Stacey Burt has big plans for her boutique skincare business, Little Company.

Burt opened the first Little Company in Cremorne in Melbourne’s inner south-east four years ago. More meditation studio than beauty salon, Little Company specialises in facials and LED light therapy with a focus on wellness. “I wanted to step away from typical beauty clichés and create a space where people could come and take a moment for themselves,” she says. “A lot of people come to us for a remedy for feeling stressed and tired.”

It was a challenging start – Burt’s daughter Lex was just three weeks old when Little Company began trading – but it didn’t take long for the business to attract a loyal base of customers. Today, “Melbourne is booked out four months in advance,” says Burt.

In 2018, Burt and her partner, Kent, and their daughters, Lex and Stevie (who was 10 weeks old at the time), were on holidays in Byron Bay when they stumbled across the perfect space for a second Little Company studio. Burt took the plunge and signed the lease. “I tend to open businesses and have babies at the same time,” she says, laughing. “I look back now and think, ‘How did I manage it?’”

It was a gamble that paid off. “Byron feels like the spiritual home of Little Company, with the abundance of self-care and wellness brands,” says Burt. “It’s such a progressive little hub. Every week I seem to be at different community events. I feel like Byron has really raised the bar of the whole brand – Little Company has taken on a life of its own.”

Running a business across two locations thousands of kilometres apart is not without its challenges, but Little Company has continued to thrive. We asked Burt for her advice to fellow entrepreneurs contemplating expanding their own businesses.

It seems counter-intuitive, says Burt, but operating across multiple premises can actually make it easier to run a business, not harder. “Having one business, you have to be a jack of all trades,” she says. “You have to do all of it.”

The extra capital that comes with expansion means it’s often possible to bring in outside experts to help. Burt recently hired a marketing company to work on Little Company. “We’ve done it all in-house before,” she says.

When she’s looking to outsource, Burt always follows word-of-mouth leads first. “I always try to go with a recommendation,” she says. “If I don’t have a recommendation, then I’ll always try to get free quotes – that’s the rule of thumb.”

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request a trial period. It’s vital the companies you work with know your products and services “inside out”, says Burt. “To get our marketing team absorbed into the business, we negotiated a lower rate and trade for facials. That way they’re coming in on a monthly basis, having facials, feeling the products, talking to the staff and getting to know the treatments. If you’re going to outsource, make sure you can absorb them into the business as much as possible.”

Burt also advises seeking outside expertise in the form of a business coach. Solo entrepreneurs, in particular, should have a mentor, she says, “someone who can support you, someone you can lean on and go to for advice.”

Be organised
From the start, Burt set up Little Company’s systems and processes with future expansion in mind. “It’s important to be organised,” she says.

Having two locations gives Burt more leeway to continually refine procedures. “I’m always changing things for the better and having more spaces gives me more opportunity to do that.”

Effective communication is paramount. To keep in touch, Little Company team uses Slack and Trello – tools that have proved invaluable when Burt is at home with her daughters. “We implemented those procedures from the beginning, so the girls [at work] always know I’m just a message away,” she says.

Build a strong team
Burt is emphatic that Little Company’s success relies on its staff. “It’s really important to have good staff around me so we can support each other,” she says. “Just like my clients are family, my staff are like family,” she says.

Part of creating a strong team is making sure every employee feels appreciated. “The beauty industry is sometimes not a nice industry to work in – a lot of the time the girls are overworked and undervalued,” says Burt. “That’s why I keep opening Little Company in different locations – it’s not just about me, and it’s never been about me. I want to change the mindset of therapists in the industry.”

Employee wellbeing is a huge priority for Burt, who ensures her ‘living skin therapists’ focus on their own self-care and have downtime during the day to take breaks. “It’s not like a typical beauty salon where clients are back to back,” she says. “There’s a really big flow-on effect to making sure everyone is taking care of themselves, because the staff can’t take care of the clients if they’re not taking care of themselves.”

Be prepared
You never know when disaster is going to strike, which makes quality business insurance a must. “We flood a lot in Melbourne [and] … we’ve been robbed twice,” says Burt. “Once a man came in and took the whole till while I was around the corner playing with my girls. It happened right under my nose.”

Little Company has AAMI Business Insurance, and Burt says in these instances its been “a lifesaver. You wouldn’t open a business without good insurance. It’s saved us on multiple occasions.”

Burt’s appetite for expansion remains undimmed, with plans in the works to open a second store in Melbourne in the short-term and another studio in Queensland further down the track.

For the moment, she’s loving life in Byron Bay. “The local community up here is amazing,” she says. “We’re in the dead of winter, but we’re fully booked. People are loving the experience that we’re providing – it’s just so different from what they’re used to.”

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