From the family garage to the bright lights of Broad Street, Beyond Beauty is at the heart of Birmingham’s thriving city centre.
Starting a business is difficult at the best of times; however good your idea might be, you can’t be sure it will take off, and for all your planning and preparation, problems and challenges are inevitable. But when it does work out, success brings with it a whole different set of (albeit more welcome) issues to overcome, such as the need for suitable branding and managing growth.
Neelam Binning started aesthetic skin clinic Beyond Beauty in her garage in 2011, originally as a more casual enterprise for family and friends. But it quickly became clear it would outgrow this initial set-up.
The clinic uses state-of-the-art technology to offer a range of advanced facial and body treatments, such as fractional laser skin resurfacing, laser hair removal and treatments for acne, scars and stretch marks.
“I started Beyond Beauty as a passion,” explains Neelam. “I just had the one machine at first, and I got Kash [her husband and business partner] to convert the garage while I did my training. It was only supposed to be a part-time job, but it grew suddenly and got busier and busier, through word of mouth.”
Besides his help converting the garage, Kash has played a crucial part in the Beyond Beauty story. A serial entrepreneur in the transport and logistics industry with a property portfolio to boot, he is keen to lend a hand whenever he can.
Neelam, who had previously worked in the finance sector, knew she needed to professionalise the business when it started to take up more of her time – and money. “Friends and family used to come by for treatment and then stay for dinner. I was spending so much money playing the host it defeated the point.”
Beyond Beauty’s transition to a serious enterprise was confirmed by a move to Broad Street in 2012. Being able to manage growth effectively was critical, Neelam says: “I didn’t have a computer system – it was just one diary. But when we expanded to a second and third room, I needed to start more diaries and constantly cross-check them.
“We accidentally found a niche in the market. Nobody was doing what we were doing at a reasonable price, and we were the only ones around here covering the full spectrum of skin tones. We quickly learned what sells and what doesn’t, which was key. We have only ever used branded and certified machines from UK-based Ellipse, which is important, as they come out the next day to solve any issues.”
After the move to Broad Street, and then on to an even bigger space down the road, growth started to flatline. At this point, Neelam was invited to a Women In Business power event and Kash tagged along: “I was one of very few men there,” he quips. At the event, which was sponsored by NatWest, Kash recognised business growth enabler Harinder Kunor, who was based at his local branch.
“Skin can make such a huge difference to someone’s confidence, and it’s great to see the client smile after treatment”
Neelam Binning, owner and manager, Beyond Beauty
The Binnings were impressed by the attention Kunor gave them, calling soon after to follow up. “She was the pivot point,” says Neelam. “When we met her, we could see the growth potential, which she helped us to carry out. We took on two machines and even changed our payments process and introduced Worldpay.” Beyond Beauty now has five employees, including a full-time brand marketing manager. The company has also just started using accounting software FreeAgent.
Aside from the high-tech machinery, there are two things that take pride of place at Beyond Beauty. The first is a striking metallic chandelier in the entrance hall, and the second is what has become known as ‘the wall’ – something that has turned out to be a branding masterstroke. Picture those sponsor-laden backdrops to glitzy awards ceremonies where the stars pose for their photographs, and that’ll give you an idea of the wall. “It really was one of the greatest additions to the office,” says Kash. “I had seen the concept and spoke to a friend in printing; we had no idea how good it would be for the business.” Delighted with the result of their treatments, many customers want a picture taken in front of the wall, including celebrities such as actress Kara Tointon and singer/music producer Dr Zeus.
The wall was a core part of a branding overhaul. As Neelam explains, this was all new ground for her. “I never thought I’d grow this big, so issues such as colour schemes weren’t a concern. The logo has stayed the same since day one, but we’ve had to tweak in more greys and greens in place of pinks and purple, as I hadn’t anticipated the business becoming unisex. The next stage is changing the website.” It’s also part of a technology overhaul that will see the business install a CRM (customer relationship management) system and go paper free.
One other branding improvement has been changing the email domain name to .clinic, which helps prevent the practice from being mistaken for a nail salon. The Binnings have also engaged in sponsorship, which has involved offering complimentary treatment to contestants in the 2015/16 Miss Birmingham competition, and seeing the clinic’s name up in lights at West Bromwich Albion Football Club.
Inevitably the conversation turns to possible expansion. “We visit Dubai twice a year and have had offers to open a concession over there, but we’re not quite ready yet,” says Neelam. The couple are more likely to open a second branch in London before taking it abroad.
Beyond Beauty has also been asked to run beauty treatment programmes and spas in local hotels, but the Binnings prefer to keep their own customers. “We want to have control over the bookings, not the hotel,” they say.
With repeat customers visiting from as far away as Scotland, it’s clear Beyond Beauty is on to a winner – proof that husband-and-wife teams can work successfully. “The best part is when the clients are happy and they see the results,” says Neelam. “Skin can make such a huge difference to someone’s confidence, and it’s great to see the client smile after treatment.”
Asked whether the couple would encourage their children towards an entrepreneurial career, Kash is quick to respond. “You can’t say ‘I want to be an entrepreneur’; you either have it or you don’t. The one piece of advice I’d give them is ‘Only do it if your heart’s in it’. If starting your own business is being forced on you, then it’s not for you.”
And, as Neelam adds: “You have to work hard and never switch off.”
Source: NatWest Business Hub
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