Name: Natalia Obolensky
Industry: Health & wellbeing
What motivated you to start your business?
I started BBureau with a friend from INSEAD during our MBA, because we were aching for a way to meet our personal career goals while not giving up on our personal lives. Both management consultants, we struggled every day to find time for ourselves while working really long hours. When we realised there was an opportunity to create a business that could have a meaningful impact on professional’s lives all over the UK, we jumped at it.
Tell us a little bit about your business…
B Bureau is an innovative new company that provides beauty, hair dressing and well being services at companies in London. By bringing these services into the office, on a predictable schedule, we are able to help employees save time, money and stress! As employee well-being is becoming more important (and people are becoming increasingly time sensitive), we really aim to make the workplace more sustainable for everyone.
As such, we offer three sets of services:
1) Be Well bureau offers massage, reflexology, food coaching and yoga classes
2) Barber & Blow Dry Bureau offers male and female haircuts and blow dry services
3) Beauty Bureau offers manicures , pedicures, waxing and threading
Importantly, these services can be offered at no financial cost to the company, and employees can manage all booking and payments online, so there is no administrative burden. We do require a space from the hosting office, but are very flexible so can use almost any space (empty office, conference room etc.).
What were the first steps you took to get your business up and running?
Aside from the standard market research and building of a business plan, we took a very active approach to our business idea tests: While completing our MBA at INSEAD, we actually took over one of the study rooms and transformed it into a spa for a day. Though a beta website, we tested demand, logistics and consumer preferences. Having had huge success, we did a second pilot session, spanning two days with two beauty therapists and again, were able to learn a lot about logistics and consumer preferences.
Once we saw the initial success the idea had, we moved forward and incorporated in the UK, built a better website and started speaking to clients about our services.
At the start, we’ve really found that energy and enthusiasm are the key drivers – we never take a “no” personally, but use it to build our knowledge about what works in our business.
What has been the most effective way to raise awareness of your business?
Being really really bold. We don’t hesitate to hand out business cards, to tell people about our new business whenever we get the opportunity and to attend all networking events everywhere! Additionally, we’ve really leveraged our business and school networks to get in touch with the right people in the right places.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Not having an IT background! In today’s world, where everything is online (and all of our bookings are done through our website), it’s a huge handicap to not be very familiar with the technological side of things. It’s taken us longer to get a website up and running, as well as been very challenging to oversee the custom built booking system that we required.
How did you overcome it?
Perseverance…and getting lots of advice from our techie friends. Taking the time to understand the requirements and work through them slowly really helped us make sure we were on the same page as our developers.
What do you love most about building your own business?
The freedom that comes with being your own boss means that we can choose to tackle difficult situations, but also have the flexibility to make sure we don’t jeopardise our personal lives. Ironically, we probably work longer hours as entrepreneurs than we did as consultants, but it’s much more rewarding as we prioritise what is and is not important, and we set the vision.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Go for it! There is a point where you just need to jump off a cliff – part of being successful is working within a strict time parameter. You have to find a way to drum up business before you hit the ground and run our of time/money/patience etc.
How do you keep motivated during difficult times?
You need to have 100% (even crazy!) confidence in your idea. If you don’t believe in it, and are not willing to put your heart and soul into it, why would anyone take a risk on you? So when times get really difficult, if you take a step back, and you still believe in the bigger idea, dream or goal, you can get through and push forward until you hit the next euphoric high.
What’s your favourite quote?
“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”