Being an entrepreneur is not about age or experience. There is no number to go by. Some entrepreneurs start at the age of 7, others begin their journey at the age of 70. That’s one of the more unique sides of entrepreneurism. If you have a product or plan that you feel strongly enough about then the only hurdles to overcome are the ones you build for yourself. Nina Lancin, owner of The Concept Salon, has been working as an entrepreneur since the age of 16. With a slew of experience in a variety of fields, Lancin knows how to provide her customers with the best service out there. We spoke with Nina about her background, customer care, and female entrepreneurs.
Can you tell us about your background and how you started your business, The Concept Salon?
In my early twenties, I suffered from horrible acne. It took a really big toll on my self-esteem and there seemed to be no solution, despite years of expensive treatments to no avail. I finally saw an esthetician and was blown away by the results. I was instantly intrigued by the effectiveness of a true beauty professional. I immediately enrolled in beauty school so that I, too, would be vested with the skills to change the quality of life for others as I had experienced first hand. In 2007, I opened by first beauty-related business, Valina Salon & Day Spa, which was a luxurious sanctuary for every service under the sun. Inspired by a transition from the extravagant lifestyle toward efficiency and economics, I noticed a void in the market for affordable luxury salons. Blow out bars were opening left and right, but there weren’t any local salons offering unparalleled customer service at reasonable prices, and so, within four years of opening Valina, The Concept Salon was born.
What important lessons about entrepreneurism did you learn about when starting your first business at age 16?
In retrospect, when I think of my young entrepreneurial spirit, I realize that I never considered my age as a roadblock. At sixteen, I wasn’t thinking that people might not take me seriously. If a deal didn’t go through I never thought that it was because I was young, I just found a way to make it happen. So I think that now a lot of my resourcefulness comes from all of those times that I had to pave my own way to success. Working with my dad from such a young age, I was lucky to have acquired invaluable business principles and first-hand experiences, learning that honesty and integrity are everything in the business world. The ultimate lesson I learned from my father’s business practices, which I continue to live by each and every day across all of my businesses, is that people are everything. It all comes down to treating others how you want to be treated, whether you are dealing with business partners, clients, or employees. Because our business at Health Guard entails working with the sick and the elderly he always encouraged me to think about the way I would want my own grandmother to be treated by a business, and to execute such a level of customer service with every single client across all platforms. I am constantly putting myself in the consumer’s shoes, aiming to fulfill their needs and wants without them having to ask.
Your portfolio is diverse in terms of businesses – how do you decide what projects you’ll work on?
At the core of all my business ventures is the mission to bring affordable luxury solutions to women. When I’m approached with a new opportunity, I need to be sure that the company aligns itself with this principle purpose in order for me to consider joining forces. I also need to review what’s already on my plate and whether I can take on something new without compromising what I’ve already got in the works. Opening The Concept Salon demanded all of my time and energy, leaving me unable to sign on other projects during this incubation period. Just last month I partnered with my brother’s company, Privilege Diamonds, after two years of postponing my involvement due to the sheer lack of time. I’ve learned that if I can’t give something the thorough attention it deserves, then it’s not the right time. Privilege is aligned with my business mission and I am so excited for the opportunity to grow this business alongside The Concept.
Customer service is one of your strongest focuses. Has the way you managed customers changed with each business venue you become a part of?
The pillars of my customer service philosophy have remained fundamental in all of my endeavors. Treat others how you would like to be treated has always been the mantra. What has changed over time and across platforms is the customer’s wants and needs. When I opened Valina, there was a desire for a leisurely, full-service day spa, prioritizing luxury over economics. As times have changed, the customer’s needs have become far more practical, seeking an affordable venue that can offer quality and efficiency at once. At The Concept Salon, we are focused on providing the best possible experience at a fair price, regardless of industry standards. I have learned over the years just how important it is to value customer loyalty; acknowledging and rewarding repeat clients for their business as often as possible. Currently, we are re-working our rewards program to make sure we are effective in this initiative. People are completely oversaturated with options in every marketplace, so it’s crucial to stay on the pulse of the client’s ever changing needs and consistently reevaluate how to improve their experience in order to ensure their continued patronage.
With more and more young women entering the entrepreneurial field what are some of the first steps they should take when building a business?
First and foremost I think they should really challenge themselves when thinking about why they want to go in business for themselves. Money is never a good enough reason to enter into a business venture. You can work anywhere for anyone and make money. Success has to be like oxygen to an entrepreneur or one of the big fish will eat you alive. If success does not motivate you than you should not be in business for yourself, regardless of how good your idea is. Business is like a game of chess, and you always have to be up for the strategic battle. It is super important that anyone considering starting a business understands that it will challenge you beyond your wildest imagination and in order to not simply survive, but to thrive, you have to have passion, grit, and strong problem solving skills. To know what you are playing for is key, which means you have to have a solid business plan. I think everyone considering a new venture must take the time to write a detailed 5-year business plan that will serve as an invaluable guide and minimize the potential of making silly mistakes, because you are shooting from the hip rather than making an informed and thought-out decision. As a woman, it’s imperative to consider your priorities as a business owner and to acknowledge that the amount of time your venture requires will mean compromising other aspects of your personal and family life. To balance three businesses, three children, and my husband, among countless other life factors, I’ve learned to become a big planner. With time, I’ve realized I have to push myself to stay on top of my schedule and to-do list while I’m at work, so that my family and free time isn’t compromised. I could not live without my Passion Planner, the Evernote app and my assistant, Jordan, who keeps me and my schedule in line with our priorities.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs trying to diversify their portfolios?
I truly believe that even when you want to expand and diversify, it’s important not to simply jump at every opportunity that presents itself. Rest assured that many invitations will come along if you are handling yourself and your business effectively. First, you must decide on your business mission and strengths and take it from there. I have learned that my strengths lie in negotiations, business development, and customer care. Consider what value you will realistically be able to contribute to this new opportunity and make sure it’s aligned with your strengths and mission. Money is certainly motivating as an entrepreneur, but it’s not worth compromising your passion. There is nothing worse than being a part of a business that doesn’t get you excited or where you are not utilizing your strengths. Lastly, even if the business is aligned with your mission and you see exactly how your strengths will complement the business, don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s important to allocate more time that you think you’ll need to ensure that you will be able to give your all to anything you put your name on.
Thanks to Nina Lancin for this interview.