The beauty industry helps us look and feel our best. As people globally take a more holistic view of their health, massages and spa treatments are becoming an increasingly big part of personal care and grooming. Added to that, the fast pace of life in the information age makes it a real treat for us to take some time out away from everything, and indulge in a special treatment.
As a result, the beauty industry has been expanding and growing at a rapid rate. For the entrepreneur, it’s a sector that offers a wealth of opportunities. The industry encompasses a wide range of services and products: Facials, body treatments, manicures and pedicures, skin rejuvenation, massage, hair removal, tanning and hair care.
One group that is making its mark on the local beauty industry is listed company Imbalie Beauty, headed by Esna Colyn, a former CA who joined the company three years ago when the business was in serious need of re-invigoration.
“I implemented a turnaround strategy that was really aimed at injecting new and positive energy into the group and its three brands,” she says. “The focus has been on self-improvement and self-empowerment for all those involved in the company.”
The re-invention of a group
Colyn’s strategy appears to be working as the group anticipates system-wide sales (revenue of underlying salons) of more than R200 million during the current financial year. In March 2012, the company — then still known as Skinwell Holdings — acquired Perfect 10 Nail & Body Studio.
Established in 2003 by industry veteran Vicky Barrable, Perfect 10 offers price competitive nail and beauty treatments, and also retails well-known international salon brands. There are now 60 Perfect 10 salons around the country.
At the time of the acquisition, Colyn also announced the rebranding of Skinwell to Imbalie Beauty. “With the additional offerings we were bringing on board, we needed a new name that would encompass skincare, nail care, hair care and various other beauty products and services we now provide. The word ‘imbalie’ is derived from the Zulu word for flower, and is symbolic of our group’s holistic and comprehensive beauty offering.”
Also part of the group is the flagship chain of Placecol Skin Care Clinics, the largest of its kind in South Africa with 60 stores. Placecol is a high-end offering which embraces new technologies and scientifically proven professional skin care products.
The third brand in the group is Dream Nails Beauty, a franchise system that is 28 years old and has a loyal following. “The Dream Nails Beauty brand is about living life creatively,” says Colyn.
“It offers the best in nail enhancements and beauty services along with retail offerings. We have 30 branches nationwide, all located in busy shopping centres. Nails are also the fashion-forward accessory right now, which makes the franchise an attractive and excellent business opportunity.”
Rolling out the franchise model
The biggest change in the company’s structure has been the shift from corporate-owned beauty salons to a franchised-store model. Imbalie Beauty now has a total of 150 salons, and has completed facelifts on at least 30 of these as part of the drive to distinguish its salons from those of competitors.
Colyn has a strong preference for the owner/operator franchise model, and the company has set a medium-term goal of three to five years for growing the Imbalie Beauty chain to 300 stores. This initiative is in the interest of an ambitious goal to turn the company into “the largest and most desirable beauty franchise group in Africa.”
Colyn says one of the most important drivers of the group’s success is the combination of business and beauty training that is offered to franchisees. “Our Imbalie Beauty Training Academy equips franchisees with the skills they need to manage and run a business.
That is a key growth element, as empowering franchisees to become better business people directly impacts the bottom line.”
The beauty industry is highly competitive and differentiation is important. “My first three years in this business have been about turning it around. Now we are working on differentiating our brands from the competition.”
Relocating stores and revamping costs money, but she says that the new-look stores are performing well, with much-improved trading densities. Standardising systems and procedures across the group is also enabling the company to compete more effectively.
“Systems, procedures and structures are essential in this business,” says Colyn. “In the beauty environment, you have to maintain ongoing communication with customers through email, text messaging, newsletters and strong loyalty programmes. If you stop communicating, they will stop visiting your salon. Having coherent, current databases in place as well as the right communication sub-systems and processes makes it so much easier and more effective to reach people.”
Support for franchisees
She points out that there are many advantages to being part of a franchised group.
“Franchisees get all the benefits of a proven support structure that provides ongoing business and marketing expertise. We also have the buying power to ensure franchisees get products and equipment at competitive prices. These are benefits that independent stores simply cannot get access to. Our franchisees use the latest and best technology, which is where growth in the beauty industry will come from in the future, as consumers demand anti-ageing treatments.”
She looks for franchisees who are passionate about the industry and who get excited about helping people to feel better about themselves. “I like people with energy and strong opinions. I’m known for having quite a strict leadership style, but I’m open to suggestions and I’m not afraid of change.”
About Esna Colyn
- Studied as a chartered accountant with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants
- She started her career at Hoek & Wiehahn, which later became PricewaterhouseCoopers
- She then became a member of the PwC corporate finance division
- Later she joined ABN Amro Bank in the financial control department to assist with the establishment of the foreign bank in SA
- Following that, she joined Investec Bank for three years in its private equity division
- She gained experience as a shareholder and director for a manufacturing business
- Then joined Exchange Sponsors (Pty) Ltd.
- In May 2010, Colyn joined Imbalie Beauty.
Fancy yourself a franchisee?
Franchise details fees
Placecol Skin Care Clinic
R1,1 million (Includes skin rejuvenation and hair removal technology)
Perfect 10 Nail & Body Studio
R625 000 with upfront fee of R62 500
Dream Nails Beauty
R550 000 with upfront fee of R55 000
Got what it takes?
A franchisee for Imbalie Beauty is a special type of person.
- A blend of entrepreneur and employee
- Able to run their own business within the parameters of the franchise operating system
- Able to deliver excellence in service levels
- Marketers of the brand and its products to clients
- Self-starters who can manage a business, community networking and customers
- Able to gather and manage financial resources.