A quality, professional backbar line is fundamental to the success of your esthetics business. If your products don’t perform or meet the demands of your clients, they may not rebook. In this episode of ASCP Esty Talk, Ella and Maggie share some of their experiences from business ownership and discuss what you should consider when choosing a backbar line.
ASCP Esty Talk with Maggie Staszcuk and Ella Cressman
Produced by Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP) for licensed estheticians, ASCP Esty Talk is a weekly podcast hosted by Maggie Staszcuk and Ella Cressman. We see your passion, innovation, and hard work and are here to support you by providing a platform for networking, advocacy, camaraderie, and education. We aim to inspire you to ask the right questions, find your motivation, and give you the courage to have the professional skin care career you desire.
About Ella Cressman:
Ella Cressman is a licensed esthetician, certified organic formulator, business owner, and absolute ingredient junkie! As an educator, she enjoys empowering other estheticians and industry professionals to understand skin care from an ingredient standpoint rather than a product-specific view.
She has spent many hours researching ingredients, understanding how and where they are sourced, as well as phytochemistry, histological access, and complementary compounds for intentional skin benefits. In addition to running a skin care practice, Cressman founded a comprehensive consulting group, the HHP Collective, and has consulted for several skin care lines, including several successful CBD brands.
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About Maggie Staszcuk:
Maggie has been a licensed esthetician since 2006 and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Stephens College. She has worked in the spa and med-spa industry and served as an esthetics instructor and a director of education for one of the largest schools in Colorado before coming to ASCP as the Advanced Modality Specialist.
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0:01:37.2 Maggie Staszcuk: Hello and welcome to ASCP's Esty Talk. I'm your co-host, Maggie Staszcuk, an ASCP's Education Program Manager.
0:01:42.0 Ella Cressman: And I'm Ella Cressman, licensed esthetician, certified organic formulator, ingredient junkie, and content contributor for Associated Skin Care Professionals.
0:01:52.4 MS: So Ella, I think it's fair to say the quality of your backbar is fundamental to your business and can make or break you. Do you think that's extreme?
0:02:02.0 EC: Not extreme. I think that's facts.
0:02:04.5 MS: That's facts.
0:02:06.2 MS: Yeah. Okay.
0:02:06.3 EC: Facts.
0:02:07.4 MS: Yeah. So I mean, you may be the most amazing, best aesthetician in the world, but if your products don't perform and meet the demands of your clients, they're not coming back. Facts. Right?
0:02:20.5 EC: Yeah. Facts.
0:02:23.3 MS: So you have your own business with backbar obviously. What are the things that you considered when you were selecting your backbar?
0:02:32.9 EC: I messed up.
0:02:34.2 MS: Ahh. Tell us.
0:02:35.5 EC: I did it wrong.
0:02:37.0 MS: Okay.
0:02:37.3 EC: In the beginning, I did it so wrong. I went with... So I went into booth renting immediately and I picked a line that supported the retail that the salon held. So the salon held... Part of the agreement was they sold the retail. So the owner... I didn't know anything. And the owner of the salon was like, "I'd love it if you would do this company. The rep's really good, I'll give you their number, but that would help so you could sell this retail." I'm like, "Great." So I did an opening order and that was the last time I saw my rep for like nine or 10 months. I just followed the protocol names that came with it. So I had... I mean, Colorado in January had a tropical facial [chuckle] and an acne relief facial, I didn't know what any of it did, I was just following the recipes, if you will, not really understand no product knowledge, nothing. I just had cleansers. I knew what a cleanser did, I knew what the toners did, I knew what the masks did from school.
0:03:35.4 MS: Yeah. And I was gonna say, I think that's what estheticians... Or I should say, that's what students who are becoming estheticians are probably often doing. They are opening and establishing their business based on what they know from school. So they worked with one or two particular lines and then go and open their business, maybe it's booth run or who knows, and they're establishing their business with the line they learned in school.
0:04:00.3 EC: A hundred percent. Which is why as a product rep I would go to schools and ask to teach my line to students and get them excited and get them roped in. And maybe they weren't using it. I mean, the goal was to get the school to use it for that exact same reason or for me to maintain a relationship that they'd wanna come to me afterwards.
0:04:18.5 MS: Yeah. Well, smart girl right there.
0:04:21.1 EC: It worked. [laughter] It worked really well. But yeah, catching them then. And that's when I was out in the field as a sales rep or even now, like just with my presence on social media, I will get that question a lot. When I see a lot of posts like... Let me rewind. When a brand new person was starting out, they're like, "I don't know what to do. I don't know what to pick." One of my first questions is, what is your skincare philosophy? Because the line I'm representing might not be for you. And with that said, another thing that really gets me is when I see people post, "What's a budget-friendly line? Looking for budget friendly." Because to me that says boring.
0:05:02.8 MS: True. And also I think it says you haven't planned. So you're saying like, what is your philosophy being number one. And with that, I think most important is what is your brand? Not skincare brand. Who are you? Who's your business? What is your brand? And what is your mission? And you should be finding a line and I get budget, but find a line that's fitting your philosophy, your brand, your mission. And if you are planning for this business, you are also going out getting a loan, establishing your plan. You don't have to buy the entire line. Ease into it.
0:05:39.3 EC: Because you can prioritize. And that's the thing. You don't always... What I did is I spent all the money on this entire backbar. So I had everything. I didn't know how to use it because what I didn't ask the question was, what is the support that I'm going to receive? Whether... Again, like I said, my rep was gone. She was gone for... Like, I never heard from her. She never checked on me. So when I became a rep... Because I get it, you're not making any more money off of me yet, but also it should be a long-term relationship. The relationship equates to the success of the person and the success of the person translates to the sales rep. So that was my approach as a... I hated being a sales rep 'cause I sucked at sales, but I was great at this long-term relationship stuff. [chuckle] So that's what sustained me. But I had this entire backbar and I had some of the products for four years. That's a long time.
0:06:33.4 MS: Yeah.
0:06:34.4 EC: And especially when shelf life is... I didn't even know about shelf life. [chuckle] I learned. These are all the things I've learned. But shelf life was two years unopened. But of course, course I opened everything the first day it came in [chuckle] So another mistake I used [laughter]
0:06:49.4 MS: Oh, you gotta smell it?
0:06:49.5 EC: Yes.
0:06:52.1 EC: "How does it feel?" So I was way past that. I threw some away, but when I went to replace it... So I went, after that experience, I went to someone I had connected with in school and she was a rep for a product line. And I brought in that line and I brought it in incrementally. I think I spent maybe $1,000 to bring in an X amount of stuff. And then I would just slowly add to that. That was plenty. That's what you need. I see some people now trying to start a backbar with $250. And can it be done? It could. Yeah. Like, we start dermaplaning. Maybe there's other modalities that you can do to start until you get into it. But I think, like you said, there's some planning that has to happen where you spend a little bit.
0:07:37.1 MS: Yeah. Yeah. Totally. I think that, this is my impression and maybe it's wrong, but I think if we're comparing the lines or the manufacturers that we have today, compared to say even when I went to esthetic school, which was almost 20 years ago, the support you get from manufacturers now is huge. Education support all the way through helping you even set up your retail shelves. And I think what I was seeing when I was in esthetic school was, one, you had to have an opening order and it was definitely more than $1,000. And it was, you're gonna buy this and you never see them again.
0:08:20.8 EC: They're gone.
0:08:23.5 MS: Yeah. And so I'm curious like what is this shift in the industry that now you have this hand holding all the way through?
0:08:29.9 EC: You know what my opinion is?
0:08:32.1 MS: Yeah.
0:08:32.8 EC: We've shifted away from large spas. There's been a lot of... There's a couple things that have happened. We went from large spas with this relaxing experience versus med spas to this blurred lines. And then what else happened is we have a lot more solopreneurs, or boutique style studios, I would call them, not a spa. And so with those boutique one or two people, those large opening orders were not sustainable. And these boutique skin cares or these skincare lines that cater to that style were becoming more and more popular. And then those boutique practitioners are really active on social media. So it's just like this circle of things. That's my guess.
0:09:18.5 MS: I think that is so spot on. I think you're right. And that's so interesting too because that's even more reason for this solopreneur to plan, know their demographic. And like you were saying before, ease into it. You don't have to buy the entire line to support your client.
0:09:37.3 S1: Hold that thought. We'll be right back.
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0:11:05.4 MS: Okay. Here we go. Let's get back to the podcast.
0:11:08.5 EC: This is a great example. You know, with chemical peels that you're... Well, you should be progressive, you shouldn't be aggressive because there's a lot of opportunity for problems. You wanna really point that out. [chuckle] So with the progressive opportunities for peels. You know, the first couple of months you're gonna be doing the first, the more progressive part of that, the introduction part. So get those, and then as you do more treatments, start buying the more progressive as the progression goes. Or figure out ways to creatively mix your backbar for different things. So there's some companies that will encourage one product and how to mix it different ways with different things for a lot of customization opportunities. I think those are great options for solopreneurs because now you're becoming multi-purpose with your products or something. You know what I mean?
0:12:02.9 MS: Yeah. I do. Totally.
0:12:04.7 EC: So I think those are great ideas and things to consider too.
0:12:08.5 MS: Yeah. I think people get hung up too on what's trending and meeting the demands of their clients. So they may be opening the doors tomorrow, let's say. And you're telling these people listening, they should be progressive, not aggressive. But how do you meet the needs of that client that says, "I've been doing chemical peels for 10 years and I'm not gonna start out with the lactic. I want the TCA."
0:12:36.3 EC: Ooh. You know what I'm gonna say, [chuckle] "That is so nice. So who's gonna do it for you? 'Cause it's not me." [chuckle] That's another thing to remember, that you're in-charge. That it goes back to what you said and what's your brand and what's your mission? Are you going to let the client navigate you? Because there's so many other considerations in there. What's this client's lifestyle like? What kinda lactic was it? What was the pH? What is their home care like? Because we talked about it before, Nordstrom was selling a 75% glycolic, but what does that really mean? So, no. If you walk through my door, you are at step one. And that's just how it's. And I'm not being mean, I'm just being responsible.
0:13:16.3 MS: A hundred percent. And I think that you have these estheticians, we've talked about it before, that they are yes people, they're afraid to set the boundary, afraid to say no. And you said it beautifully that you're in charge. You are establishing care. And that means starting at base one.
0:13:36.0 EC: It's responsible and it's the best way to have a long-term relationship with your client because that's what's important. So I took that same philosophy with... Because I built my business, I've built it a few times. There has been an increase in a crash. I think three times if I had to really narrow it down. So each time it has sustained because of these relationships that I have built. And so I carry that same philosophy over. So someone who's gonna come to me and say, "I want a lactic acid." To be quite frank with you, I'm evaluating, am I gonna have a long-term relationship with this person or not? And it's because I've had those relationships in the past and they have not been long-term that I can confidently decline that person-ethic client.
0:14:22.5 MS: Yeah. So what is your thought on having multiple lines within your business?
0:14:27.7 EC: I think it's fine. I think it's great. I think as long as there's no confusion. So I wouldn't put two like product lines together, I would find the holes and fill them. I think everyone has like a favorite or a foundational one or perhaps a budget-friendly one, whatever it is. But find the holes in whatever your foundational line is and fill them with something else so that you're comprehensive. That comprehensive approach aligns with your brand and your mission. For me, I'm corrective, so I wanna make sure that the lines I carry are going to support that in the treatment room, but also in the home care. Other lines are, let's say your permanent makeup. And so you wanna support the... You want to make sure you have the right cleansers to give to your clients or aftercare to give to your clients 'cause you're doing permanent makeup and you're doing facials or chemical peels that you wanna... That there might be a crossover.
0:15:24.1 MS: Yeah. So I know we're talking about building backbar, but with that comes retail and sending your client home with the proper home care. And I know that's a huge expense for people too that are building their business. So what do you say to that person who... Like the girl who's on social media saying, "I need help finding the budget friendly line." It's really hard when you're starting your business to fork out the money to fill your retail shelves.
0:15:53.3 EC: What I would say to that is have some staples. So cleansers, moisturizers, SPFs. Start with a par that you're comfortable with. So par three is really good. Have three cleansers, maybe two different types. So six cleansers total, two different formulas of SPF, three each. So six total. That's not too far out there. With half of the profits that you make, let's say you sell $100 worth, you take $25 and you roll it over to a new product fund. Or I would take the full profit amount, whatever that profit margin is and then you keep making it. Next time you're gonna add some serums, and then the next time you're gonna go par four or par six depending on what you need. And that could be a snowball effect into growing to a full line on your shelves. But if you don't have it, it's really hard to sell it. There's a lot of different options. Some companies do dropship, some have affiliate programs, there's a lot of different options, and if they make sense for you, that's fantastic. I will tell you, you will make the most profit having them on your shelves.
0:17:00.2 MS: Yeah. I was gonna ask about the dropship 'cause I know there's a lot of companies that are starting to do that and estheticians who are considering this option of, "I don't need a, quote-unquote "retail shelf." I will do special order for every client that comes in the door."
0:17:14.5 EC: And I can see that as an esthetician who is worried about that upfront investment. I can see that. Here's what I wanna challenge though, that thought. I wanna challenge that at that point, the shipment is coming from the supplier with the supplier's flyers. And so now that supplier is beginning a relationship with your client and so what's gonna stop them from ordering right from the supplier? Nothing.
0:17:42.1 MS: Yeah. True. I think there's something to be said too about... Well, for me, personally as a consumer, seeing the product on the shelf, having that connection with the product, if you will, being able to pick it up, touch it, look at it, smell it, whatever. And then also to your point, I wanna have a conversation with my esthetician as she's handing me this product and explaining it to me or educating me. And I know not every consumer shop's that way, but if I go see my esthetician and she says, "And now I'll order it for you." No thank you. I want that immediate satisfaction of walking out the door with what I just purchased.
0:18:22.7 EC: Yes. A hundred... That's the other thing you're capitalizing on the moment because otherwise you're gonna get a call, "I got this in the mail, five to six... " Whatever the shipping is 'cause it's anywhere between two and 20 at this point [chuckle] "And I forgot. How do I use this? Or where do I use this?" Versus like you said, the experience of opening them up, showing them how the pump bottle works. I sometimes will write on the bottom, "Second step." [chuckle] Whatever it takes to have that. So, I don't know. I get it. I understand it. I just think that there's better ways. And so I really encourage you just to have it on your shelf.
0:18:58.8 MS: Now listeners, we wanna hear from you. Are you a solo business owner? What backbar lines are you carrying? Share with us on social media through Instagram, Facebook, or by emailing. Getconnected@ascpskincare.com. Thank you for listening to ASCP Esty Talk. And as always, for more information on this episode or for ways to connect with Ella and myself or to learn more about ASCP, check out the show notes.