December 2010

Charlene Abretske

Beauty Business Buzz | Charlene Abretske


Opportunity Rocks!

Yesterday, as I was searching my desk drawer for a stack of the 3"x 3" squares of adhesive backed magic know as "Post-it" notes, the beauty of a plain old, good idea struck me once again.

Where would modern civilization be without the convenient squares of paper that allow you to organize your life without requiring you to remember where you left the tape or magnets?

This little idea was developed by Art Fry, first marketed in 1981, and has earned $100 million dollars in revenue.

The beauty industry is chock full of good ideas. Every year there is a new tool, product, treatment or item that makes our life in the salon or spa easier, whether by increasing our productivity or saving us time. As beauty industry professionals, most of us naturally enjoy creation and development. This could mean mastering a cut, creating a custom color formula for a client or conjuring up an up-do. Have you ever wanted to move from your job behind the chair and try a different route down the "road not taken?"

I heard about a stylist who did just that. Her name was Karen and she had been a stylist for 25 years and was working in a studio in her home in Northern California. Over the years, she had learned to accept the fact that clients became chilly and uncomfortable when their hair was wet in the salon. Karen had a client named Linda, who, like Karen, had a creative side. Linda was on maternity leave from her software and database design career, and made custom aprons for friends and family. Soon, Linda and Karen came up with their "great idea."

Capitalizing on the need to make more clients comfortable during their services, they came up with the idea to make a cozy durable smock. This smock would make hair services more comfortable, while standing up to the demands needed for salon use. Linda had a connection in the textile industry, and they tried out dozens of options before settling on a commercial grade micro-silk that was durable, breathable, bleach resistant, water resistant and super soft to the touch. "I made about 1000 prototypes before I found the right fit for just about everyone." Linda said, "We wanted a product that would be super comfortable no matter the size or the shape of the client."

The two of them created Stylin' Smocks, including options such as faux "minky" style zebra print. Karen test marketed the smocks on her clients and received rave reviews, "My clients were actually hesitant to take them off after their service; they loved them! We knew we were on to something and we had to take a chance, nothing ventured - nothing gained." Karen said. Linda tells us, "This was a very different role for me, but I really felt if I didn't pursue this, I would always wonder why I didn't try it."

Here are some suggestions from Karen and Linda if you are thinking about following your own "Great Idea."

Know Your Target Market

It was obvious the target market for Karen and Linda was salons. However, with so many out there, they found they needed to focus their resources on targeting specific groups, including: salons who were remodeling, brand new salons, salons in cool climates, salons in hot climates (because of the use of heavy air conditioning), and salons that wanted to offer "special touches" in their customer experience.

Don't Gamble

Karen and Linda were very conservative about how much they were willing to invest from their savings in order to get started.

Start Small and Think Big

Do not bet the farm on your idea. There is no need to invest yours or someone else's life savings for an idea that has not proven itself yet. Spread the word, by using the resources you have in the industry, including contacts with sales reps, distributors and other small companies with great ideas. If you are on the right track, things will start falling into place for you.

Get It in Writing

Karen and Linda structured their business from the beginning, and it has helped them keep an excellent working relationship. Get a legal partnership agreement that is clear and have clear written expectations of what you expect from the work relationship. Respecting the business relationship takes a lot of courage, so prepare to be courageous.

As Ted Koysis stated, "A new idea is like a child. It's easier to conceive than to deliver."

We all have great ideas about things that could be useful. Remember, if something would be useful to you, it would probably be useful to thousands of other people out there. Creativity, ingenuity, and determination are what make our ideas into products and solutions for others. If you would like to learn more about Karen and Linda's product, visit their website,

Charlene Abretske is an independent business advisor. To reach her email or call (760)453-1882.