Small, but Strong. Set the Game with High-End Marketing and Differentiation Strategy
Model Beauty Supply, GA
In recent years, many areas where Korean and Arab beauty supplies exist together have surfaced. In such an area, there is a 1,600 sf small store, a Korean-run business that secured their own customers and that survived well in the harsh competition. That place is Model Beauty Supply, owned by Paul Son, the president of the Georgia Atlanta Beauty Supply Association(GABSA). Mr. Son will soon open a third beauty supply store in the area. BNB visited the site of the new store and listened to Son’s own “Law of the Jungle,” which leads him to survive the infinite competition.
An hour’s drive from Atlanta in direction to South Florida on Highway 75, you’ll reach the center of the state of Georgia. There is a city called Centerville, which literally means “City in the center.” It is a small town with a population of only 7,700, but it is very busy and has a large floating population. It is a transportation hub and a commercial center that absorbs the floating population in the area to match the name of the city. The third store of Mr. Son is located in the heart of the city.
24th Business … No Business I Haven’t Done.
Mr. Son, who moved to the United States at the age of 17, has done all sorts of business in the past 30 years since he started business at the age of 27. Beauty supply, grocery, restaurant, gas station, dollar store, telephone, clothing, etc.
This store is his 24th business. Currently, he is operating a total of three companies, a restaurant and two beauty supply stores. Originally, there were three beauty supplies, one of which was recently handed over to his nephew.
“There was nothing big. It was fun to watch my business become stable, though. If I calculated better, I would’ve succeeded more…”
For him, the most valuable asset of life is “the failures and adversity he has experienced since his youth.”
“I’ve only done business in the countryside,” he said, “and it would have been harder if I had done it in a big city. There is a lot of competition there…But the countryside isn’t as crowded and there is a gap to enter, so that’s why I’ve come so far.”
Then he adds a joke.
“If this interview goes out on BNB, won’t it attract everyone to run beauty supply in rural towns…? haha.”
Even now, Mr. Son continues to envision the development of new businesses such as “dessert shops(ice cream, boba tea), Korean bibimbap restaurants, food trucks selling cup rice in front of beauty supply stores, and shops that print on T-shirts(already purchased machines).”
“To Understand the Store, One Must Step Outside the Store”
What makes him so constantly trying new businesses?
”It was an unavoidable choice for a living,” he said, and emphasized, “To succeed in business, you must always try to find new items and ideas.”
In order to find improvements for the success of the business or to come up with new business ideas, he also pointed out that “the time staying in the store must be ‘minimized’.”
He advises other store owners to “never work 5-6 days a week in the store.”
“To Understand the Store, One Must Step Outside the Store!”
He said that he has always worked 3 days and had 4 days of free time. These days, he comes to the store on Friday, sleeps only one night, and goes back to his house in Atlanta.
He operates the business with a manager system, and thoroughly trusts his employees.
Just like what he said, “I find joy while working,” Mr. Son’s attitude of trusting his people and optimistically enjoying life has become a true source of new businesses.
Differentiation and High-end Marketing Strategies.
All three stores, including the newly opened Beauty Supply store, are located within a radius of a few miles. This is also where the competition between Korean and Arab beauty supplies is on fire. This third store is located in the building where the pharmacy used to be and at the intersection of the most jam-packed streets. The rental fee is high, and so is the price of the building as well. How could he decide to open a new store in such a place, amidst fierce competition?
He says that the secret to surviving the competition is to “target the top 5% of customers, and give up the customers who are looking for low-cost products.” In other words, the high-end strategy; to secure a fixed customer base looking for high-price high-quality products.
Mr. Son has very strong confidence in the “high-end and differentiation strategy” that distinguishes him from other stores. That was probably the reason why he could co-exist with his competitors. To the question of ‘what are the advantages of the high-end strategy?’ Mr. Son answered with an example:
“It’s a small shop, so there are days when there are only a few customers. However, because they buy high-priced products, just a few guests raise my sales in a day.”
In order to make the store look luxurious and safe, he makes the store visible from the outside, and the product photos he decorates the store with have both white and black models.
In fact, his store’s ‘hair’ section mainly has with high-end clip-in products that many white customers use.(For reference, this area’s population is 60% white and 30% black.)
When Looking for a Store and Signing a Lease, be Sure to Hire a Real Estate Agent!
When asked about the difficulties of preparing to open a new store, Mr. Son said he hired a real estate agent this time, and was happy with the results.
“I’ve done it so far…But most of the owners struggle on their own to find a building to open a store. However, it was great to hire an agent who was already familiar with the area.”
“After the contract, the building owner pays the agent fee, so it doesn’t cost money,” he said, and stressed once again, “Make sure you hire a real estate agent.” He added, “it makes my work fast, easy, and above all, accurate.”
“Other companies have tried to open a store in this building. It’s the best place with the most traffic. They also asked me, ‘How were you able to get this place? I have tried for 6 months and still failed.’ So I replied, ‘I tried for 2 years.’ Hahaha!”
The secret of Google Rating 4.7
We asked about the secret of the popularity of his store. Mr. Son replied:
“We’re especially more kind to our return guests, and we’re giving them a 100% return. Also, even if it’s not something we sold to them, we accept it if it’s something we can sell back. If you are unkind to the customers who want to return, your shop’s reputation is bound to go bad in an instant.”
He also added, “when someone comes in, all the staff members stop working for a moment and greet them brightly and kindly.”
As a strategy to improve service quality, it seems that they are making the best use of the advantages that they have, despite their size.
Entrust Full Control of the Store to a White Female Manager.
Mr. Son comes to the store only once a week. It is a thorough manager-management system. Something that stands out is that the manager is a white lady. Her ethnicity seems to be an advantage as well, because they are dealing with hair clips for white customers. That manager uses Kakao Talk, and they communicate very well.
“When employees are too conscious of the owner, the guests also become too conscious of the employees,”said Son, emphasizing that “It is really important to just trust the employees.”
He added, “When I start doubting my employees, that’s stressful, and my employees quickly notice it too.
I just sign some checks in advance, give them to the manager, and let them write the numbers down whenever they need to.”
Perhaps because of that trust, they are almost like family, and communicate with each other very comfortably.
How to Get Good Employees
Mr. Son maintains a good relationship with the schools in the city. Last year, he donated masks to seven schools and selected scholarship students to support their academics.
“Scholarship students are nice and smart. I sometimes hire them, or get recommendations by school teachers.”
The hired employees are given good treatment and a vision to become a manager in the future.
In addition, employees are paid incentives every time they sell high-priced products. For example, if someone sells a wig with a high unit price, they are offered a certain amount of it as a sales bonus.
Basic Condition to Inherit to Family: “Safety”
In recent years, the first generation of the Korean beauty supply industry has slowly stepped away from the front lines, and the next generation has stepped up. However, the generation change was not easy.
Although they have sacrificed their youth in Beauty Supply, some owners have a desire for their children to have a better job. Meanwhile, there are some children that have grown up seeing parents doing business in dangerous, crime-filled areas, so they are reluctant to take over their parents’ business.
However, all three of Mr. Son’s sons in their 20’s are currently working in Son’s business and taking management classes.
“We work for top-tier guests in safe and clean areas. Knowing the big flow of money that can’t be earned by the salary you receive in your normal office work life, the vision of my children has changed. My sons want to work here. I am relieved that my sons are involved as partners together.”
Mr. Son says he continues to look for safe areas due to the next generation.
There is No Retirement in My Dictionary!
“If I can leave the store while giving good treatment and compensation to my employees, I will be able to continue working even when I get older,” Mr. Son says.
“If you have to worry about hiring people, then you’ll likely stay at a small store. Then, you’ll have to work yourself. However, most want to retire at age 60-70. But if you don’t work after retirement, your body and mind will become weak.”
In order to continue to work even when he is older, Mr. Son is creating a virtuous cycle that goes, “Business initiative-> Business setting-> Manager management-> Business planning-> Business setting…”
“He has passed away now, but I saw a 100-year-old man working in a store once. It looked great. I’m not going to retire. I’ll always do research and pursue new things. I will create a shop where I can continue to work after retiring age. When the store is stable, I will hand over one by one to my family and people around me. My children and nephews are here now, working and training. When the younger generation in their 20s and 30s come and work, I can afford time and envision another new opportunity.”
“Don’t Dwell on the Size of the Store, but do a Small but Efficient and Profit-Making Business.”
Finally, for those who want to open a beauty supply with small capital, President Son advises:
“Rather than paying attention to the size of the store… even if the rental fee is high, if you enter a good area, make even a very small store luxurious, spend less on employees, and sell high-priced items, you can make a more profitable and stable business than you think. And don’t just get stuck in the store, go out, envision change, and try to find new items. I hope you find a way to work joyfully without overusing your body. I need to enjoy my job to make employees happy, and happy employees make happy customers.”