Launching a business based on close communication with people in early 2020, right at the start of the pandemic? Easily. Survive after this? Not easy, but possible. Egor Adamovich and Ksenia Mukhametshina, co-founders of the Molecula Center for Aesthetic Medicine and Cosmetology from Minsk, did this and told how their business works, where a beauty salon can find good staff, and what the shortage of Botox will lead us to. Read the new exciting story “About business”.
“Of course, I could not imagine that it would take a year to obtain a license”
Beautiful interviews, pleasant smells, smiling employees, tea and coffee, expensive cosmetics – this is what visitors of any good beauty salon see “outside”. Inside this business, our heroes say, everything is a little more complicated.
“The medical business is a licensed and strictly regulated activity,” says the director of the center, Ksenia. – It definitely won’t be possible to just rent a room, make cosmetic repairs and start working in a month. Because in a case related to human health, absolutely everything – from the paint on the walls to the arrangement of sockets and the composition of gloves – must have certain characteristics, confirmed by documents.
Entrepreneurs admit that even they, who understood the specifics of the cosmetology industry in advance, were not ready for such a volume of paperwork that they had to face at the start of a business.
Yegor Adamovich, a cosmetologist of the 1st medical category, by 2019 had good experience in public and private medical institutions – and decided that it was time to start his own business. For himself, he saw it this way: only his business would allow him to easily and without delay introduce modern methods, purchase expensive equipment, and offer new services. Ksenia also dreamed of her own beauty center – and the partners decided to start together.
— I had a clear understanding of what our center should be like. But I, of course, could not imagine that it would take a year to obtain a license, – Egor admits.
“I remember we looked at the list of documents required for organizing a salon, and for some reason I decided that there was nothing special,” Ksenia laughs.
In 2019, we came to the Ministry of Health with such a thin daddy. Then it was necessary to convey one piece of paper, a second, a third … By the beginning of 2020, we already had a whole cabinet of documents.
For the year, the center was nevertheless prepared for the opening, staffed. It was already necessary to pay salaries to specialists, pay rent (and this is € 1200 per month) and utility bills – but there was no license yet. Egor and Ksenia remember: when they finally received it, it was the happiest day.
“We were just bursting with pride: we could, we fulfilled all the requirements in order to have the status of a medical center. It was difficult, nervous, expensive – but it was worth it!
By the way, about “cost”. The exact amount that entrepreneurs have invested in the opening of their center, they call very conditionally: “Personal investment – two apartments in Minsk and one Range Rover.” Only repairs in the premises of the future center cost, Ksenia and Egor recall, $ 120,000.
Technological answer to a covid question
So, the Egor and Ksenia Aesthetic Medicine Center opened on February 29, 2020. It’s time, given the beginning of the pandemic… But Ksenia and Egor immediately decided not to despair: they had something to withstand the negative external circumstances.
“Egor’s scrupulousness and exactingness helped out,” Ksenia recalls. – Firstly, even before the pandemic and the opening, we decided to make a very good ventilation system in the cabin: it is even many times more powerful than the regulations of the Ministry of Health required. They invested $ 10,000 in it – and never regretted it. The air in the rooms is changed and disinfected every 30 minutes – and, of course, in covid we have made this our advantage.
Secondly, Egor immediately decided never to save on the quality and level of equipment. At the time of opening, we had one of the best and most modern laser hair removal machines in Minsk costing about $ 100,000 – this also became a competitive advantage. And we can say that today investments in it have paid off. In 2021, we decided to buy another copy of the same manufacturer: at that time, the turnover of the center did not allow us to do this at the expense of the money we earned, so we had to invest our own again.
At the start, the center started with laser hair removal, dermatovenereology and physiotherapy. Later, the list of services was supplemented by injectable cosmetology with a wide range of names – from lip augmentation to contouring and massage. The range of services is constantly expanding: in this area, entrepreneurs say, you must constantly be aware of trends and keep up with neither approaches nor equipment.
“We are definitely not interested in freezing in one cosmetology,” Yegor is sure. – Now we are going to provide plastic surgery services: the center’s doctors are already being trained in this direction. As soon as this is mastered, we think to take a closer look at the niche of aesthetic gynecology.
“At the start, we were faced with the need to expand our client base,” says Ksenia. — Tried different channels to promote their services. Ads on nearby houses, for example, did not work. But Instagram has been very effective. We began to place promotions on discount platforms like slivki.by, where we already have 6 pages of reviews. And what is surprising is that people are usually very motivated to throw out their negative emotions online, and not everyone will find the time and desire to describe their positive impressions. But we receive a lot of words of gratitude and support. I think it’s reviews on the Web, as well as word of mouth, that work best.
“We recently revised our original business plan,” the entrepreneurs say. – At the start, it seemed logical to us to analyze the average prices on the market, lay down the estimated volume of services, subtract mandatory expenses – and here you have a huge profit. But due to the constantly changing situation in the country and the world over these two years, we had to seriously reduce the prices for services relative to those that we laid down initially.
The result today is modest: the profitability of the center is 10%. But in a situation where people’s incomes are falling, it is important to keep at least a minimal plus: we have earned a little, and we are not “strangled” by customers.
I had to learn to be more flexible: take into account seasonality, offer new promotions, come up with service packages. Now the main thing for us is the result as such, and there are areas in which we can develop.
When to go to the beautician?
The services of cosmetologists today are in demand among women aged 21 to 45 years. In rare cases, men also become clients of the center. The latter, due to our mentality, is the minimum percentage. These are either people whose work is related to the demonstration of the body (models, for example) or those who were persuaded to come to the specialists by their spouses.
According to Yegor, there are no age criteria for improving one’s appearance: if a person feels the need, he should at least consult a beautician. But this does not mean that the doctor will agree to implement any request.
It is important for me to proceed from the principle of reasonableness.
It makes no sense to do a set of procedures for a conditional 100 rubles, if I see that I can limit myself to one for 10. But a person who will be satisfied with the result will recommend me to another 10, and in any case our business will receive its one-time 100 rubles, and also permanent customers, the prospect of long-term cooperation and a good reputation.
Why are there so few cosmetologists?
True, businessmen say, the situation with cosmetologists in our country is not simple: they are sorely lacking.
“There are 11 people in our team,” Ksenia notes. “All of them are excellent specialists, and, realizing this, we try to encourage employees financially, our salaries are higher than the average for the city in the industry. But we are developing, periodically opening vacancies – and we feel the shortage of personnel very acutely.
What is the reason? Ksenia and Yegor explain: the relatively small recruitment for specialized retraining of doctors and the need for many years of work experience, including in government institutions, make the market for specialists (both doctors and nurses) very narrow. But when selecting personnel, one must also take into account the personal qualities of the candidate.
The “gray market” in cosmetology also affects the difficulties in finding a good specialist: some really professional cosmetologists (forced or of their own free will) today work unofficially, entrepreneurs state.
What threatens the deficiency of “Botox”
Egor is sure that the potential of the cosmetology market in Belarus is inexhaustible, the volume of services rendered and new clients from Molecula and other good centers and beauty salons is growing multiple from year to year. That is why numerous beauty parlors, beauty salons and medical centers do not need to compete with each other. But it is extremely difficult for all of them to resist “services at home”.
— Counterfeit medicines cost half as much, and as a result, the price tag for services on the “gray” market is much lower.
And we understand that it is precisely because of the cost that customers are willing to risk both their health and consumer rights.
This problem has become especially relevant now, when, against the backdrop of sanctions, official suppliers and legal buyers have problems with injectable drugs: European and American botulinum toxin preparations are not legally imported to Belarus yet.
– Here’s the thing: the unconditional plus of Botox is its own minus – the effect of the procedure is reversible. That is, a few months after the procedures, the original appearance of the client returns. It’s great that if you don’t like it, you can no longer inject. But most clients just like their new image, the girls do not want to give up their usual services – and if official cosmetology cannot help them, they will go “at home” to anyone. And in this I see serious risks in the future,” says Yegor.