How a migrant husband and wife team turned a market stall into a multi-million dollar eyebrow business – and it’s not just for women!
By MATILDA RUDD FOR DAILY MAIL AUSTRALIA
– Rizwan and Sandrine Syed moved from India and France to Australia in 2000s
– They had to educate the Australian public about eyebrow threading from scratch
– But now they have cultivated a successful business in the form of Zubias
– The team has threaded 90,000 eyebrows and have 30 stores across Perth
They had no professional networks, no credit history and an idea few people had ever heard of before.
But Rizwan and Sandrine Syed – who migrated from India and France to Australia in the early 2000s – have gone on to build a multi-million dollar eyebrow shaping business from the ground up.
The Perth-based 38-year-old’s established Zubias Threading before the traditional form of Indian hair removal was a buzzword in the Aussie beauty market.
What is eyebrow threading?
– An ancient hair-removal technique practiced for centuries among women of Asia and the Middle East.
– It involves twisting a piece of thread, usually cotton, into a double strand.
– This is then used to pick up a line of hair and remove it, creating a very clean, precise hairline.
‘When it’s something brand new, people go, “Oh, don’t know, don’t want to know”,’ Mr Syed told FEMAIL.
After months of rejections from landlords, banks, and insurers, a local Chinese businessman rented them a small pathway space along Fremantle’s E-Shed market.
So with just $5,000 Mr and Mrs Syed opened the first Zubia’s Threading outlet. Today, they own 30 stores across Perth with plans to expand into Melbourne and Sydney. Their team of experts have shaped more than 10 million eyebrows.
Learning the tools of the trade: After months of rejections from landlords, banks, and insurers a local Chinese businessman rented them a small pathway space along Fremantle’s E-Shed market.
‘Our loyal customers, either myself or my wife had to teach and show each and every one of them what we do, and once we built their trust and confidence, that’s when they became our advocates,’ Mr Syed said.
‘From virtually nothing, we now employ 150 staff who are mostly migrants… they are already so grateful to be here,’ Mr Syed said. ‘Our staff come from countries like Persia, Afghanistan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Mauritius. Mr and Mrs Syed have spent time teaching many staff how to speak English and sponsored others to stay in Australia. ‘Many could not get work elsewhere in Perth, or if they had, had been exploited. I believe that we are all working together and I have a responsibility to help others.
‘I have a very strong culture in my company of people who want to make a future here.’
Mr and Mrs Syed have spent time teaching many staff how to speak English and sponsored others to stay in Australia.
‘Some have had to leave their children behind while they find work, so it’s incredibly rewarding to know you’re helping people in this way,’ Mr Syed said.
‘Our staff are the perfect threaders because their cultures are familiar with manipulating thread and their motor skills are magnificent – whereas it’s not natural to use thread in the west.
What are the secrets to the Syed’s success?
– A clear and genuine business purpose that adds value to your customers: The Syeds’ aim was to provide affordable and professional beauty treatments to make customers look and feel great. Extensive education was required because threading was unheard of in Australia at that time. The couple was told they would fail but persisted, and taught others.
– Focus on your employees, by deeply understanding why they work for you: Spend time understanding each staff member individually. The couple believe their role is to help their team members lead successful lives – as a result, customers benefit, and the business grows.
– Be willing to try something different and work hard: When the Syeds started no one wanted to take them on. It was hard to find a landlord, it was hard to find the proper chairs for threading, it was hard to find insurance, but they kept going and worked hard. For two years they worked every day except Christmas Day.
– Always plan: The Syeds started growing the business by adding more salons. Now the future is in franchising. Ten of their stores are franchised and their expansion into Sydney will be around a franchise business model.
– Always focus on the mission not the money: The Syed’s mission was to make people aware of the benefits of their business. Their driving passion has resonated through the business and they have long-term team members; but they also bring new blood into the business.
– Learn from other people’s mistakes
– Don’t be afraid of expansion: The Syed’s opened multiple stores with a great deal of distance between them. Don’t fear losing control – learn to deal with different mindsets in a remote sense. The Syed’s worked on themselves and this shows in their team.
Mr Syed’s business acumen started to emerge during his childhood years in native India because his father was a farmer turned businessman – but it was his five sisters who had the flare for beauty.
‘That’s a lot of sisters, and that’s a lot of beauty treatments that go around in the house, and certainly threading was one of those,’ Mr Syed said. ‘I grew up having hair pulled off my hand while I was sleeping because my sisters thought it was funny. I grew up with these techniques and I knew them very well.’
Mr Syed had a dream to move to Australia and he did so in 2003 to study his Masters in Information Systems in Adelaide.
But it wasn’t his passion so he started to explore potential business options with his future wife, who had a successful position teaching French at a language school.
Mr Syed’s sister suggested he start an eyebrow threading business like her own in the United States. The couple visited her to learn the technique.
‘In India a man doing threading would be frowned upon big time, so I was observing, my sister was teaching Sandrine,’ Mr Syed said.
‘We grew the skills ourselves on real people, and then we realised we had a special way of doing the eyebrows which no other country does. Which is why we are unique in what we do, and we train our staff to do it our way.’
The couple said there was no comparison between threading and waxing – with threading offering ‘laser beam’ accuracy which waxing couldn’t.
‘If you hold a piece of string at two points, it’s the most accurate straight line you can create,’ said Mr Syed. ‘It’s like building a building – builders use string to get a straight line. We use that as a tool to get perfect balance on your eyebrows, no other technique can match that. Whether you build a house or your eyebrows, string is the answer.’
‘Threading clears the area around it far better than waxing or tweezing because it removes the fluff, including ingrown and facial hair, so the area around becomes crystal clear and makes them “pop”,’ Mrs Syed said.