Marya Lanewala did not know where to go for her little daughter’s haircut. “At a regular salon, they tend to assign the junior staff the moment they see a kid, but I thought that to be quite dangerous. Although the idea of Starfish was not conceptualised by this one incident alone, it certainly gave me a scare and I understood that there is a need gap in this sector,” says Marya, the Co-Founder of Starfish Kids Salon in Mumbai.
A one of its kind concept, Starfish salon for kids specialises in haircut, pedicure, and manicure (essentially dips) and also nail art without exposing them to the chemical cosmetics or the vanity factor at adult salons.
Once Marya identified the need, she and the other Co-Founder, Preeti Harkare, started their research across different cities and what they found out was a set of worried parents who would welcome the idea of a salon for kids.
“Many mothers did not want their young daughters to accompany them to their own salons as they had the fear of exposing them to too much chemicals and making them too aware at a young age, so there did exist a need for a kids salon,” says 35-year-old Marya.
Research done, the duo started Starfish Kids Salon in March 2014. The concept has become popular within one-and-a-half years and people from different places, including tier 2 and 3 cities, have already started approaching them for franchisees.
Managing their public relations well
Both Marya and Preeti have pursued their course in public relations from XIC. Bhopal-born Preeti moved to Mumbai for her higher studies and has since been in Mumbai, whereas Marya was born in Mumbai, so the choice to launch their signature outlet in Mumbai was an obvious choice.
With more than a decade’s experience in PR finance and communication, to boast of, they were colleagues at a firm for over three years. They met, bonded well, and became friends and the thought of doing something together came up.
There were certain perks of coming from an entirely different industry to taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, think the duo.
“Being a PR professional is a grueling exercise in itself and you know how to handle crucial situations and get out of it, a virtue which stands by you on becoming an entrepreneur,” says Marya.
“Also we have constantly been on the learning curve and educated ourselves in this business by being part of it,” says 33-year-old Preeti.
The location of Bandra
A long stint in the service industry and Preeti and Marya were ready to put in all their savings and start the salon. The next big question was to identify the place in Mumbai.
Bandra was the choice as it was a safe option, being a commercial hub. Also with Mumbai having expanded geographically up north, Bandra was quite a central location. Also with many restaurants in Bandra, this place regularly draws a host of families and it thus would be easy for the salon to establish itself as a brand.
“We thought if the concept works out in Bandra, it would definitely be a multipliable model,” say the duo. The entrepreneur-duo certainly have expansion plans and have given themselves a timeline of five years – to establish multiple outlets in Mumbai and then expand to other cities.
The name Starfish
“We were looking for a name which resonates with kids. Sea creatures tend to fascinate kids and a name after one of the animals would surely stay in their memory and become a brand,” says Preeti. Thus, Starfish was launched with the focus entirely on kids.
“Without our years in PR, we would not have been able to pull off in this field. We were trained not to get frazzled in major crisis situations,” says Marya.
And the experiences the duo have at Starfish are amazing, something which they would not trade for anything else.
It so happened that a grandmother once got a live pet chicken with her to the salon just to distract the kid during the haircut.
“We found it difficult to control our laughter, it was indeed that funny. On an everyday basis, we meet interesting people, so at the end of a hard day’s work, we are not stressed at all. On the contrary, it is always a day well spent,” says Preeti.
The journey of entrepreneurship
As the duo says, the journey of entrepreneurship has been immensely satisfying for them so far.
There is a sense of ownership which they have developed, and given that this sector was very diffused till not so long ago, Preeti and Marya are happy that they have been able to address this need gap.
Last year was a great year for the duo where they managed to cover their operation costs. They have also employed five people, and are happy that in whatever little way, they have been able to improve their lifestyles.
And the biggest draw at Starfish – spa parties. Wondering what spa parties are? A concept quite popular among pre-teens and teenagers, it’s a way of throwing a party without involving vanity of any sort. It is essentially a fun-party where nail art is conducted and kids are made to feel special and pampered, without exposing them to chemicals.
At Starfish, they do a couple of parties each month and the growing numbers only go on to show that the concept is picking up well among kids and their parents.