Taking time to smell the peonies
Q&A with Eveline Charles
Starting with a two-chair salon in her hometown of Falher, Alberta, to building a multimillion-dollar beauty empire that spans across Western Canada, there’s much to learn from Eveline Charles. Today, after 46 years in business, her eponymous company includes salons, day spas, medi-spas, two training academies and EC Labs, a product development company.
What is the key to your organization’s success?
We always work on reinventing ourselves. When I started in the spa business, it was in the era when people spent full days enjoying treatments and relaxation, but that’s changed. In the cities, clients are looking for multiple services and results-driven beauty in the least amount of time.
I dream big. If I want to do something, I tell everybody and then it forces me to be accountable and meet my goals. Years ago, I set a personal goal to run marathons. My goal was to qualify for the Boston marathon. When I qualified, people told me to keep it quiet in case I didn’t make it. When I’m told I might fail, it makes me even fight harder for what I want. I ended up running Boston once, but I ran probably five other marathons – in between giving birth to two boys. With my last son, I ran seven kilometres every day until he was born. If you want to be successful at something, you must have passion for it.
Why did you start to offer spa services?
I remember thinking, “Okay, we’ve got to reinvent ourselves.” I felt that if you could offer more services and become a one-stop beauty destination, people would spend more money. We had only three treatment rooms and four pedicure stations. One year later, we were adding another 5,000 sq.ft. of space, and all kinds of treatment rooms, more mud baths, Vichy showers – anything that was new in the spa business. Before starting something new, we always asked our clients. That’s how we introduced Beauty MD, where we offer a full range of medi-spa treatments.
Where did you gain your business acumen?
I only have grade 12 education, but I’ve learned to stay abreast of my learning curve. I’ve been lucky, winning a Global Business Award twice, and I was one of only a few CEOs accepted into the Quantum Shift program of the Ivey Business School.
When did you open the EvelineCharles Academy?
We opened 14 years ago because we couldn’t get well-trained students fast enough. We can put new stylists on our floors within six weeks because we train them and esthetics people up to a whole other level. We now have our sights on becoming an international school. We just got approval for a shorter barber program, working with the British Barbers’ Association out of the United Kingdom.
Why did you launch EC Labs?
We wanted to help other companies develop their signature product lines, and the time seemed right. EC Labs is now making products across North America, and we’ve just developed a patented hemp peptide that is really good for anti-aging and inflammation. Developed with scientists over the last three years, we are now selling it as an ingredient across Canada. It has unbelievable benefits as a topical, but can also be ingested.
Our patented hemp peptide does not have CBD or THC. We recently introduced our Beauty and Vodka shots, which contain the peptide as well as vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin K, collagen and protein. We’ve made a peptide hand sanitizer that’s like a glove, so it hydrates your hand and doesn’t dry it. When the coronavirus hit, we got large orders from China and across North America.
What does the future hold for EvelineCharles?
We thought about franchising, but I’d like to stay focused on our many current lines of business. We now carry the Sisley-Paris line and we’ve added a full menu of Sisley products. We are the first Sisley Spa in Canada, offering Sisley Spa facials. In these exciting times, I’ve been mentoring the company’s next leader. My company president, Lina Heath, has been with me for 25 years. She worked for me while she was still in college taking business marketing. I still want to be very involved, but I don’t want to do the day-to-day, and I am fully confident in her abilities as she takes the business forward.
What advice do you have for business owners?
In our industry, you have to work “on” the business to grow it, not just “in” the business. What I mean by that is, if you’re working all day as either an esthetician or a hair stylist, you’re never going to grow that business like you would coming off the floor and working on upping your business game plan. Business has a funny way of pushing you in the direction you need to go. Every time you achieve one goal, you need to change your strategies to make it to the next level. After I made my first million dollars, I reassessed where I was going with my business. I did the same every time I hit another major business milestone. You need to set attainable goals and keep on raising the bar.