Every time I meet new people (like the owners from Inspire Studio), I can tell right away if we resonate or not. What I like most is that I always feel the same energy when I listen to the recordings I make during the interview. It’s like we’re having the same conversation all over again, only now I’m much more attentive to the tone, the way the conversation flows, how much we laugh…and every time I start writing, I’m grateful for the good feeling I get and feel, with each story, of each entrepreneur who allows me into their world.
When I sat down at the table with my caramel latte and met the dynamic duo, I didn’t know what to expect. What I can say is that I smiled and laughed heartily throughout our encounter. What can I say – cool girls, cool people.
What should you know about Inspire Studio?
Did we resonate? For sure. Did I only talk about entrepreneurship? Clearly not. Luckily we each had a full schedule, otherwise, if you were looking for us, you’d still find us laughing over coffee and sharing some good stories.
Oana and Alexandra have been lovingly and committedly owning and developing Inspire Studio for 7 years – a beauty, remodeling and inspiration salon for clients who want to make better, healthier choices. More recently, they have also launched Inspire Bio, an online shop for those who rely on organic products to care for their skin, their family, their baby or even their clients (for salons).
They complement and support each other. When one lacks motivation, the other has it for both of them. When one doesn’t find solutions, the other comes up with ideas and so on. The interview was so amazing, I’m so glad I recorded it. I’ve never met business partners who complete each other’s ideas! For me, it was a “wow” experience.
Let’s get to the interview!
Find out more about Oana & Alexandra’s vision on entrepreneurship.
Manu: How did you decide to start this business?
Oana: I joined the Inspire Studio team in 2015. Before that, I was a sales trainer at Avon, covering a region in Romania and I also worked as an area manager for 5 years at Provident. One Christmas Eve in 2015, Alexandra and I decided to take on this business together. She had already had the salon for 2 years.
Alexandra: Inspire Studio started in 2013. I had left a job in sales because I wanted to do something else. We thought that Sibiu needed a place to learn more about a healthy lifestyle, to start putting more value on self-care in all aspects.
O: Initially, the salon was focused on body contouring, nutrition. Later, due to the requests of our clients, we added services: massage, manicure, hairdressing and make-up.
A: We realised, along the way, that remodeling devices will never make up for human hands. There needs to be that human connection, and machines help, but they don’t completely solve a problem.
O: You also have to address the body’s needs. It’s advisable to drink more water, be more careful with your diet, relax areas where stress builds up.
M: Did you ever think about giving up?
A: Almost every day (laughs).
O: Some of the time, yes. It’s normal to think about it, when you’re trying your best, but things don’t work out the way you want them to. There are a lot of hurdles and rules that are imposed – some of which have no logical explanation. I mean, I bought a flat and paid instalments on it for 2 years because of bureaucracy.
A: But at the end of the day, you remember why you started your business…
O: …And the feedback we get from people (colleagues and clients) helps us see that we are in the right field and doing the right thing.
M: What is the biggest challenge you face, as an entrepreneur, in your field?
A: Staff. The people you recruit to be with you.
O: Finding the right people. We’ve learned over the years not to compromise, not to hire people just to fill a position. I mean, you buy everything you need for a job: materials, equipment, etc. and you find someone who wants to come, but along the way you realise they’re not the right fit, they’re not doing quality work, the customer doesn’t come back. These kinds of experiences have taught us exactly what we need to look for in a person to make the right choice in the first place.
M: What do you do on days when you can’t find the motivation for the work you have to do (to keep your business afloat and help it grow)?
A: Either we go on holiday, when we see that things don’t work anymore…
O: ...We take a break (laughs).
A: Or if it’s not vacation time, we usually spend time in nature. We go for a walk, to Muzeul Satului, to recharge.
O: The truth is that when your motivation goes away, it goes away because you’re faced with a certain situation and it’s no use fussing, because until you take care of yourself a bit and find your peace of mind, you don’t get the right ideas.
M: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned since you started your own business?
A: Don’t give up. There’s always a solution. You have to stop looking solely at the problems and look for solutions.
O: We work in a service business, so without quality people, you can’t do anything.
M: What do you consider to be the most notable difference between being an employee or an entrepreneur?
O: There are some serious differences (laughs). It’s hard to be an entrepreneur, although people think it’s super easy. You have the biggest responsibility. When you’re employed, you go to work and then you go home. Even if you get involved. But when it’s your own business, where you make a living, and 15 other people depend on you – when you draw the line, you have to make sure there’s enough for everyone.
A: Even if you’ve delegated more of your duties, you have to keep in mind the responsibility you have for those who work alongside you, as well as the clients who come into the salon. You are responsible for absolutely everything that happens there. I wouldn’t allow myself to put my phone on silent. I’ve had all kinds of situations – for example, I got a call at 7 am that a pipe burst in the salon. Within two seconds, you’re there.
M: How would you characterize your business – Inspire Studio, in a word (except “quality”)?
M: What would you advise an entrepreneur who is just starting out?
O: Take a step back first! Look at every challenge from every perspective. You might, if you look at it from a certain angle, see it with fresh eyes and find its solution.
A: When you take the first step, think very carefully about why you are doing it. Only do something that you really like, that you can relate to.
MY CONCLUSION – Support Small Businesses
After talking with Oana and Alexandra, I realized that when you go on a certain path, whether it’s the personal or professional side of life, it’s important to have a confident smile. It’s even more important to keep it along the way, no matter what obstacles you face.
And, if we’re talking about partnerships, when you run a business with one or more other people, with whom you learn to communicate effectively and with whom you work hard to achieve a common goal – the result is truly magnificent. Many focus on the fact that when you have a partner, you have to share the profit. Ok, but what about the challenges, hardships, expenses, good times and not-so-good times?
Life is better when you have someone who totally gets you – including when it comes to your business!
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