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Editor’s Note: The following columns were first featured in the Square Banking newsletter. For this article, Square interviewed Haute Beauty Guide owner Doran Tomoko. Please note that Doran Tomoko was compensated by Square for her time.
“I’ve always loved skincare,” Doran Tomoko says. “As a kid, I would try to give my brothers facials before I even knew what a facial was. When I found out you could do this as a job, I jumped into it.”
Doran has been in business since 2007. Her skincare company, the Monterey, California-based Haute Beauty Guide, has survived a recession, a pandemic, and everything in between. She can attribute her 16 years in business to equal parts ingenuity, fast adoption of trends, a background in bookkeeping, and a passion for skincare that has kept the job feeling fun.
But in an industry known for spitting out a new trend quicker than anyone can master an old one, staying relevant is a constant challenge. How does Doran navigate fleeting beauty crazes and cultural moments?
Following skincare crazes: from lashes to Hydrafacials
Thankfully, Doran has found success in balancing the latest and greatest with a tried-and-true ethos her clients can count on. Her strategy is to jump on a trend early, but avoid pigeonholing her business.
She was one of the first lash extentionists in California. She’s ridden the wave of skincare maximalism, the peel craze, and has most recently branched into Hydrafacials. She also attributes her success less to specific treatments and more to staying current.
“Five years ago, everybody wanted a peel every week, which is so bad for your skin and we’re starting to realize that. Now, today’s skincare market is more about nourishing the skin. That’s less products that people take home, but they definitely still get treatments,” explains Doran.
To keep her clients coming back — and attract new ones — Doran invests in learning the latest technology and treatments while focusing on customer experience.
“For a lot of my longtimers, it’s that connection that we have, and bringing in innovative and new treatments,” Doran explains. “Even my longtime clients don’t want the same exact lash extensions they got back in 2008.”
Money hour is the new happy hour
Staying current might be essential, but it’s also expensive. The machine required to administer Hydrafacials, for instance, runs at over $10,000. Doran had the advantage of bookkeeping experience under her belt before she opened her own business, but it still took years before she felt comfortable managing finances.
“I never pay myself enough — or sometimes at all — because I always want to reinvest back into the business,” she admits.
To help make financial management less of a stressor, Doran makes it a habit.
“Every Friday, I sit down, I have an alarm that goes off on my computer, like, ‘ey, it’s accounting time.’ I close the door and I make sure I don’t have any appointments during that time. And I just sit down and look at all my books, whether that be Square reports, or the spreadsheet I use to keep track of my finances, or my savings folders.”
How a self-proclaimed “bad saver” reaches her savings goals
One of the ways Doran is able to stay ahead of the curve is through consistent savings — but she wasn’t always so organized about her savings. Before the pandemic, she did what most businesses do: hope there would be money left over after the monthly bills were paid. After surviving the uncertainty of the last few years, Doran has gotten much more strategic.
Using the Square Savings tool, she automatically puts aside money into separate Square Savings Folders: one for new business expenses, like new lighting for the store, one for quarterly taxes, and one for a year-end bonus.
“The most challenging part of saving as a business is feeling like there’s never enough money in the month to cover all my expenses for the business. I’ve always been able to justify not saving as much as I need to. By automating savings through Square, I realized I do have the money to put away for my goals.”
Building your support system
For Doran, who’s a mom, the flexibility to set her own hours is one of the upsides of owning her own business, but it can come with a price.
“Because I’m a solopreneur, I don’t have someone to bounce ideas off of or figure out new trends. I have to go and find those. It’s extra work. And it can be lonely at times.”
Throughout the life of her business, Doran has made a point of networking. She meets up with esthetician friends for lunch as often as she can, jumps on community boards, like the Square Seller Community, and regularly attends skincare conferences.
“When I get overwhelmed, just being around other estheticians is really helpful,” she says.
Through Doran’s innovation, money smarts, and investment in community, Haute Beauty Guide has weathered its fair share of storms. What tips would Doran share with business owners who are just getting started?
“Get a financial education, and really have a passion for what you’re starting. Being a small-business owner is really tough some days and if you don’t have a passion for it, it’s not going to be fun.”