A few years ago, hair stylist Marlize Knoetze used to work for one of the most popular hair salons in Gqeberha. It had always been her dream to own her own salon one day. Just more than two years ago, Marlize took the leap of faith and is now the proud owner of MK Hair Boutique which she runs from her home in Westering.
Please share some background on yourself and how the business was started?
From a young age I had a passion for styling hair, and family would ask me to style their hair for events and functions. I always took great joy in seeing their excitement with my creations, and it was then, that my dream of one day opening my own boutique was born. After qualifying and gaining valuable experience in my trade, and with the unwavering support and encouragement of my husband, I built up the courage to fulfil my dream.
What is your core service?
Everything hair. Hair maintenance, cutting, colouring, styling and extensions — and the therapy of making my clients feel beautiful.
What makes your business unique?
Every booking with a client stretches far beyond just a hair appointment. It’s a long-term friendship, a barista-good coffee date with an opportunity to empower and make my clients feel great. It’s an opportunity to beautify while sharing life in the “needing-change” moments with a makeover, the small moments with a first haircut, or the big moments with a special event or wedding. Doing hair with heart, this is what makes my business unique.
If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?
Know your strengths so that you can do what you love and love what you do. Recognise your niche market and identify how your strengths can close the gaps.
And do not forget the essential extras: great coffee, superior service, a sought-after head massage, and professional products.
What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before getting off the ground?
Start-up capital was an issue, and the fear and hope that clients would follow and support me.
Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs or new business owners?
Have faith and know that hard work always pays off.
Also, be dedicated to your business and put it first.
Follow your heart’s desire and know that you need to work hard to achieve great things.
Don’t take things for granted — every little detail is important.
What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?
Each and every single day I strive to make every client happy as my motto is “happy client, happy stylist”. Endeavouring to achieve this goes beyond cutting hair. Sometimes it is all about waving a magic wand, giving advice, creating a safe space to vent, lending an ear, or duplicating a picture a client wants to look like.
What is the best advice anyone gave you on success?
Follow your dreams. Always work hard. Always be kind as you don’t know what battle the other person is facing.
How do you measure or define success in your business?
When a client leaves satisfied and when I get referrals from those happy clients.
What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?
Listening to my clients explain their wants and needs, and helping them make a decision about their hair.
What kind of advertising do you do?
My core advertising is definitely referrals and word of mouth. I also manage my social media page on Instagram @mkhairboutique where I post “before” and “after” pictures of the work I do.
What is your company’s vision?
My vision is to do hair with heart, with heart and soul, because this is a perfect blend of passionately empowering people to feel great and look great, and a means for me to express my creativity and passion for the love of the work that I do!
What is your target market?
Anyone with hair.
What have some of your highlights been in running your business?
The first highlight for me was the satisfaction I felt after taking the courage to follow my dream and open my own business.
Each day a client leaves happy and feeling great — that’s my biggest highlight, that’s my “why I do this!”
Being recognised as one of the 2020 Top 10 service providers in the wedding industry.
How important is social media and an online presence for your business?
It’s an essential tool to show and tell what I do, to give my current clients new ideas, and to build trust with new and potential clients to show them what I am capable of achieving.
How many people do you employ?
I have one assistant who greatly contributes to a smooth-running day filled with hot coffee for my clients, relaxing head massages, and so much more!
Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?
My business is a boutique, and I believe that the strengths of my boutique are to keep it small and offer a personalised service. The hair industry is different — people gain the trust of a stylist and follow them wherever they may go. When someone comes to your salon, they want you to cut or colour their hair, not someone else.
How did you acquire funding for the business?
My husband was a great support in providing me with my start-up funding.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from your business journey so far?
Always do your best and be honest about what you believe is realistically achievable.
What have been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth)?
PE is small, and this is the perfect environment for word-of-mouth marketing.
What do you say are the three key traits of a successful entrepreneur?
Creativity, vision, versatility.
What would you say are the key traits of a successful employer?
Communication: you should always keep your employees in the loop with things.
Compassion: always value and protect employees’ work-life balance.
What do you wish people knew about your industry?
There is a science behind doing hair. You need to know what product to choose for a desired look, especially since each person’s hair is different, and you need to apply the correct techniques.
Managing expectations is a big factor in this industry, especially since many clients think that if they show you a picture, they believe their hair will look exactly like that, and unfortunately everyone’s hair is different, with many things to consider.