Raj Girn: On this week’s branding and marketing-themed show, I’m going to be deep-diving into why brand diversification is today’s number one marketing strategy. To help me do this please welcome to the show the founder of Infuse Med Spa & InfuseDerm, Kavita Suri, who is a long-time inner circle entrepreneur and friend who has used diversification strategy throughout her professional career to grow and expand her business, which we will be dissecting next.
This is Part One of our conversation:
Raj Girn: Welcome, my darling Kavita.
Kavita Suri: Thank you Raj, I’m so excited to be on your show and to share and to have a conversation with you and your audience.
You know what? I know that everyone is going to be inspired. They’re going to be motivated. So I just want to jump right in and this is where I want to start. Kavita: You’ve been in the beauty business for over 20 years now, but your journey, as I just mentioned, screams brand diversification. Can you share some milestones that took you from being a celebrity makeup artist to founding one of Toronto’s most sought-after beauty med spas?
Yes. So I actually started off in a very niche market, and that is the South Asian market that would have been in 1999 when there wasn’t really any kind of South Asian presence like yourself. This is when you started as well, and it was that lead in that arena that we could start playing and making a difference in our artistry and our publication and all of that marketing that was not even comparable. We had nothing to compare it to.
So I became very well known as a makeup artist for South Asian brides which opened up many doors for me to explore within the beauty industry, which then wasn’t really something that was considered, “Oh, wow, you’re going to be a makeup artist. Congratulations!” It was more, “Are you sure you want to do this as a career? What are you doing?” And it really taught me at that point taking it from this is what I do, I’m a makeup artist, to always stay humble and stay steady on your ground and stay focused on exactly what you want, regardless of whatever you want to do.
Absolutely, Kavita. And, for those who don’t know the difference between a med spa and a beauty spa, can you enlighten them a little bit about that and maybe tell us a little bit about that journey, kind of that transition between becoming a well-known makeup artist within the niche to expanding that niche and opening up this med spa and just kind of diversifying your skillset. Can you share a little bit about that transition?
Absolutely. So it was definitely a transition. It was a transformation for me. I started off with being a makeup artist and then it moved into doing hair. So it would be hairstyling and then the setting of our very eloquent South Asian brides that we have.
Then I thought, what is my next level up? I’m always thinking, what is the next level of my next level up? My next level up was to have my own spa studio. And because I was working in my parents’ basement, I was in the middle of college and I wasn’t ready to take the leap. “I’d be like, okay, I’m a makeup artist, I’ve got a lot of business let’s open up a leasehold. Always start small, take your steps, and then the big one will come.
So it was just then when I was 27. So I started when I was 19 and then 27 I was like, “Okay, I’m ready to take the leap. And I opened up in a very sort of high-end luxury area, it’s Yorkville. But it was not an area that was kind of sought after in my niche market where a lot of people would say, are you sure people are going to travel there and not a lot of South Asians go out there? Well, I said I’m going to make sure they come out there. I’m going to make sure that they are allowed to drive into that very luxurious area and feel that they can get serviced. And that’s exactly what happened.
I’m still there. It’s 2021. And then within that time frame, I went from doing the makeup artistry to basic esthetics. So it’s your waxing, your manicure, pedicures and just a little bit of brow work. But then I created a training course for other potential inspiring makeup artists that didn’t have anywhere to go but looked up to what I was doing and then sought after my training for one-on-one courses. Then it got locked into a government-recognized college academy, where I then taught over, I would say over 150 women to become makeup artists.
And then so within that, it was the makeup artistry, it was airbrush, it was hairstyling, it was lash extensions. I was doing all of that plus my spa, plus my brides. And then I said, “Okay, let’s keep going because there’s no stopping. The doors are only open for this. They are welcoming this business from within the community.” But then it wasn’t only within that community Raj, it was a lot of other communities that were like, “I want to get my services from her. I want her to do my brows. I want her to do my makeup.” So. It’s kind of creating that sort of mindset that it’s not only that one niche and community, everyone’s going to want your services because you’re good at it because you believe in what you do.
And then I went into the opportunity of opening up a bunch of medical spas when I was 31 in Wal-Mart. And so it was me and some investors that were in a group where the Wal-Marts were ready to open up medical spas. And there were other bidders on the table. And I won the bid and I opened up I about seven clinics across the board. So it was Brampton, Mississauga, Niagara, Ottawa. And it’s interesting because kind of going back to determine what you want, believing what you want, vision boards are a big part of my life. And back then I had on my vision board on my part, I would own multiple spas.
Well, sometimes you have to be careful what you ask for. So I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy that I had these multiple spots that were not giving me the happiness in the services that I wanted to wholly attain within my customer service range. So I kind of pulled the plug and I was like, “I just want the one.” And so I was just doing the medical spa. I took a backseat on the training. I was doing the medical staff and the brides and it was only four years ago I kind of retired my makeup artist kit, and I was fully focused on the medical. So what is a medical spa and what is an esthetics spa? So medical spa offers laser hair removal, offers antiaging non-invasive facials. It also offers Botox and fillers.
I do offer light esthetics which is your eyebrows and your lash lift and tint. An esthetic spa is just your waxing and your facials and your nails. So that’s what diversifies the two different segments within the calling of what it is, if it’s a spa or a medical spa. So I have a medical spa. It’s called Infuse Med Spa. It’s located at 754 Yonge Street.
And that’s in Toronto folks.
It’s in Toronto, yes. And that also had its own beautiful journey. I had a space at Yonge and Charles, which again is in the hub of Yonge and Bloor, which is if we have clients from the States watching, it is like Manhattan there. And so we had that for seven years and then it was in 2019 I expanded into a 2,000-square foot space, which is not only a medical spa, but it’s the first-ever open concept, co-working space for beauty professionals and women entrepreneurs that could do their masterclasses, photoshoots. Because I’ve always had that vision where I can have a space where beauty professionals or women entrepreneurs can thrive and feel amazing while they’re thriving.
That’s the magic here, folks. For those of you who are just joining us, Kavita is really sharing in a nutshell, actually, her over 20 years of how she diversified her skill set and also expanded on her client base and to stay in touch with what was relevant and needed, she was going through that journey. And that’s a huge part of what diversification is all about.
And I want to kind of touch base on and maybe deep dive further some of the things that you just talked about, Kavita. But before we do that, I want to just ask you before we move on, that anyone out there is interested in learning more about the services that you offer, booking an appointment, perhaps with you and your team. Can you just let them know how they would do that?
So we have an Instagram page, it’s @infusemedspa. We have a website. It’s infusemedspa.com. Or you can email us at [email protected].
Brilliant. And who is your ideal client avatar today before we move on?
I would say it’s women between 25 and 45. These women are the ones that want to have that extra advanced care and know exactly what they want to do. So it’s advanced skincare regime, it’s laser hair removal, the skincare products that you’re using and also they are invested. They’re invested in themselves and they don’t hesitate to make that investment every month to come in and make themselves feel beautiful and to have the beautiful treatments that we offer.
Absolutely. You just mentioned something there that I want to make sure that people really do pay attention to, and that is that although you provide spa services, there’s also that adjunct where there is skincare and products that you also recommend as part of the home care.
Can you talk a little bit about why that’s important? Because oftentimes people they’ll do the over the counter and they don’t know the difference between why they pay more when they’re going to a spa to get what they perceive to be the same product. Can we just touch a little bit on that?
So I love that question because it is something that isn’t discussed in any kind of marketing campaign or any kind of skincare campaign, because it’s just like my the product is going to work wonders. Well, it’s not. I’m sorry to say it’s not going to work wonders until you remove your dead skin cells and prepare your skin to absorb the product 100 per cent.
So we’ve had clients that have never had facials. And because they’ve heard about our clinic and heard about the services that we offer, they come in and they get the treatment and they are in complete aww on how glowy and fresh their skin feels, number one. And number two is when we walk them through medical-grade, high-quality products, another category that we can get into at some point. But it’s the quality of the products that you want to apply on your skin in order for you to have the results.
Now, for example, within the women, the skin tone range of women with skin type three until about five. So that’s like Eastern European, Indian, Filipino, ebony skin. They really have to worry about pigmentation and lacklustre brightness in their skin. So there’s products that can offer brightness post-care. But you need to get that facial. The facial that we do offer is called they Hydra Glow. It was inspired by a facial I was doing at the clinic called Hydra Facial, which then I said I want to do something a little bit more with it.
So with this Hydra Glow Facial it is still the vortex fusion system, which then stimulates your skin by providing the antioxidants in the hyaluronic acid in your skin, along with removing your dead skin cells and your black and white heads and preparing your skin and keeping it youthful. So that pretty much encompasses the skin care purpose of how do you use skin care and preparing your skin?
So, folks, let me take a moment to recap what we have discovered so far with some of the things that Kavita has been sharing with us so that we can see how the dots connect here when brand diversification is really what we’re focusing on. And I want to do that before we add on another layer. So Kavita’s entry into the overarching beauty space was via the glam route, providing makeup and hair for brides predominantly in the South Asian space with her mobile services, which helped her get known in the bridal industry in the Greater Toronto Area where her business was mostly based on referrals.
And that, too, because of just how long she was in the game. The longevity of her serving this particular type of client helped her increase her authority, which brought with it an opportunity to diversify her client avatar into providing, and this is something that Kavita hasn’t yet touched upon but I want to bring this into the conversation. Kavita, you also had opportunities to provide glam for fashion shows, for photo shoots. You did hair and make up for well-known personalities and also celebrities. So, folks, Kavita then went on to diversify her skill set, as she just mentioned, to include beauty and skin care treatments, which furthered that diversification of a client avatar, which she serves still today at her brick and mortar location Infused Med Spa in Yorkville in Toronto. So if you take a look at that, guys, I mean, you can see how the dots just keep connecting to each other.
But for those of you who are just starting off or looking to optimize on what you really want to focus on to expand your horizons, my recommendation to you is to kind of regroup before you expand, similar to some of the things that Kavita has been sharing regarding her journey also. Determine what your skill sets are like, really hone in on what they are, and then look at what you actually like to do. So these things are really important when you’re looking to kind of take your brand to the next level because you want to make sure that what you’re going to grow and expand is in fact something that you enjoy doing and there’s an opportunity there for you to kind of expand.
The second thing is to determine what outcome, what you know, can provide. You know, think about that for a moment, folks, because oftentimes people have passions and they really spend a lot of time on honing in skills around that passion but then there isn’t an opportunity to deliver that that is a business opportunity. So I always feel that before you start kind of honing in on building out and scaling, look at that opportunity as well. Do the research to find out that the outcome from the skillset that you have actually does have an audience and serve them consistently.
I know Kavita would agree with this because this is something that she does. She’s into the long game, establishes brand loyalty and authority through the long game. Guys, this will always serve you well because it’ll help you increase the types of people that you serve within your wheelhouse. It’ll increase also the bottom line, at the end of the day, why are we doing this if we’re not able to service clients effectively and also to make sure that we’re able to grow our businesses?
It’s a really simple formula, folks, where service and client diversification work together to grow your brand and business at the same time. It’s the long game. My only words of caution here are that you want to ensure that you don’t go too wide and really become too generalized in your service area or your client avatar, but rather you want to go deep, become that kind of subject matter expert similar to what Kavita has done.
She stayed within her wheelhouse, but she’s diversified within her wheelhouse, going from glam into skin care and medical beauty. You know, really, you don’t serve anyone if you service everyone. I want you to remember that you cannot serve everyone because really you’re serving no one unless, of course, you’re Wal-Mart. Kavita do you want to add to that before we move on?
Well, I mean, I always say this: Its perception. So going back to bringing up Wal-Mart. I’m not going to say clinet because I shop at Wal-Mart as well. You shop. We all do. The mindset. When you walk into a Wal-Mart, things feels cheap. Quick grab and go. When you walk into some places like Holt Renfrew or the Gucci store, expensive, high end, high-service. And that is my pie. That’s my category and my pie in my business. There are other cities that I could have dabbled into that have more of my demographic.
But I am not doing that because, again, I don’t want someone coming in and saying to me, well, just next door, it’s $2. I don’t want to subject my service and my business to that. Could I even say that’s why I retired my bridal kit, because you work for 20 years to get to where you are only for someone to say so-and-so influencer is charging $200. And you’re like, well, she just started like six months ago. So even as a business owner, you can choose your customer not by doing it in person, but by your brand strategy, by your location, by the type of services that you offer and your price points. Do I have price points that are offered at a lower range, but high quality? Sure, because it brings that client in to feel that luxury to want to walk into $1000-packages with us. So there is that strategy. Don’t stay low all the time. Go low, go high, go higher.
“Even as a business owner, you can choose your customer not by doing it in person, but by your brand strategy, by your location, by the type of services that you offer and your price points.” ~Kavita Suri
Right. I love everything about what you just said there Kavita. You know Kavita once your spa was established, you added the next layer of diversification and that was to develop a personal brand to amplify your authority to bring more people into your ecosystem, first as consumers and then as clients. As a society today, folks, I just want to preface this before I ask the next question, we operate more and more in the virtual arena. And like visiting a storefront or office front where direct communication works wonderfully by default of being in the same room, there is this heightened need to humanize online product and service businesses to the same. And the most effective way to do this is for the founder to create a personal brand that’s public-facing to establish themselves as a subject matter expert. That’s exactly what you did, Kavita.
This is something that you decided to do next as a part of your branding diversification strategy and your growth strategy after establishing your med spa, which you’ve since been able to build to micro-influencer status. And this is the thing, folks, that I want you to really kind of remember from this part of our conversation, Kavita’s strategy was intentional. Kavita, can you break down what it was that you kind of decided you needed to do with going public-facing and what you wanted to accomplish from doing that? Because there was a lot of effort that went into building your personal brand. Can we talk a little bit about that next?
Absolutely. So kind of going back to when we started in 1999. There wasn’t anything like this personal brand, this online transition, this celebrity phase to your product. It was just your service. I just had to make a purchase and get at it. This is my company name and my company name back in the day was Divine Impressions, It was only about two to three years into it. No one was saying, I’m calling for Divine Impression. They’re like Kavita Suri, Kavita Suri. I always listen to what my customers are saying. What are they saying? What are their conversations? So then and then turn to me, just not doing the Divine Impressions.
And again, one key point is, do not be afraid to change. Do not be afraid to to be part of what your customers want and feel is best for the heart of your business. So the artistry went into the spa when I went into Yorkville. But again, I didn’t put my picture on things. It was just my name. And then I had a friend, George, actually, who was doing some of my graphic designing. He was a Greek guy. And he was like, “You have to start putting your face on your marketing.” I was like, “No, I don’t want to.” I think also you Raj, you say “Get out there, your face, your personality.”
“Do not be afraid to to be part of what your customers want and feel is best for the heart of your business.”~Kavita Suri
When I say no, it doesn’t mean that I am not going to take the route or I’m afraid to fail, I’m actually, believe it or not, I’m shy. And so I just was like, “I don’t know, I’m not… I can’t.” So I took the leap. I did a beautiful photoshoot, and a heck of a lot more people were attracted to my business because they saw my face on the website and on my marketing material.
And that’s the thing, Kavita, that a lot of people really need to understand, especially those like Kavita who are on the shy side, it’s so much easier for people to connect and have a human connection if there’s a human on the other end of that. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling.
And the other thing is, is that people are constantly looking for connection and it doesn’t really matter if it’s in person or if it’s online or if it’s any other way. Look at podcasts. You just hear someone’s voice. But people are looking and they are desperate for connection. They’re desperate to feel a part of something.
And that’s what you did. Kavita. I know that you spent a good couple of years focusing on being public-facing and good for you. And I hope that this is a testament to all those people who are shy out there. What you’re actually putting out there is who you are or what your value proposition is. And those people who find that to be something that they can connect with will find you.
And you can’t focus on all the people that don’t connect with you or have an issue with what it is that you stand for. They’re not a part of your world. They’re not meant to be a part of your world. Kavita d you want to maybe touch base a little bit on that piece? Because I find a lot with my clients who are a little bit on the shy side when we go through the branding exercise that we get to this point where it’s time to put the brand out there on the personal level, it’s a real challenge for them to be able to see past the naysayers and the people that are constantly going to be out there to create issues. How did you deal with it?
I still struggle with it. I still struggle with it because it’s a big commitment socially in a world that isn’t tangible to me. Because I’m so used to the conversations and the affections and person. I feel that if I do decide to take the full leap and do it purely online, it requires, again, a different commitment. And it wouldn’t allow me to be a full-fledged owner of a medical school on the level that I’m at. I would have been scaled down and give attention to producing videos, content, calendaring it. It’s possible. I do the best that I can.
But you have to start somewhere, even if it is just that you go get a nice photo shoot, then you hire a brand specialist like yourself to say this power styling your shoot. I have a stylist is going to work with you on this. We’re going to go shopping with you. Let’s get you comfortable in that. And just if it’s just the photoshoot, it could spark some sort of confidence within you to say I can do this. People are responding, people love my packaging. People love my look. And who knows where that’s going to take you.
Absolutely. And that’s exactly what you did. And here’s the thing that I feel I’d like to kind of leave people with before we kind of move on through the rest of your journey, sweetheart, is you have to know when to put the blinkers on. It’s kind of like when you walk into a party and you’re networking, there’s certain people that you know you’ll never resonate with and who will never resonate with you. What you do is you look to find people like yourself.
And that’s what public-facing and personal branding is all about. Your job is to find people like you. That’s your job. That’s what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to resonate with them. And you’re also looking to find people who aspire to be like you. That’s the other part of this game as well. I had a client Kavita . . . I just want to quickly share this story. I had this client who had a real hard time with the negative side, the dark side that comes with social media branding.
That put her in a place where she just wanted to stop doing that, which meant that it would massively affect her business because she was also in a glamour-centric industry where the visuals are a big part of showing your talent. And and I remember that the way to move past that is to realize that there are people out there who are not as far along their confidence journey as you are, that your story, which is similar to where they are at now that you were at a while ago, is something that is going to help lift them out of the situation.
So you have to focus on the bigger picture of why you’re doing this. So what you do is you push yourself into a place of higher frequency. And what is the actual value proposition of what you’re doing here and keep yourself away from the lower frequency, because that’s not going to help you do your job in the branding space. And that’s a big key fact. And it really changed the game for her sweetheart.
And sometimes your own self-confidence is your own thing. It is your own chatter you have in your mind. It is your own lens that you see how you look. And one thing that someone can say about your picture could trigger. Someone already has such a low self-esteem and they’re ready to take the leap because everyone else thinks they’re visually beautiful. And it could be just that one comment that can trigger them and it shatters their entire brand and their potential. But how you navigate through that, exactly what you said is that you just have to keep your frequency high. You also have to find that happy balance.
What makes me happy? Is that one post per month right now? Is it three posts per month right now to get me comfortable? I’m super energy sensitive. So when I post too much, I feel literally an energy attack. So I take a deep breath and I honour it. I can’t do it because it’s just not comfortable within my sphere. So you have to find your comfort zone at the end of the day. Regardless of what it is, we’re not in a rat race. Something that we have learned from this lockdown is that we’re all in the same boat, we’re all together, and we’re all going to grow together in our own little way and we’re going to hold on to each other while doing so.
And just to add to what Kavita said, there’s always someone like you out there. No one is an island. No one is alone. So many people out there in this world who are exactly like you and wherever you are in your journey, it may not be as far as you want to go yet, but it’s probably further than someone else’s journey. So think about that.
“So many people out there in this world who are exactly like you and wherever you are in your journey, it may not be as far as you want to go yet, but it’s probably further than someone else’s journey.” ~Raj Girn
And similar to what Kavita just said, we all have a role in this bigger ecosystem that is life and everything is cyclical. And somewhere along the road you fit and there’ll always be someone that’s further along the road and there’ll always be someone that is looking at you for inspiration to get to where you are. I really hope that helps those of you who are challenged with the negative chatter that happens. And if not, you can always give me a call.
You would be like, shut that shit down real quick.