Like many businesses, Calgary-based Fixe Beauty had to pivot when COVID-19 struck. But this two-year-old home-based business did more than just survive a difficult situation – it thrived. Even more remarkably, it used that growth to spread goodwill to those in need.
Facing challenges during COVID-19
Before COVID-19, this lash extension and beauty academy was comprised of two single moms who worked out of their homes in Calgary. Steering a business that provided services in person, founder Jessi Penner faced tremendous uncertainty while the COVID-19 situation worsened. Supply chains had shut down and she worried they might need to close down their business.
“In April, it was looking like none of our imports were going to be able to enter the country,” Penner says. “We were three weeks behind on orders with no light in sight. If I couldn’t keep the business going, not only would it fold, but my one employee and I would be left without jobs.”
Shifting from brick and mortar to online and growing fast
In the midst of the uncertainty, Penner saw a need in the market for virtual training. She saw an opportunity to shift Fixe Beauty from brick and mortar to online and pivoted to provide virtual lash certification, training and business support. She also took big risks in where she took her marketing and invested heavily in online advertising.
Almost immediately, her customer base grew from 100 new students a month to over 3,000. Sales revenue shot up more than 1,000 per cent. She was able to expand into the U.S. market and is now preparing to enter the U.K. and Australian markets.
“I started this business because I wanted to take back my schedule, to spend my days doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it,” she says, adding that it was important to her to be the primary caregiver of her sons. “Now I want to give more women that same opportunity.”
Take a closer look at this small business with a heart of gold.Get to know Fixe Beauty
Giving back to the community and abroad
Penner has been able to create 24 new home-based jobs, most of which went to women who had experienced job losses and layoffs throughout COVID-19.
“A lot of women who come to us are working hard to create a side hustle, or they want to generate money to replace income lost by either themselves or their spouse, or they are mothers trying to navigate the special circumstances of raising kids with all the changes in school and daycare while also earning a living,” she says. “The stories we hear on a daily basis are heartbreaking, and we are so blessed to be able to help in some small way.”
The surge in sales also meant the company could increase its funding to an orphanage in Guatemala that it supports, which was badly affected by the virus.
“The pandemic hit the children there hard and the people of the village faced hunger because of job losses and supply chain issues,” she says. “As a community, our team and our Fixe Beauty students were able to fundraise over $10,000 in two days to help the children and people there.”
Penner and her team have also started a Woman of Colour Scholarship and have sponsored over $5,000 in scholarships for women looking to start their own business.
Advice for fellow entrepreneurs
Having grown so fast in such a short period of time, Penner offers some words of wisdom for other businesses hitting the growth phase. In a nutshell, she advises to avoid the perfection trap.
“Shut your back door so you have no choice but to keep moving forward,” she says. “Don’t wait for everything to be perfect. Business is messy, especially in a growth phase. So just start and show up every day. The sooner you start, the sooner you can continue to grow and the sooner you’ll see the incredible impact of whatever it is your business has to offer.”
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