By Tahira Bharmal
Meet Nazia Surti: Founder and Owner of Beauty First Spa (Burlington, Ontario).
Nazia is 26 years old and the proud owner of Beauty First Spa – a women’s only spa with a speciality in threading. The first of its kind in Burlington, Ontario. Nazia started off in a little Kiosk in Burlington Mall and now has a 2000 square foot spa in the Mall and is soon opening her second flagship store in Hamilton at the Limeridge Mall. She has a clientele of 400 members, and that number is rapidly growing.
I first met Nazia in the kiosk when I went to get my eyebrows done. To say I was impressed is an understatement. I have been going to her for 2 and half years now (for as long as she has been in business for!). The growth of her business has been exponential and i have seen it before my own eyes. I caught up with Nazia to find out more about her and how she ended up where she is.
How did Beauty First come about?
I was working in Toronto as a hair stylist and aesthetician and we moved to Milton. Then I went to the USA for a wedding. I couldn’t find a job when I got back. I don’t do men’s services, so it wasn’t feasible for people to hire me. And I found out I was pregnant as well. My husband suggested I start my own business; I wasn’t too keen as I was pregnant and not ready to start my own business.
After a lot of searches, we narrowed it down to Maple View Mall. But I called the Burlington Mall leasing agent as I thought there was only one mall in Burlington. We ended up driving to Maple view mall with no appointment and then we came to Burlington Mall.
After talking to the leasing agent – she said we could open the kiosk as long as I got a clearance from the health department. The health department immediately said no, they needed me to have a portable sink. I argued with them and sited many examples of places in and around Toronto that had these kinds of kiosks offering similar services.
After a long back and forth, the health department decided to give me the OK on the condition that on the day of opening, there would be a check and if I passed it, it would be ok to open, and if not then I would not open.
On the day of opening the lady from the health department came and had a look and I walked her through the procedure of sterilization after every client. And she gave me the go ahead.
I signed my initial lease for 3 months. And that is how it started.
After 3 months it was doing so well and I renewed it for 2 years and then eventually opened my own store as my clientele was growing.
How long have you been in business for now?
I have been in business for 2.5years now. I started the kiosk in June 2012.
Where did your journey begin?
I moved to Toronto from India when I got married. I worked in Toronto for a while and then moved to Milton. I had eventually thought of opening my own business, but I did not expect it to happen so fast. When I moved here from India, I had to get recertified by Canadian standards so I spent my first few years here working on that.
What are your future plans?
I want to have a chain of franchises. I am in the process of doing that. In March I am opening my second store in Hamilton, in the Limeridge Mall. I have other meetings for 2 other malls.
Do you plan to stay in this region or go further out?
Further out. I got an offer for Markham as well. But right now I am not ready for that. I am expecting my second child and it will be too much. But soon I will be expanding that way too. I am hoping to eventually drag my husband into this business with me.
Do you train your staff individually?
Yes I personally train my staff. I want them to train under me and want them to follow my standards.
What is beauty to you?
Beauty is how you feel about yourself. It is about feeling good from within and that brings about a charm and confidence. It is not about what others say, but about how you feel about yourself.
What is your source of inspiration?
My kids. When I came here, I struggled to make ends meet. I could have called my parents and asked for money, but it was about my husband’s respect. So I did what I had to to make it work. That involved cleaning as well.
When we moved here I was the only one working, as my husband was looking for a job.
I don’t want my children to see the days I have seen. I used to think twice before spending money on a coffee that cost $1.
What is your support system?
My husband! He is my strong pillar. He pushed me to do my own business. Even now – he has time to help me, but he pushes me to my limits and makes me venture into areas I do not know anything about. He is always at hand for help, but he makes sure I try it myself first and give it my best shot. He also pushed me to get my Canadian certification. I was so focused on having a job and making it work, and he encouraged me to go to school in the daytime and work in the evenings. He truly is a partner in the truest sense.
Have you learnt a lot on the job? And how has that experience been?
Yes. It has been tough. My husband really pushed me to my capabilities.
What has been the hardest thing you have had to learn on the job?
Finance!! Getting the capital to grow and also learning the accounting. I was never good at numbers, I hated it, but now I can proudly say I am good at it. I had no choice but to learn.
What tips would you give our readers who are aspiring to start their own business?
Don’t think that any idea is too small. Like for me the industry I am in threading is a small thing, but it has made me start my own chain now. How you go about doing it is where the key is. Customer service is so important. You have to build the relations.
Did you design the stores?
Yes. I had an idea of how I wanted my store to look. This particular store has not turned out exactly as I wanted, but the Limeridge branch will be what I envisioned. The contractor I had did some cheap work, but now I have learnt and know better.
How do you feel when you see your dream turning into reality?
I feel very very excited. If Ido not come to the store for a day I feel I am missing out. And everytime I walk in my initial reaction is wow – I did it! I see my hard work paying off. I do feel a sense of pride. I can see my hard work paying off and see it did not go to waste.
I feel self-made. I am what I am because of me!!
To find out more about Beauty First visit their website:
The Limeridge Mall branch opens in March 2015.