How Power Couple, Sara Kardan and Jeff Armstrong, transformed an idea into a unique, scaleable brand
When you walk into Her Majesty’s Pleasure, the downtown location acts as an urban oasis. While owners Jeffrey Armstrong and Sara Kardan aren’t fond of the term ‘one-stop-shop,’ it accurately describes the seamless experience for clients looking to get all of their beauty needs fulfilled in one visit. As the name suggests, whether you’re at their established King Street location or their brand new Yorkville space, Her Majesty’s Pleasure is designed to give guests the royal treatment. But it had humble beginnings.
Before calling King Street home, the concept began in Kardan and Armstrong’s apartment. “We both quit our jobs, and what was to be the future baby’s room, we set up as a war room,” Armstrong reflects. “Literally from the ceiling to the floor, were inspirational images of where we were going with the idea. It evolved from so many different things. It’s great to see where it is now, but it’s scary to look at where it started because it was just such a ride.”
While working on bringing Her Majesty’s Pleasure to life, Kardan was pregnant and completing her masters in architecture. “The whole concept started about six years ago, and then it took us about a year to put the whole plan together,” Kardan says. “It was 2013, then we opened in 2014. So it took us one year to turn the initial concept into something bigger.” Five years later, the couple is bringing the HMP experience to Yorkville. But despite the new neighbourhood, guests can still expect the same vibes that make their King Street location so beloved.
The new location has a different look; sleek decor with Insta-friendly signage that is destined to become a timeline staple. Drawing from their love of hotels, they want guests to liken each visit to a staycation. Armstrong explains that the intangible aspects connect each location and add to the brand’s identity. “The aesthetic inspirations are easy to point out, but it’s the stuff that you can’t touch,” he says. “It’s the atmosphere and the convenience that the services provide.”
With ease and convenience at the forefront of the guest experience, the day-to-day operations of a successful start-up aren’t without hiccups — especially as Kardan and Armstrong continue to balance their relationship from the boardroom to the bedroom. “It’s not easy working with your husband,” Kardan admits. “But it’s also enjoyable because we’re always together.”
“For us, the fact that the business never sleeps is the biggest challenge,” Armstrong chimes in. “It’s not rare for us to have pillow talk that’s related to the open tomorrow or a leak or a staff member or some event that’s coming up. So adjusting to always working 24/7, even though you’re not in the venue, has been a big lifestyle adjustment for us.”
And with the business so close to home, tiffs are hard to avoid. In spite of this, Armstrong says that they make a point to get over conflicts quickly. “If we disagree and one ends up winning, we don’t dwell or keep score on that. We get over things very fast.” By spending less time dwelling on disagreements, Kardan and Armstrong leave more time to bring their entrepreneurial dreams to life. On the heels of their successful expansion, the duo says that focusing on staff is key.
“At the end of the day, if you don’t have great staff that work as a team, then there won’t be a business,” Kardan says. So when they sought to expand the HMP brand, they honed in on their employees. For Armstrong, it’s all about “developing standards and then getting those standards in a super convenient but fun way for the staff to engage.”
To make it easier for their growing network of employees, Armstrong explains, “We’ve invested in some technologies that we’re just about to roll out.” Armstrong went on to tease that “staff will have an app on their phone and be able to access training for any area of the business.” With a new location on their roster and more on the horizon, Armstrong and Kardan have created a solid foundation for the next level of growth.
To support the burgeoning beauty business, at the HMP head-office, Armstrong says that they have “somebody in marketing and social media management, somebody in a recruitment role, somebody in a training development role and we have a director of operations that oversees two managers.”
“We had to invest in all that in order for us to be able to scale,” Kardan adds. According to Armstrong, “if you’re a small business, and you really want to grow, you have to make a huge investment upfront.” These investments paid off by bringing the operation beyond the realm of a one-off nail salon into a multi-faceted self-care destination.
By keeping their staff at the centre of the operation, Kardan and Armstrong are confident that if they take care of their staff, their staff will take care of their clients and their clients will continue to keep the business afloat. And if their success thus far is any indication, this ideology works.
Visit Her Majesty’s Pleasure today at 556 King Street West, Toronto or at 102 Yorkville Ave, Unit 5.
Check out Her Majesty’s Pleasure website to learn more about their services and book an appointment.