Tan was Geelong’s very first waxing and solarium Salon – in hindsight quite an impressive achievement. I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to purchase Smooth and Tan with very little knowledge of the industry. My very good friend (now business partner) offered to help me with everything. I felt it was an opportunity that I could not pass up on, so with my business partner, and the support of my father, who loaned me the money, my adventure began. My father always had faith in me and my far-fetched dreams. I am glad he got to see how much we achieved over the years as he played a big part in our success.

What sparked your initial interest in the beauty industry? 
I loved working with my hands and making people feel good about themselves – I still do! I’m very much a ‘yes’ person. Nothing is impossible. That gels well with the beauty industry. People want their treatments done at all possible times of the day – that has never been a problem for me. I never married or had children, so I ate, slept, breathed Smooth and Tan and later Caronlab Australia. I met the right people at the right time and it turned out to be a match made in heaven. 

You were the first waxing and solarium salon in Victoria’s Geelong – what was your goal starting out?
I always feel like the business chose me instead of the other way around. When I started working in beauty, the way things were and the use of strip wax was not taught properly. That’s how we ended up making our own waxes and developing waxing techniques that are now taught globally. Our goal has evolved from delivering the best waxing treatments in Geelong to helping salons all over the world become the best they can be.

Lilliane Caron says the power of believing in what you do is closely linked to success.

In hindsight what do you wish you had known back then?
The value of the team. I had vision, but I wasn’t able to rely on others or their skills and experience – I lacked patience to delegate. I worked hands-on for far too long when I should’ve been managing and directing. You can’t do everything yourself. Building a team that you can rely on and trusting them to do their jobs is something that I’ve learnt later on and it really helps the business thrive! I love the quote: ‘Hire for character and train your people to give them skills’. We truly value loyalty above all else and that creates a strong team that can work miracles. Loyalty is better than brains! 

Biggest lesson learnt during your 40 years?
Follow your gut. If you do something properly, it lasts, so stick to what you know. Be passionate about what you do, and you have to be realistic so always have a plan B and C in place. Rome really wasn’t built in a day and our success has taken many years of hard work dedication and foresight… Listen to the market and act quickly. You can’t do it alone, so you need to build the right team around you – that has taught me to be patient with people.

You have won awards globally. Is there a stand-out moment in your career you can share?
Winning awards is amazing, because it acknowledges all the hard work and dedication that we put into the development of our products as a team. All the cogs work together and the industry appreciates the result. The standout moment for me isn’t about winning awards though, it’s more about me achieving and even surpassing my own goals. Improving the quality of the beauty industry has always been one of my biggest goals and travelling the world to train people in my waxing techniques has always thrilled me. Very recently, we launched our first professional Online Training! This means that everyone in the world now has access to the waxing techniques that I’ve dedicated my life to perfect.

What is your favourite part of being a business owner?
Creating something from nothing. Every business starts as an idea. You get to create it from the ground up. You have full control over your destiny and you become part of a family. You have the opportunity to change lives and to give back. 

You can make people happy. You get to work with brilliant minds. As an entrepreneur you will connect with extremely intelligent people from all over the world. You encounter brilliant minds on your team and through business relationships. Create a legacy and eventually pass it down. You get to walk on the wild side. When you put your own livelihood and finances on the line because you believe in something 100 percent, it becomes an extreme rush. You can get competitive with yourself. Entrepreneurs are competitive by nature with endless life experiences. You get to travel to new places and interact with different people all the time. What some might see as just a business conference, I see as an opportunity to visit a new part of the world and meet people you would never have met otherwise.

What makes your business survive and standout?
I am very blessed to have two business partners that bring different things to the table. We respect one another. We always listen, learn and share the love. We listen to what the market wants – even when it’s a niche – and have the ability to act on it instantly. We learn from what we see around us, our situations and our mistakes and when we catch a break we share it with our customers.
Visualisation is a big part of it too; I was doing that since l could walk! It’s important to have a dream, passion and to always look for opportunities in everything.

The waxing business has changed dramatically over the years – how have you adapted?
I believe that in a lot of ways we have pioneered the changes. If you boil it down, the industry hasn’t changed that much – there are more options for hair removal now, but waxing is still the bread and butter for most salons. One thing that has changed is that industry has gotten more inclusive and aware of its impact on the planet. l had very clever parents who made me very aware of respecting these things. As one of the leading wax manufacturers we recognise our responsibility to minimise our footprint on the earth and make sure all our products are produced in a humane and sustainable way. Our latest project is to change our plastic bottles over to 100% recycled and recyclable plastic where possible. 

How important is training as part of your business?
It’s not just a vital part of an organisation… it is critical! A training program allows you to strengthen those skills that each employee needs
to improve. A development program brings all employees to a higher level so they all have similar skills and knowledge. This helps reduce any weak links within the company who rely heavily on others to complete basic work tasks. Training boosts a feeling of value in employees. It shows that you’re committed to providing them with the resources needed to ensure they’re doing a good job. In turn, they’re more likely to enjoy their work and remain in your organisation for longer.

Given the current circumstances how have you coped during this pandemic?
I think we have coped well considering. We have tried to help salons as much as we could by offering online training, webinars and commission on our retail products. We’ve also extended our hygiene range Micro Defence to include world health organisation recommended alcohol sprays and gels and our manufacturing has been pushed to full capacity to make much of that as was humanly possible. Internally we have tried to ensure that good communication and accurate information updates are provided to all staff. I think that we have been very adaptable by staying positive and taking it one day at a time. We will not forget those that supported us during this trying time. 

Tell us your plans for the year ahead? 
We are working on a second course for our Online Training: XXX Masterclass. We are developing exciting new waxes that will be launched later
this year as well as a very exciting new range of products that we’ve been working on for a couple of years. This line will help give salons an edge over gift shops post-COVID. We are also continuously working on putting procedures, manuals and systems in place so the business can continue to thrive through changes of staff. It’s very important for me that our values and ethos will outlive the people that started the business. That will be our legacy. 

If you weren’t in the beauty business what would we find you doing?
I would probably be a flight attendant. Making people feel good with great customer service while travelling the world. And shopping for shoes.

This article first appeared in the July issue of Professional Beauty magazine. Download the issue here.

Visit the #BEAUTYSTRONG hub at https://www.professionalbeauty.com.au/beautystrong/

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