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The Lash Spa: The smart salon using tech to navigate the pandemic

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It has been a busy few months for businesses as COVID-19 restrictions have started to ease for many states around Australia. But due to the complex nature of what we’re facing, there are still many limitations that apply to businesses across the board. One industry that has been particularly impacted is beauty and personal care.

For Gold Coast-based The Lash Spa, the past few months have been hard, but owner Melissa Bergen hopes that implementing some tech-savvy solutions will help brighten the future for her business. We recently caught up with Melissa to find out how she navigated the first wave of COVID-19, what it’s like reopening in a limited capacity, and how smart-salon solutions are reducing waste while protecting her staff and clients.

Tell us a bit about the backstory of The Lash Spa and how you got started.

The Lash Spa started in my spare bedroom in 2011— at the time, I was one of only a handful of businesses offering lash extensions in Australia, but they soon became almost the norm for women as an easy way to look good without needing makeup. After I had kids, we had to find different spaces to work from, as having babies and toddlers around wasn’t conducive to a peaceful spa experience. After first moving to a house with a dedicated studio, we finally opened our beautiful salon in Varsity Lakes in 2019.

I have always found the process of applying lashes so relaxing and even though it is ‘work’, it has never felt like it. I’m a Mum to two toddlers so I know first-hand how hectic life can get. Between working, raising a family and general life, there’s very little (if any) time left for yourself. Many of our clients are busy mums or women in high-pressure jobs, so to see them walk in and be in a somewhat stressful state but one hour later, step out visibility relaxed and feeling good about themselves — nothing beats that!

The Lash Spa

What makes The Lash Spa a unique experience?

We’ve turned a routine lash appointment into a day spa experience. We value all of our clients and aim to make them feel special at every visit, from handwritten welcome notes to hot towels, tea and chocolate when they arrive, or a complimentary ring clean. My clients really value their ‘me time’ and I absolutely love creating a space where they can escape their busy lives and truly relax.

Over the years, I’ve realised it’s the little things people remember, like how you made them feel. We also apply this to the atmosphere and aesthetics in the salon. I’m a qualified interior designer so every part of the space has been considered, from the iconic pink phone booth we imported, to the french pendant hanging lights. From the moment our clients step through the door, I want them to feel relaxed.

How has the current COVID-19 crisis impacted your business?

It’s still surreal for me to talk about COVID-19! It’s been absolutely devastating to see the impact it has had on people’s health, as well as their livelihoods. We had to shut our doors, like many other businesses, for a period of time which has been a financial struggle. During the closure, we kept the salon afloat with personal savings. We also lost a valued team member of our team who had to return home to Canada.

What are some of the operational things you’ve had to change over recent months?

Since our salon is designed for a private experience, we’re lucky that we didn’t have to change too much to make it COVID-19 safe. Our therapists have always worn face masks but we now change them more regularly throughout the day to better protect clients and team members. We have also implemented new safety measures for clients, including a hand sanitisation station at reception and a COVID-19 temperature screening. We frequently wipe the salon down multiple times a day (all door handles, light switches, check-in iPads) and record a log of when each cleaning is completed.

Our team shifts are staggered so there’s less people in our reception area at any one time, and all visitors have their details recorded. Two of our waiting chairs are out of action to ensure social distancing is followed, and we’ve even changed our much-loved treat station to only stock wrapped lollies.

The Lash Spa

What technology and tools have you used to help your business get through this time?

During lockdown, many of our clients wanted to maintain their lashes at home. We didn’t want them picking off their extensions and damaging their natural lashes, so we put together some lash removal kits. It was complimentary and we covered the postage too. The offer was so in-demand that we decided to extend it to all Gold Coast-based women and we were blown away by the response. It was so popular that we even received a shout out from the local radio station, which was surreal.

In terms of technology, we relied on social media to stay connected to our base during lockdown. It has also been so convenient having access to the Square payments app on my phone, so I could take orders or send invoices over the phone without being in the salon or having to physically see clients.

Tell us a bit about the new smart tech you’ve introduced in the salon.

We have implemented a range of smart-salon tools in a bid to reduce waste, improve efficiencies and better protect our staff and clients by reducing contact with shared materials. Our receptionist is an iPad, instead of a person, where clients check themselves in and alerts are sent straight to the staff member in the treatment room. All of our treatment rooms, lights, and treatment devices can also be turned on at the click of a button and can be controlled individually from an app on our phone or laptop.

We also have to be quite careful with the humidity, as our lash glue is susceptible to it, so we have humidifiers in each room and sensors that can detect any drops in humidity and temperature. The humidifiers will switch on automatically to reach the ideal levels and we can track that all from an app as well.

What is the best advice you could give other salon owners about reopening and persevering in challenging times?

COVID-19 is by far the biggest challenge small businesses have faced in recent years, so don’t lose hope! Everyone is navigating this new world together and no one really knows the best way to approach it. Owning and running a salon can be very challenging and stressful at the best of times, let alone in a global pandemic. My advice would be to just take it day by day, and always make time at the end of each day where you switch off so you can keep your own mental health in check too. I also highly recommend keeping in touch with your client base on a regular basis, even during lockdown. Whether it’s social media, an email or text message, keeping engaged certainly helps once your doors are open again.