Entrepreneurial Expansion: Knowing Your Brand and Your Market
Paola is the founder and owner of SUGARMOON, a sugaring business with three salons, take-home sugaring and organic body care lines, and the SUGARMOON training academy. In this instalment of her Women of Influence web series, The Truth About Entrepreneurship: My Life on the Moon, she shares her experience and advice on expanding your business.
By Paola Girotti
The world of entrepreneurship is full of hard work and amazing rewards. One of the biggest rewards for me has been the fulfillment I have gotten from growing SUGARMOON.
Moving Through the Entrepreneurial Process
You’re likely familiar with the entrepreneurial process. It typically moves from idea generation, to opportunity evaluation, to planning, to launch, and finally to growth. But what does growth mean? It may mean product development, market penetration, diversification, or market development.
For SUGARMOON, growth has meant all of these things. My most rewarding growth has come from expanding into new geographic markets and into new product and service markets—we have opened new stores with a focus on our niche market and our employees, and created all-natural skin care products and hair removal solutions to use in our salons and for private use.
The personal growth this has afforded me has been immeasurable, but I won’t lie: the risks associated with growth can be scary. Knowing my markets has made a world of difference in allowing me to take the calculated risks I needed to grow. I couldn’t know when to grow until I knew why it was time to grow.
Related: Is entrepreneurship right for you?
When & Why Did We Choose to Grow?
I started with the idea for SUGARMOON: to offer all natural, eco-friendly sugaring to a growing population interested in taking care of themselves and the planet. After evaluating the opportunities for such services in Toronto, I planned and formed SUGARMOON with my (former) partner and opened a two-room salon that offered only sugaring.
I quickly realized that our clients were eager to look at products and other salon services in a “green friendly space,” so SUGARMOON started offering skin care services and eventually became a full service salon. That diversification helped support our brand.
Working with our clients every day, we came to understand how truly special we were. Our strength in the marketplace was as a niche service provider; very few salons in Toronto offer the hand-technique sugaring method. That same strength is also a weakness, as I have come to understand in our recruitment process.
With an understanding of the SUGARMOON brand and the knowledge that we were almost at capacity in our tiny, original location, we made the decision to grow and move to a larger store on the Danforth.
I understood our overall brand recognition and knew this was a great opportunity to spread our wings in the city. What made it an even greater opportunity was that we had a good space to grow. The location I had chosen for our first expansion had housed a sugaring studio that had recently closed, so I knew there was already a good marking on the map in the space. I also knew that SUGARMOON would naturally pick up a number of the previous studio’s clients—and it did.
SUGARMOON actually expanded to its second store just after the 2008 recession. Most people thought I was crazy to expand at that time but the opportunity presented itself and I took a chance because I knew my brand.
Although people don’t typically spend money on large items in such economic periods, they seem to budget a bit of money for the instant “feel good” products and services. SUGARMOON fit in there perfectly: we helped our clients feel good and we aligned with their broader values of helping the earth and themselves. It was a winning combination for growth.
In 2013, I decided to grow SUGARMOON again, this time to the west end. The location was another perfect fit for SUGARMOON: it was filled with people and there was a significant demand for an eco-beauty salon among them. To fit this new market we accommodated our clients.
Growth Isn’t Just About Profits
For SUGARMOON, growth is about more than profits. I wanted to expand the brand itself to bring the greenest alternative to beauty to consumers. Expanding our stores has allowed us to reach more clients. Expanding into organic skincare has allowed us to take that alternative beauty option to another level. Now our clients can continue to take care of themselves and the planet at home, and people beyond our stores can benefit from our products.
Opening the SUGARMOON Academy has also offered me the opportunity to help others. In the SUGARMOON model, we are focused on investing in our employees, and with the SUGARMOON Academy we are able to train more people to find rewarding careers that help others. It’s a win-win.
If you’re left wondering when is the best time to expand, I suggest reconnecting with your brand and assessing your market. It has helped SUGARMOON continually grow and I am forever grateful for that.
During her fourteen years as the owner of SUGARMOON, Paola has experienced both the triumphs and the trials of being a female entrepreneur. In her Women of Influence web series, The Truth About Entrepreneurship: My Life on the Moon, she’s sharing stories and lessons from her journey as a business founder and owner. From financing, to expanding, to balancing motherhood, Paola offers a candid view and valuable insights for aspiring and fellow entrepreneurs.
Interested in more? Read other articles from Paola’s web series, or learn about her business at sugarmoonsalon.com