MyHairDressers.com is a subscription based service providing online training for hairdressers. It gives students and qualified hairdressers, throughout the world, quick and easy access to the world’s best hairdressers, enabling them to gain the relevant skills and accreditation they need to stay ahead in their profession. Mark Butcher took control of the business in August 2010, "The business was not in good shape, but I’m an entrepreneur and I thought I had all the answers!"
A Business Epiphany
Despite some successes, Mark soon realised that his approach to exporting was not working as he’d hoped; the following February things changed. Mark was recommended the UKTI’s ‘Passport to Export’ scheme by an acquaintance. "I was very sceptical" he remembers. "I’m an entrepreneur and I’d assumed that these guys would be government officials with their red tape!" However, he was persuaded to meet up with Ashley Almond, a UKTI International Trade Advisor, and register for the scheme. "It was my first epiphany! I couldn’t believe they could do all this to help you."
Ashley helped Mark to see that many of the business decisions for MyHairdressers.com had been based on rather sketchy information. As Mark pointed out, being an entrepreneur is all about problem solving, but with only 60% of the right information he was, at best, only making 60% of the right decisions! It was at this stage that Ashley recommend Mark look at the Export Marketing Research Scheme (EMRS)
Taking a Different Approach
The EMRS is a UKTI scheme to help businesses understand the dynamics of a potential overseas market before creating the optimal strategy for launching in this market. Mark had already done some background research and had identified Australia as a strong potential market for MyHairDressers.com. Mark’s local Research Advisor, Alice Mamier, came to meet with him to help him plan how to gain this vital information about the Australian market, to enable him to make the best strategic decisions for how to enter this market
Mark initially struggled with the EMRS approach, "At first, I thought it was ridiculous" he recalls, "She wanted me to go all the way to Australia and not sell my products!" However, once Mark realised that Alice would not help to fund his trip if he didn’t stick to the principles of solid market research, he made the decision to take her advice.
Alice helped Mark to identify the key decisions he would need to make before launching in Australia: how would the product need to be adapted for the Australian market; what accreditation would be required, what would be the optimum pricing strategy, what would be the best route to market. She helped him to work out how to find the information to make these decisions, and with whom he would need to talk. Despite having not used this way of thinking before, Mark found the approach transparent and easy to understand.
The Right Information is Crucial
Mark went to Australia in the UK autumn (Australian Spring) of 2011 with a busy itinerary. At the end of his 7 day trip, he had met with salon owners, representatives of the various hairdresser accreditation bodies, education institutes and private training providers, and students.
Through the research Mark really saw the potential opportunity, but realised that his current offering simply would not have worked! The content was not built around the requirements of the hairdressing governing body, the payment structure was sub-optimal, and the proposed marketing communication strategy would not have had the desired impact. "At this point, our business changed beyond belief – prior to this, I realised that not having the right information was the cause of every business failure I’d had!"
As a result of the findings he made on his trip: Mark has restructured the Australian product offering to align with the governing body’s curriculum, gaining their support; the pricing structure for the Australian market has been totally revamped to align with the way students and salon prefer to pay in Australia; and MyHairDressers.com’s approach has enabled them to partner with both the governing body, and a leading chain of salons to make the strongest market impact. Mark wrote his findings into a comprehensive report, creating a robust business plan for the business’s future success.
Looking to the Future
Now, 18 months after taking over the business, Mark is overjoyed at the company’s success.MyHairDressers.com now employs 20 people, with a growing network of over 70 people on the books worldwide, the turnover has increased from around £200k to a forecasted £1.4m, and the business has been totally restructured around producing products and services which address the needs of MyHairDressers.com’s target market.
As Mark happily explains, "The Australia trip was a step change in our business; without this intervention we would not be in the position we are now – we have built a solid business ready to face the future; we’d never have got to this stage without you guys."