In just five years, Australia’s ‘eyebrow queen’ Melanie Marris has somehow managed to take a small facial feature and turn it into a booming business.
Thousands have demanded the 27-year-old’s ‘on fleek’ brow talent, which has so far led her to open two glamourous boutiques in Perth and Melbourne.
However Marris’ rise to success wasn’t always a flattering one, and it certainly didn’t get big overnight.
Her reputation started styling brows in a dingy, broom-closet sized room in Perth where she was forced to rely on her personality and skill to succeed.
“I was working out of a sub-contracted room with a makeup artist and spray tanner… it was a rundown building with no signage or shop front,” Marris told Yahoo7.
“At that point, I never imagined that I would ever hire a staff member.”
Despite the less than appealing state of her office, Marris soon found hundreds of women admiring her work.
For these women, spending half an hour lying on a bed in a cramped, dark and unwelcoming room was worth it.
Five years on, Marris has upgraded from dark and dingy to 100 per cent glamour – with her Perth based boutique styling up to 120 brows a day.
Her recently opened Melbourne studio also had the phone ring off the hook from day one.
“It’s growing rapidly and I’ve become a brand now and the owner of a company,” she said.
“Last year I was just Melanie Marris eyebrow stylist, now I’ve stepped outside the business and am looking over the top of it.
I’ve realised I don’t need to limit myself to Perth… If you use your marketing tools properly you can go anywhere you want.”
Despite having no background in business and being a high school drop out, Marris has found plenty of success in her niche – something she notes to patience and her ability to start small.
She now has her eye on a third studio in Sydney, as demand for her work continues to grow faster than she can pluck.
Marris has knocked back offers to franchise her company, remaining determined to stay as ‘hands on’ as possible.
She said it was her social media audience who helped her decide where to expand next.
“I had reached the five year mark and asked my Instagram followers where they wanted to see me, the highest demand was Melbourne,” she said.
“Melbourne was a massive risk for me, I had 500 people saying ‘come to Melbourne’ but there was a chance they may never book you.”
Despite her success in WA, Marris refused to splash cash in Melbourne, without testing the waters first.
“I flew my top stylist and myself to Melbourne where we started a small popup store for 14 days in a 2m x 2m room with no windows or street frontage,” she said.
It may have far from the glamourous studio she’d built in Perth, however Marris said she saw the potential.
“I thought it’s a room, there’s a decent floor and enough room for a bed and two people to stand in… I thought ‘let’s give this a go’,” she said.
“Within three months it was booked back to back.”
Marris said she had only been to Melbourne three times in her life, and now faced the prospect of opening a new studio in a city, where she had no one to help.
“I found a place in Richmond (where the Melbourne boutique is now) I didn’t go for the top place or the best of the best, I looked for somewhere that in two years time it will probably be on one of the best streets in Melbourne,” she said.
“The building was very run down and needed a lot of work.”
Despite this she said she never went in to debt for her business.
“I’ve never had a credit card in my life or any loans in my business, it’s important not to go thousands of dollars into debt to get into business as that will cause a lot of stress.”
Instead she said she saw the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and did what she could afford.
Meanwhile she remained a stylist in Perth three days a week, managed her team of 14 and worked hard to gain more clients.
It took just 11 months to launch her Melbourne store from the closet sized pop-up to glamourous boutique.
“Within a week the phone was ringing up to 40 times a day, it was really busy as we only had two staff members,” she said.
While the business was a clear success, Marris felt it was wiser not to jump in head- first.
“Don’t build a $100,000 studio if you don’t know if people want what you do,” she said.
“When we first opened we did have loyal clients follow us, but I didn’t think it would be to the extent that it was.”
As business grew, Marris said she was forced to step back and learn to trust her team.
“I think that was a crucial part for me, I struggled with it in the beginning,” she said.
She also learnt the hard way when it came to finding loyal staff.
“Keeping staff happy is very important,” she said.
"You teach someone everything you know and pray they are going to be loyal to you."
“Not everyone can be a brow stylist, it takes up to six months to train someone to the standard that I do.
“I’ve had to fire people but I’ve given them ten chances before hand. I’m not the type to fire someone if I can teach them to be better.”
Marris has also had to take a crash course in business savvy – learning HR, accounts, tax and more.
“When I went to seek advice from my accountant he looked at me and said ‘you’re making a living off eyebrows!’ He was blown away.”
She’s also accepted that she can’t do everything: “It’s important to have someone that you can go to every day to run ideas by," she said.
“I’ve had to learn to separate my heart from my business,” she said.
While her life might seem to be 100 per cent brow focused, Marris said she had to learn to take downtime to avoid burning out.
“I have a very different life to my friends, there’s 101 things you need to do before the end of the day and I’ve had moments where I’m so overwhelmed and just need time to relax,” she said.
“I do meditation and go for slow walks, I learnt the hard way and did get a little burnt out… you need one day a week to switch off entirely.
“Every business person still needs time out.”
She also stressed the importance of staying humble when you get your big break.
“I think it’s important to still do something for nothing, of course you need to pay your bills but I think its important that if someone reaches out to you, to remember where you started,” she said.
Despite having plenty of opportunities thrown her way, Marris planned to stick with brows only.
“I’ve found my niche and I’m sticking with it.”
Her biggest piece of advice for those wanting to try their hand at small business is to ‘start small and stay humble’.
“Don’t overspend, start small and focus on your service and skill,” she said.
“When you know the demand is there, then grow… make sure there is demand before pouring money into your company.
“There’s a whole wide world out there, you might be from the smallest town but there’s potential for whatever you want to do to be done worldwide.”
For more information on Melanie Marris visit: melaniemarriseyebrowstylist.com