Meet Esme Beauty Bar
In case you haven't been able to tell by instagram, I am crushing hard on Esme Beauty Bar. It is my one of my favourite places in Calgary to go for some serious self care & pampering. Angela has built a remarkable community in this little spot, and I am so grateful she took some time to sit down and talk with me about her inspiration, goals and struggles. Talking with her simply made me fall in love with the spot even more, and my hope is it will do the same for you.
A florist by trade, Angela wanted to open something she was unable to find here in Calgary. She wanted to turn self-care into a ritual and build a community around it. Inspired by her two daughters, she wanted to carry the best organic products - she wanted to treat her clients in the same way she treats her family by providing them with safe yet beautiful options. Angela wanted to build a team that supported her vision to ensure clients have the same exceptional service regardless of who is providing the service. She wanted to combine her flowers with both inner and outer beauty: at Esme, you can get a fresh bouquet of flowers, a service from an aesthetician with organic products, and see a holistic nutritionist all in the same beautiful space.
Angela was unable to find decorators who understood her vision for the old house that the beauty bar is in, so she did everything by hand herself. Literally everything, from ripping out floor boards to selecting the chandeliers and cushions. When you walk into the space you can feel the love, care and intention she has put into making this a safe space for her clients. Also, I like that the space is an old home. It seems fitting.
The heart of how Angela defines success revolves around building community, whether it is for her staff or her clients. From working at Ox & Angela, she saw the "family connection" between the staff and customers and how it led to an environment where everyone had fun. Her goal was to create a space where her staff loved coming to work. She says that she does not see herself as just the manager; she believes in being humble and not asking her staff to do anything she wouldn't do. Angela does everything she can to support them, and says she wants the space to feel like the show Cheers. She believes that her biggest success at this point has been building her team. It took some trial and error, and some time for her herself to channel exactly what she wanted. Esme opened in May of last year, and it took until September for Angela to build her dream team.
I can speak from personal experience that the women she has working for her are amazing. They are all so friendly, and regardless of who's client is who's they will talk to you and take care of you. I've never had that before. Honestly, I consider the woman I go to for my services, Meg, a friend. The conversations I had while sitting with her were authentic and honest, and we've since connected over both text and instagram. I feel safe enough to go there even on my worst anxiety days and know that I won't be judged, just made to feel safe and accepted.
Not only does Angela believe in building a community within her space, but she also strives to be involved in the Calgary community. Esme does quite a few pop-ups, including Commonwealth Collectors Club, The Social Page and flowers at both Our Daily Brett and Market 17. They also feature lots of local businesses in the Beauty Bar. They have daily specials with macaroons from Ollia, chocolates from Sweet Lollapalooza (DELICIOUS), and pastries from Ox & Angela (SO DELICIOUS!). They also carry rings from Joie de Cristaux, and they have partnered with Yoga Santosha* for the month of February. Even the popcorn they have is based on a pizza from Una, and I swear that sometimes I go there just for the popcorn.
Angela advises anyone that wants to start their own business to "be prepared to sacrifice their life" as well as "be prepared for grey hairs". For her, she says that one of the hardest things was learning how to manage people. She says this was her first time, and she has a pretty low key nature so it pushed her to change and adopt a different attitude to be able to support her staff with the structure most employees require. Another struggle right now is Calgary's economy. As I said above, I think they have some of the most reasonable prices in Calgary, especially considering all the extras they give you. Turns out Angela says the prices were intentional and designed that so that people can still afford that self care & pampering we all need sometimes, especially when times are stressful. She also says the daily deals (like $25 manis) are to help make services more accessible while supporting the business by bringing people in the door.
For all the stress though, Angela says there are some pretty phenomenal rewards that make it all worthwhile. She says two of the most rewarding things have been meeting the people on her team, and meeting every client who walks through the door - you can usually find her running reception so that she can meet everyone! I think it's so cool to meet the owner when you walk in, and it made me feel like this is a space that really cares about the client's experience. Angela also says she gets to fulfill one of her biggest dreams of creating her own skincare line. The products will be all natural and both sold in store and used in the services, and will hopefully be available this summer. It was pretty awesome seeing her face light up as she was telling me about it - I can imagine what a glorious feeling it is seeing one of your dreams come true!
For Angela, it all comes down to community. She advises anyone starting their own business to find that community, and to build it in a supportive way; "don't feel like you're competing - everyone has something different to offer". She wants her staff to have the feeling that it's "not about money, it's about coming to work and loving it". She wants her clients to "come in feeling beautiful, and leave feeling more beautiful". Her biggest hope for her community is that when they leave, they leave with the feeling that "they can't wait to come back". She's succeeded - I can't wait to go back.