Name: Lisa McElhone
Current Project: CEO and Founder of Lacquer Lounge
Previous projects: Finance, telecommunications, and real estate
Twitter Handle: @Lisa_Mcelhone
About Lisa McElhone:
Finding inspiration in a negative experience is one of the things that has made Lisa McElhone an innovative thinker. After an horrendous visit to a high end spa which left her with a bad infection, Lisa started noticing the poor-quality services and lack of hygiene practices being used in the nail salons in her hometown of Philadelphia. These issues inspired Lisa to create a new approach to nail salons in Philadelphia.
During her time in Philadelphia, Lisa launched many successful start-up businesses. Lisa’s creative drive inspired her to eventually relocate to Miami, where she once again found herself visiting nail salons. However, the nail salons in Miami were quite different than the ones in Philadelphia. In Miami, the nail salons featured socializing, trendy music, and enjoyable atmospheres. Once Lisa noticed this, she launched Lacquer Lounge with an emphasis on health and safety while still offering a fun and laidback atmosphere.
Once Lisa became aware of the poor hygiene practices being used in the Philadelphia salons, she wanted her salon to have. She also wanted to add some of the innovation and style she saw at the Miami salons and brought that to Philadelphia.
SM: What impact do you want to have on the world, and how do you see yourself making that happen?
Lisa McElhone: I want to be the woman that provides health, happiness, and beauty to her customers. Since we see our customers a couple of times a month, and sometimes more often depending on the customer, we really do get to know them. Those bonds drive me to care and make me want to ensure that they look their best and feel their best by the time they leave my salon.
SM: Do you follow a morning routine or regular schedule to maximize your productivity?
Lisa McElhone: I have a pretty “normal” schedule when I work because I do feel that it helps me stay productive. I wouldn’t say I have any rituals or anything like that. I get up, get ready for work, head into work, and get to work. I wouldn’t say there’s anything special about my routine, but I do feel having a routine does help me improve my efficiency.
SM: Are there any indications from your childhood that indicated you might become an entrepreneur?
Lisa McElhone: From an early age, I typically acted as the leader of my group of friends. I would say that’s probably one of the strongest signs that indicated I might become an entrepreneur. I wouldn’t say I was bossy, but I was pretty decisive about things sometimes. I was never really much of a follower and I enjoyed doing my own thing.
SM: How do you typically approach and solve big problems as an entrepreneur?
Lisa McElhone: When a major issue arises, it’s really important to solve the matter promptly while still giving yourself some time to think. I know that this sounds conflicting, but it’s the truth. For example, if you’ve got an unhappy customer that doesn’t like a manicure and that customer is complaining, I’m not going to get offended or angry. I teach my staff everybody is entitled to her opinion in my salon. Instead of getting angry or defensive, I ask for a few minutes to tell them I’m going to see what I can do. I usually already know what I’m going to do, but those few minutes are for me to calm down. Once I come back out, I’ll offer them a new manicure or a refund.
SM: Do you have any tips about how other female entrepreneurs can grow a team of productive employees?
Lisa McElhone: It’s certainly difficult to build a successful team of employees. However, you can do that as long as you know how to keep yourself motivated, because then you’ll be able to lead by example. It starts with hiring a good team, which means you can’t just hire the first few people that apply for the job. Remember, there’s no rush, so take your time with your selection process. After that, train them and lead by example, while you stay motivational and positive.
SM: Did you raise any venture capital? If so, can you tell us about how you did that? If not, how did you get funded, and can you tell us about that process?
Lisa McElhone: No, I didn’t fund any venture capital. I have been involved in a few startups which had great exit opportunities in the past. When I launched my first business I went to friends and family with a detailed business plan, forecasting and market studies they helped me fund my first venture.
I always say, there is an abundance of money available for great ideas you just need to work for it. After I opened my first business, I put my savings into my business’s which was a big risk at the time but ultimately paid off. So, I’d say my approach to money was a bit old-fashioned but it worked for me.
SM: Do you have any advice about avoiding startup struggles for other female entrepreneurs?
Lisa McElhone: There’s no way to really avoid startup struggles—the best thing you can do is to expect them and learn how to overcome them. Startup struggles are going to happen. As an entrepreneur, you’ll need to think on your feet and know how to go with the flow and adapt. Learning how to evolve in your industry and listening to your customer’s feedback are the best ways to kick off a successful startup.
Lacquer Lounge is not my first start-up business. I have successfully launched many different businesses in finance, real estate, and telecommunications. For every business start-up I successfully launched, I learned to go with that industry’s flow and listen to my customers. Listening to your customers ensures that they’ll want to keep coming back, and that’s the best way to ensure the survival of a start-up.
SM: Can you give us any insight about your business operations?
Lisa McElhone: Our business operations involve a fun, welcoming salon that invites our customers to let loose while getting their services done. With our pro-health approach, we follow strict cleaning procedures making sure our clients always stay healthy and safe. We feel this is even more necessary today because of the coronavirus threat. So, we always want to make sure our clients feel safe and worry-free.
We also serve complimentary drinks, and encourage a fun, social environment during the process. We also focus on women’s health with our products. We want our customers to look and feel beautiful both inside and out.
SM: What are the pros and cons of being a female entrepreneur in 2020?
Lisa McElhone: I think there are a lot of pros of being a female entrepreneur nowadays. Today, the world is a lot more accepting of female leaders than what it used to be, but I still feel that we have a long way to go, and that’s certainly a con. However, women nowadays have the resources and freedom to be looked on as leaders. We can move things around and shake things up to increasingly help other female entrepreneurs that follow in our footsteps.
SM: What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs about gaining business credibility?
Lisa McElhone: Business credibility is all about building relationships with your customers, especially when you are dealing with a local business. Word of mouth is so important when it comes to gaining business credibility. You need to be on top of your customer feedback and ask those happy customers to post reviews for you on Yelp and other review boards. (It does help to ask; if you don’t ask, many happy customers will just forget, and the unhappy ones have no problems posting bad reviews). Keep an eye on those reviews and respond to any negative ones to see if you can solve the problem.
SM: How did you develop key partnerships?
Lisa McElhone: I developed key partnerships by networking out to other individuals in the industry. One of the best ways you can do this is by using social networking, especially websites like LinkedIn. There, you can find plenty of people looking for the same thing as you. Developing partnerships also helps you build a strong support network, which you’ll need for your business, anyway.
SM: What is one thing you find to be true that others might disagree with?
Lisa McElhone: I believe that we’ll eventually reach equality when it comes to the gender wage gap. I feel many women still doubt nowadays that this is achievable. However, with the growing number of female entrepreneurs in the world, there’s a greater emphasis on how women are really making an impact on today’s world. I feel that the more female entrepreneurs out there, the more likely it’ll be that we’ll see a close in the gender wage gap.
SM: When business gets tough, how do you keep going through the difficult times? Do you use a particular mindset or approach?
Lisa McElhone: One of the hardest things to do is to keep a positive mindset when your business hits a difficult time. However, by always trying to make the best of things, which is my constant mindset, I tend to find the positive even when the world seems overwhelming to me. Since I believe in leading my employees by example, I feel I have to stay positive for them when times get tough so they stay motivated as well.