Serenity Loves is a hair and beauty salon with a difference. Set up by a working mum, it also includes an onsite creche so mums can have their hair done without worrying about bored kids on the loose.
The idea for the salon in Peterborough came from Jo Rofail Bevilacqua. She is mum to two girls aged four and nearly two. She says she was always keen on getting her nails and hair done and had seen that go out of the window when she got pregnant. “I put on weight and didn’t feel like doing anything because I felt rubbish,” she said. “I didn’t want to ask anyone to look after the kids while I got my hair done as it seemed selfish.”
A mobile hairdresser came to her house when she was pregnant with her second daughter. Jo talked to her about how good it would be to have a creche and get your hair done. “It was a lightbulb moment. Within eight months we had opened,” she said.
Jo’s background was initially in sales and then in nursery care. She was working for a nursery when she went on maternity leave with her first daughter and between the first and second births she did a degree and some voluntary work with children.
In the first few months of working on Serenity Loves she did a lot of research. She talked to other mums to see if they thought it would work, got costings together and sorted the logistics. It was when she found a location for the business that things started to move fast.
In the first few months, Serenity Loves was just Jo and the mobile hairdresser. A hairdresser friend later joined and helped on the hairdressing side of the business. By January last year she had left her hairdressing job and joined Jo permanently as her manager. Jo focused on areas such as marketing, finance and HR. Her brother in law helped with the website design. “He was just setting out with his own company Simon Bell Design and it was mutually beneficial for us and him,” says Jo. “He’s very passionate about the brand.”
Jo’s best friend is a marketing manager and worked on transport plans for the Olympics. Another friend is high up in HR. They both provided invaluable advice. “I was very lucky as it meant I didn’t have to learn from scratch and the whole process went more quickly,” says Jo.
Jo had drawn up a 35-page business plan and got a loan authorised by the bank, but at a very high interest rate. A family member looked at the business plan and said they would invest at a lower interest rate.
The building Jo had chosen for the salon was a hairdressers before, but she knew from the beginning that she needed to put money aside for new furniture and paint. However, when they set to work it turned out that a lot more needed to be done, such as ripping out the lights and the ceiling. The costs escalated quickly and soon Jo went over budget. However, she says it was worth it as the feel of the salon is fresh and stylish. “The customers in the previous salon tended to be older, but for the new business we were going for a younger, funkier clientele,” she says.
To market the business, which is around 10 minutes from the centre of Peterborough, Jo used social media, particularly Facebook where she has attracted 6,000 followers. She started posting from the moment the location was chosen. She didn’t tell people what the business was, but encouraged them to like her page. She had 750 likes within two weeks as people were excited to know more. She also hosts competitions and special offers. “There is a lot of interaction,” she says. “Social media has been my main form of marketing,” she says. “People, especially mums, don’t have time to read magazines, but they might check their phones late at night. They can also book appointments via Facebook or on our website. We think that adds value to our business.”
The unique selling point of the salon is, of course, the kids’ playroom. At first Jo employed a full-time childcare worker, but demand built slowly. Given her childcare experience, Jo is currently covering the childcare role herself. She knows how important as a mum it is for parents to feel happy with any childcare. To this end, she has installed a big screen in the salon area so parents can watch their children while they get their hair or nails done. “For a lot of the mums it is the first time they have left their children with anyone bar their family,” says Jo.
The room has a full range of toys from baby toys to a DVD player and games console for older children.
Jo did a lot of planning work on the business at home when her children were sleeping. When the salon opened just over a year ago Jo’s mum and her partner’s mum helped out a lot with the children on their days off and the children now go to nursery part time and spend a day at her mum’s and a day at her partner’s mum’s.
Jo’s long term goal is to franchise the business and people have already emailed her to find out more about the concept for Serenity Loves, which was recently named Best New Business by LL magazine.
“What we want is to give mums some time back for themselves. A lot of women feel better about themselves when they are a bit dolled up or have some time spent on them.