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How Radelle Viljoen used her clients to grow Radiance Beauty

Radelle Viljoen founder of Radiance Beauty has learnt that you need to tap into the best free resource you have: When clients love you, they’ll do your marketing for you, for free

Monique Verduyn




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“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” That’s what 24-year-old Radelle Viljoen did when she launched her salon Radiance Beauty in 2013. Her main business rule has been to never spend more than she has. Rule number two – keep your service standards so high that clients want all their friends to experience the pleasure.

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At 17, she was the youngest student to graduate at the International Academy of Health and Skincare in Cape Town. She was realistic enough to appreciate that she would have to get some work experience before starting her own salon, even though that was her dream from a young age.

She worked at several 5-star Cape Town spas, growing her skills and building a following of loyal clients. And then, as luck would have it, the luxury Constantia spa where she worked as a manager closed down in 2013.

“I had saved some money, and I thought ‘it’s now or never’,” she recalls. “I knew that if I set up my business in September, it would be ready to profit from the December-January holiday season, which is when Cape Town is at its busiest. It was the perfect opportunity, and starting it from a cottage at home meant that I would not have expensive overheads to pay.”

The value of word of mouth

Viljoen believes in word of mouth. Her clients, she says, have helped her grow the business which was profitable from the start. They are passionate, loyal fans who do Viljoen’s marketing for her, for free.

It’s a practice that has been identified as the most valuable form of marketing – the one that consumers trust above all others and the one that is most likely to drive sales for a business. According to research firm Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.

“I tried advertising in local newspapers and magazines, but as a start-up it was expensive,” says Viljoen.

“Instead, I created a Facebook page, and I use Twitter and Instagram to keep my clients informed about special offers and new treatments.”

Quality service standards are a must

Of course, if you’re going to rely on what your clients say about you to market your business, you’ve got to maintain exceptionally high service standards, especially in a very competitive beauty industry.

“I was wary of the stigma attached to home-based salons, which is why I paid a lot of attention to the entrance, the reception area, and the décor. I know what professional spas look like, so that was a big benefit. From the beginning, I put pressure on myself to ensure that I would provide 5-star quality for customers at a more affordable cost than they were used to.”

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She’s also used her knowledge of the industry and the contacts she developed over time to source top-end products at a reasonable rate, which adds substantially to the business’s revenue.

“I have never over-extended myself, and the result is that I now have enough cash saved to grow my premises and build a bath and shower area for full-body treatments. Keeping my goals in mind, and never deviating is what has helped me make a success of the business I love. There’s not a day that I wake up thinking ‘I have to go to work’. I am inspired by what I do every day of my life.”

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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