Wainuiomata mumpreneur Debbie Parlakchief recently launched the country’s first personalised beauty bar, and she has big ambitions to take her blending concept nationwide.
The past two years have seen a significant shift to personalised cosmetics in overseas markets, particularly in New York and London.
Here in New Zealand, mother of three Debbie Parlakchief is driving her own blend on this international trend.
It’s called Blend Beauty.
Debbie, who was a stay-at-home mum for nine years, has harboured a passion for the beauty industry ever since she can remember.
Trained and qualified as a nail technician in 1998, and gaining her beauty therapy degree in 2000, she was self-employed as a nail technician, renting a space in a Wellington salon, until her first child arrived in 2004.
Stuck at home, Debbie found she was slowly losing herself to the house and kids.
Husband Michael suggested she get back into doing personalised makeup for weddings and special occasions.
“So I was on the hunt for a brand to use and came across a lady in America who made her own loose eyeshadows,” explains Debbie. “Being an entrepreneur at heart I immediately thought how I could make my own.”
She began experimenting at creating her own mineral-based make-up products on her dining-room table – cosmetics free from any harmful chemicals found in other traditional cosmetics.
“Many hours of research and an obsession lead to me making my first eyeshadows and the product range grew from there. But I never intended it to be a business or brand. I just loved tinkering around,” she says.
The Doll Face brand grew organically from there with people wanting to try out Debbie’s creations. “The next thing I knew I had a following, and a brand name – which was the nickname my husband gave me!”
Debbie found there was a gap in the market for a beauty salon that also offered a full retail store, and that’s how Doll Face Beauty Hub in High Street, Lower Hutt came about.
“A beauty salon is not just a place where people feel comfortable to drop in and browse,” says Debbie. “So we opened a ‘hub’ for all things related to beauty.”
But getting back to the trend towards personalised cosmetics – this is the real future, as Debbie sees it.
The plan for Blend Beauty is to franchise the concept on both sides of the Tasman.
“This can be tailored to be as big or small as needed, or wanted, for each franchisee owner,” explains Debbie. “The idea is that an owner can incorporate Blend Beauty into an existing salon or create a new Blend Bar from scratch. There are minimal start-up costs, and only a small area is needed to get up and running.
“There’s also the option to carry the rest of the Doll Face product range to increase sales.
“In the beauty industry there are always new ideas coming out. Manufacturing colour cosmetics in New Zealand is one thing, but to bring it front-of-store and let clients control their finished product is a new concept that’s receiving great feedback.”
What women want
To thrive in the beauty industry Debbie believes it’s a matter of finding out what women want. “Each age group has different needs and wants. If you can identify those needs, find a way to solve their problems, they will keep coming back.
“Go above their expectations – amazing service is paramount!”
To develop a profitable (and ultimately saleable) beauty business it’s also important to be able to remove yourself from the salon without impacting on takings, advises Debbie.
Blend Beauty appeals to different groups for different reasons, she adds.
“Twenty to 35 year olds enjoy the freedom of creating, and will book group events.
“More mature clients get stuck on one or two shades of lipstick they’ve worn for years. When those shades are dropped by the manufacturer they’ll send us their deleted lipsticks for us to recreate the same shade.”
There are plans to expand Blend Beauty into other areas of cosmetics too, she says.
Getting Doll Face and the Blend Beauty concept to where it is today has come with numerous lessons. If you’re looking to outsource services such as marketing or design, or choosing a business coach, do your research first, Debbie warns.
“Have a clear idea of what you want the outcome to be, and communicate this clearly.
“I spent a lot of money on services that didn’t fit with my ideas. I see them as expensive learning curves.
“On the other hand, to spend money in the right area with the right person can make your business fly!”
Meanwhile, balancing her business commitments with those of a mother and wife definitely makes for a hectic life.
“Fortunately Michael understands that running a business is not a nine-to-five job that you can switch off from once you leave for the day. But over the years I’d like to think I have learnt to leave work stress at work.”
Debbie’s grateful for the help she’s had from other people in business. “Sharing business ups and downs with others in the same boat, those who have ‘been there, done that’ really inspires me to keep going. And I’ve had one business coach who taught me how to focus on my exit plan, and work back from there.
“My inspiration to keep moving forward is Michael and the future I want to give us.”
She has set big goals.
“I would love to have my business run without me one day. To have franchisees running Blend by Doll Face stores all over New Zealand and Australia, and hire people who are top of their field in order to take the stress off me.
“Once the business is running well, the plan is to sell the company in sections.
“The ultimate plan is for (Michael) and myself to retire at 55!”