Hailing from Vangaon village of Palghar in Maharashtra, Ratna Kulkarni did her schooling from Panchgani, and later studied Botany at Pune’s Fergusan College after which she joined Ashwamegh Auto Ltd as a sales executive in 1991. Quickly rising up the professional ladder, Kulkarni soon moved to financial dept.
Life dealt a cruel blow in 2003, when she lost her husband to a road accident leaving her to look after her young daughter, an octogenarian dad-in-law, and an under-construction house.
Rising under the adversity, Kulkarni set up herself up as an independent Mutual Fund Distributor. Passionate about educating women on investment, she still continues as a mutual fund distributor. But that’s not we are talking about here.
Here are talking about her foray into beauty industry, and how she carved out a name by re-inventing herself during the pandemic.
Kulkarni runs a successful salon and spa brand, Le Miroir Salon, which she founded in 2019. She also has her own line of organic facials called Satira which are very popular among the people. During the pandemic, she took to coaching salon owners, and is now mentoring budding entrepreneurs in the industry.
What got you interested in the salon industry?
I entered the industry as a challenge to learn and manage something new. Slowly, I understood the potential of the industry. Seeing girls taking selfies after haircuts, clients looking relaxed after a massage motivates me a lot .The mission of my spa and salon is to offer top of the line customer service and send the client home feeling pampered, relaxed and refreshed.
But just as my business started doing well, Covid struck, I was devastated. All I could think was how am I going to pay salaries, rent and what about our members?
How did you survive the lockdown?
As we had a lot of time on hand, I attended a short business coaching seminar, and realised the importance of systems. I sat down and went back to the basics, studied marketing, customer acquisition, branding, digital marketing, reading financial statements and a lot more.
During the pandemic I analysed my available data and got to know that I had a lot of customer database. I started working on the same.
What happened once the lockdown was lifted?
As soon as the lockdown opened we let all our members know that we were open and following all the safety norms. We displayed pictures of our staff wearing PPE kits and glove with mask ready to serve our guests. All our services were done wearing gloves and PPE Kits, all of which helped us a lot.
We focussed on our clients and didn’t refuse service to any one even though their memberships had expired or they were members of other branches. This helped us a lot. Guests regained their confidence in us and renewed their membership and hence we could sustain to a certain extent.
During the second lockdown, I reinvented myself again. I transitioned into a Salon Profitability Coach. I know there will be more challenges, but my journey has taught me that there is always a way, you have to just look hard enough and be ready to walk that new path.
Tell us about your customised mentorship programme. What kind of response have you received so far?
I get a very good response for my webinars. I talk about looking at the salon as a business not just a passion. Passion is required, yes but along with that you need business acumen. Each salon owner must pay attention to every aspect of the business. Many of the owners refrain from spending money on advertisement thinking it is an expense. These kind of ideas have to be cleared. I also stress on the point of how important it is to understand a balance sheet or any financial statement.
There is not much awareness among the salon owners or the beauty industry that they too can take coaching and benefit from it. There is reluctance among the salon owners to take up the training. They all think they are very small enterprises and coaching is only for large companies. Franchisee owners are the ones who would benefit most from my coaching.
What advice would you give to those who want to open their own salon?
Don’t depend on anyone. Put efforts first into understanding what is required to run a salon business and them take it up. Just because the person has completed the course does not mean he/ she will be successful. Understanding the fact that it is a business like any other is important.
How different are you from others in the business? What is your USP?
My USP is our focus on the customer. He is the most important part of my business. The advantage my model has that we focus on the model of a full-fledged spa with salon in the same premises. All salons say spa and salon but the focus is more on salon. My model is to have minimum four dedicated rooms and therapists with a hair care and skin care salon.
What are your future plans?
I plan to open one more centre in Pune soon. Then we will give out franchisees in the two and three tier cities. Set up a training centre for the therapists. All our franchisees will be under a complete comprehensive coaching so that the rate of failure is nil.