Beauty industry insider discovers a cost-effective way to reach a new audience and sell more product to existing customers by opening a small footprint franchise within her existing business
Wendy Tong came to North America from Vietnam in 1980 with her older sister, settling in Calgary, Alberta, and ten years later they were followed to Canada by their father and two more siblings. The entire family worked hard to support themselves, often working several jobs, and Wendy worked for four years with Hyatt and Sheraton hotels handling linens, until she could afford to go to beauty school, her private passion. “I’ve always liked beauty,” says Tong. “When I was young, I was already doing nails and makeup.”
Opening Her Own Business
In 1997, she opened her own business, a nail salon which she ran successfully for 17 years. “I really liked the shop because I want to make everybody beautiful,” she says. “That’s why I’ve been in the beauty business for a long time.” Several years ago, one of Wendy’s nail clients introduced her to Merle Norman Cosmetics products and subsequently Wendy became friends with the owner of a local Merle Norman Cosmetics Studio. Wendy quickly became a convert to the product line. “I liked Merle Norman products because they’re natural,” she says. “Merle Norman makes a beautiful foundation, which is important if you’re wearing makeup.”
Moving Up to the Merle Norman Brand
Merely using Merle Norman products wasn’t enough for Wendy. She soon realized she wanted something more than just a nail salon, she wanted her own Merle Norman Cosmetics franchise — a brand that had been successful for over 80 years. Deciding to go with Merle Norman was easy for Wendy. As a beauty industry veteran, she was impressed with the product quality, reasonable prices, and the fact that Merle Norman Cosmetics didn’t require franchise fees or royalties. Her primary costs, apart from leasing her space, was for beauty products and displays. So, two years ago Wendy sold her nail salon and started over as a Merle Norman franchisee at a new location, building a business from the ground up.
Initial Investment $60,773 – $191,200
Net Worth $100,000 – $150,000
Liquid Cash $40,000 – $50,000
Smart Decisions in Building Her Business
From the beginning, Wendy has kept a close eye on expenses. Although she chose a location in downtown Calgary for the foot traffic and a more prosperous clientage, she was careful not to lease too large a space, a business mistake many people make which can make reaching profitability difficult. “While I want my salon to look nice and very high-class, I didn’t want my rent to be too high,” she says.
We work very hard, and save our money, and we don’t take any money from the bank to fund our business
Family Business Ethic
Although her husband doesn’t work in the salon, he has been very supportive financially. Like many immigrant families, the Tongs are frugal, and were able to launch Wendy’s new salon without taking any loans — a subject that Wendy Tong feels very strongly about. “We work very hard, and save our money,” she says, “And we don’t take any money from the bank to fund our business.”
Wendy also has high standards for her employees, wanting them to have the same work ethic that she does, which is why her sister and niece work with her in the salon. “it’s a family business, ” she says. ” I want to make sure everyone is happy and working together.”
Key to Success
For Wendy Tong, success isn’t easy, but it’s not mysterious either. They key to having a good life is working hard, showing kindness to others, and being honest. That’s why she spends 10 hours a day, every day in her salon. ” I have to work hard as an example for my employees,” she says. “Look at it this way. If you’re lazy, how are you every going to be successful, right?
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