I’ve been a long-time client of SUGARED + BRONZED, which is how and where I met the awesome Courtney Claghorn (I LOVE their spray tans!) – owner and founder of the chain (now with seven locations and three more coming soon)! If you’re not familiar with sugaring, it’s an ancient Egyptian art where a water-soluble sugar paste is used to extract unwanted hairs and I’m a big fan (in addition to getting awesome custom airbrushed tans as well). I chatted with Courtney about being an entrepreneur and what drives her every day and here’s what she had to say:
What inspired you to open your first SUGARED + BRONZED location?
Coming from a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother that all started businesses, I think entrepreneurship must run in my blood a bit. That being said, there was definitely a moment in time that I thought I might break the tradition. I had always wanted to continue to pursue acting after college, but when I graduated in 2009 I found myself very confused (and broke) as an inexperienced, young adult in a bad economy. I eventually took a corporate job in the financial processing industry because people said I was lucky to have an offer (and a paycheck). During my first year at work, I was not only miserable, but very pale after spending 50+ hours a week at a desk! Every time I had to attend a wedding, bachelorette party, etc. I’d seek out a quick fix for a tan. I suddenly found myself paying for quite a few overpriced airbrush tans. I was confused as to why there wasn’t a reasonably priced, high-quality spray tan available in Los Angeles and I thought that there might be an opportunity in the market to create one. I was excited by the prospect of starting my own business- I might finally be able to put my creative right brain and strategic left brain to use simultaneously for the first time in my life. I thought I might be able to enjoy the challenges of growing a business and fulfill my creative passion of acting in my free time, all while providing a service and experience that clients could enjoy… without putting themselves (or their bank accounts) at risk.
Do you have a background in skincare or just an avid interest that led to your chain of shops?
I actually have the exact opposite background- a B.S. in Business. (I attended both the University of Colorado at Boulder and USC.) My other background (my Italian heritage) somehow left me pale amongst a lot of tan relatives. I always felt more confident with a tan but never loved the risks involved with fake baking. As far as the sugaring component of S+B, I might also have my Italian background to thank! Waxing was also another painful (and painfully expensive) regimen I had. When I discovered that the ancient Egyptian technique of sugaring was more gentle and longer lasting, I thought this might be the perfect service to compliment sunless tanning- and it was!
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned to-date about running your own business?
Hiring great people is one of the single most important keys to a successful business. It can be hard to find trustworthy, reliable, and energetic people, but I’ve learned that it’s better to be understaffed than to hire the wrong person. So much of a client’s experience at S+B is based on their interaction with their sugarista or airbrush technician. Beauty errands can easily be just another thing on a “to do” list, but our goal is to make the experience enjoyable, something the clients actually look forward to. We like to make clients feel as though they’re catching up with a friend for twenty minutes, just in a salon instead of maybe a coffee shop.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you first started that you know now?
If I could tell 23-year-old Courtney one thing it would be not to worry about the contractors, real estate brokers, vendors, etc. that were condescending to me. I used to get annoyed and even sometimes angry when they spoke to me like I was incapable or unintelligent, just because I was a young girl. These days I am much better about letting those types of things roll off my back and not letting it interfere with whatever else I’m trying to get done that day.
What’s the most popular service that you offer?
For sugaring, the Brazilian is by far the most popular service. For tanning, it’s the Express Tan. (It’s a tan that allows you to shower 1-4 hours after your session instead of waiting the standard 10+ hours.)
Do you have any plans for expansion? Or other big things coming up?
We’ve signed leases for our eight and ninth locations (Studio City and West Hollywood), so those will be coming soon. In early 2017 we’d like to open more locations in New York City (since we currently only have one there). After that, I think we’ll consider finally taking on capital (we’ve reinvested every dollar thus far) that will allow us to expand to a few more markets such as Miami, Chicago, Dallas…maybe even London and Sydney!
What’s the nicest thing you’ve ever heard from one of your clients? Any “you saved me!” stories from brides to be, etc.?
We’ve had quite a few clients tell us that they feel more comfortable in their own skin after getting sugared and bronzed. I love hearing that. We came up with our slogan, “Feel Flawless™” because we truly believe that people have a little extra bounce in their step and exude more positive energy into the world when they start their day with internal confidence and happiness.