Vandana Kaushal: ‘My biggest aspiration is to establish the largest spa chain across Africa.’

Multifaceted beauty professional and entrepreneur Vandana Kaushal is making a name for herself on Nigerian soil. Her story is one that is reflective of her dedication to building a community in the evolving beauty industry. With a passion for academia and entrepreneurship, her innovative approach, coupled with her ambition, has all the markings of what makes a successful leader. Striving for excellence and inclusion, her journey is proof of the power of vision, determination, and, most importantly, the transformative nature of beauty.

As a foreign national, Vandana has successfully established herself in the Nigerian market as a key player in the rapidly growing beauty industry. Possessing a rich educational background, she currently holds a Master’s degree in history. This laid a solid foundation for her early career in academia. She served as a lecturer for four years, during which she imparted knowledge and inspired many students with her passion for history. Her professional journey took a significant turn towards entrepreneurship, marked by her ambition and innovative spirit.

In 2006, she made the decision to move to Nigeria as a foreign national. Just over a decade later, she launched Studio Strands, her first salon and spa outlet, located in Ilupeju, Lagos. Under her leadership, Studio Strands became a sanctuary where clients escaped their daily lives to indulge in her sought-after treatments. The luxury beauty salon prides itself on prioritising your beauty, personal, and cosmetic care needs; offering quality spa treatments, manicure/pedicure care, hair styling, and other top-of-the-line beauty treatments.

This venture marked the beginning of her successful foray into the beauty and wellness industry in Nigeria. The success of Studio Strands led to the establishment of a second branch, Studio Stylish, in Victoria Island in October 2016. Through each venture, her entrepreneurial spirit continued to flourish. This understanding of consumer needs inevitably allowed Kaushal to build a loyal customer base while positioning her as a leader in the country’s beauty industry.

In 2019, she spread her wings once more when she launched Rangla Punjab, an Indian restaurant, to add to her diverse portfolio. Her commitment to expanding her business empire saw the opening of Spaholic in Abuja in the final quarter of 2022. It is currently the largest spa location under her management. Not stopping there, in 2023 she inaugurated another branch of Studio Stylish at the prestigious GQ American Club in Ikoyi, Lagos. Demonstrating her relentless drive, she is set to open a fifth branch at Landmark in July 2024, a venture anticipated to be another significant addition to her array of successful enterprises. In addition to her entrepreneurial ventures, Kaushal has consistently invested in her professional development. She obtained a Hair Design Certification from L’Oreal and a Skin Care Certification from Dr. Klap from 2010 to 2011. She has attended several prominent conferences, including the Dubai Beauty Conference and the Istanbul Beauty Conference.

Kaushal’s professional journey is complemented by her active engagement in various prestigious community organizations. She is a member of ICA Lagos (Indian Cultural Association), IWA Lagos (Indian Women’s Association), CBW-Africa (Commonwealth Business Women-Africa), and Wimbiz (In-View). These memberships reflect her dedication to community engagement, networking, and philanthropy, underscoring her commitment to making a positive impact both locally and globally.

As a wife and mother, she balances her professional life with a rich array of personal interests. She describes herself as an avid reader who enjoys exploring a diverse range of literature in order to continually expand her knowledge and perspective. During her leisure time, she engages in yoga and tennis. Kaushal’s journey is evidently one in which she continues to raise the bar for herself. Her unwavering passion and dedication to the beauty industry is worth admiring and being inspired by. Not only has she built a successful brand and franchise, but she has also inspired countless others to pursue their dreams. Her commitment to excellence and her adaptability will undoubtedly continue to shift the tone of the beauty industry for years to come.

You have quite an interesting and diverse background. Can you walk us through that journey and describe what motivated you to settle in and pursue a business venture in Nigeria as a foreign national?
Absolutely, I’d be happy to share my journey. I began my career in the salon and spa industry, where I gained substantial training from India as a hair designer and skin therapist and attended many seminars in Dubai and Istanbul.  I worked as a stylist and skin therapist for 2 years to gain professional experience in my field. 

    As a beauty entrepreneur, we imagine that your goal is to position yourself as a force in the growing beauty industry. Was beauty always the end goal?
    The decision to settle in Nigeria and pursue a business venture here was driven by several factors. Nigeria’s vibrant economy, rich cultural heritage, and entrepreneurial spirit were incredibly attractive to me. I saw a unique opportunity to leverage my international experience and contribute to the dynamic business landscape here. Additionally, Nigeria’s young and energetic population presents immense potential for innovation and growth, which aligns perfectly with my business aspirations. Moreover, I have always been motivated by challenges and the prospect of making a meaningful impact. Nigeria offered the right blend of challenges and opportunities, making it an ideal environment for me to bring my ideas to life.

    What is it about the brand that you think makes it so successful?
    While my passion for beauty has always been a driving force for business success, the end goal has evolved over time. Initially, I was captivated by the transformative power of beauty and how it can boost confidence and empower individuals. As I delved deeper into the industry, my vision expanded to work towards enhancing beauty while also promoting wellness and sustainability. Ultimately, my goal is to make a meaningful impact in the beauty industry by championing inclusivity, and ethical practices, and inspiring others to feel their best inside and out. 

    What sets our brand apart and drives its success is our unwavering commitment to quality, innovation, and inclusivity. We prioritize using high-quality, ethically sourced ingredients and stay ahead of industry trends to offer cutting-edge services. Additionally, we focus on creating a brand that celebrates and embraces diversity, ensuring that everyone feels seen and valued. Our dedication to these principles resonates with our customers, fostering trust and loyalty, which are the cornerstones of our success.

    Vandana Kaushal

    What are some of the biggest cultural differences you’ve had to navigate personally as well as in the context of establishing your business? 
    Navigating cultural differences has been a significant and enriching part of my journey both personally and professionally. On a personal level, understanding and respecting various cultural norms and values has deepened my empathy and broadened my perspective. In the context of establishing my spa business, it’s been crucial to tailor our services and approach to honor the diverse backgrounds of our clientele. This includes offering treatments that are culturally specific, training staff in cultural sensitivity, and creating an inclusive and welcoming environment. Embracing these differences has not only enriched our service offerings but has also strengthened our connection with a global and diverse client base.

    How did you begin to build a local network and establish connections in the Nigerian community and beauty industry?
    Building a local network and establishing connections in the Nigerian community and beauty industry began with a genuine commitment to understanding and integrating into the local culture. I started by attending industry events, local fairs, and beauty expos to meet and learn from key players in the field. I also joined professional associations and engaged in community initiatives, which provided valuable opportunities to network and collaborate. By partnering with local influencers, beauty schools, and other businesses, I was able to create mutually beneficial relationships that helped to grow our brand. Additionally, offering community-focused workshops and events at our spa has fostered a sense of trust and loyalty among our clients, solidifying our presence in the Nigerian beauty industry.

    What has been the most defining moment of your career so far?
    The most defining moment of my career is the upcoming grand opening of our flagship spa, soon to be launched at Landmark Towers. After years of hard work, planning, and overcoming numerous challenges, seeing our vision come to life in such a tangible way was incredibly rewarding. The overwhelming support from the community, the positive feedback from our first clients, and the realization that we were making a real impact in the beauty and wellness industry were truly unforgettable. This milestone reaffirmed my commitment to our mission and inspired me to continue striving for excellence and innovation in our services.

    Having a good work-life balance is important in any industry and is equally important when considering the demands of running a beauty business. Can you describe what a typical day looks like for you? 
    In the morning, I start my day with self-care, which usually includes meditation, an effective workout session, and a healthy breakfast to ensure I’m energized and ready for the day ahead. I then spend some time catching up on emails and reviewing the day’s schedule to prioritize tasks and ensure everything is in order before heading to the spa.

    Once I arrive at the spa, I do a quick walkthrough to ensure everything is ready for our clients. I check in with my team, addressing any immediate concerns or questions they might have. This is typically a busy time with client appointments and managing operations, which might include meetings with suppliers, overseeing marketing initiatives, or working on new service offerings.

    I make sure to take a lunch break to recharge. After lunch, I focus on administrative tasks such as reviewing financials, updating inventory, and planning future promotions. I also take some time to analyze client feedback and look for ways to improve our services. In the late afternoon, I often have more client appointments or staff training sessions. Ensuring that my team is well-trained and motivated is crucial for maintaining high service standards.

    As the day wraps up, I address any remaining emails and prepare for the next day. I also spend some time reflecting on the day’s successes and areas for improvement. In the evening, I make it a point to disconnect from work and spend quality time with my family and friends. This balance is essential for maintaining my own well-being and ensuring I can bring my best self to the business each day. I schedule personal time for activities that help me relax and recharge, such as yoga, reading, or simply enjoying a quiet evening.

    Balancing the demands of running a spa while maintaining a healthy work-life balance is challenging but incredibly rewarding. By structuring my day and prioritizing both my personal and professional needs, I ensure that I am effective in my role while also taking care of myself.

    Since the pandemic, there has been a significant shift in the way in which people discover and shop items in the beauty category, What’s your take on it and how have you adapted to that shift?
    The pandemic has undeniably transformed the beauty industry, especially in the ways people discover and shop for beauty products. As a beauty entrepreneur, I’ve noticed several key trends and have adapted our business model accordingly to stay relevant and meet our clients’ evolving needs;

    Virtual Consultations and Services: To maintain a personal connection with our clients, we introduced virtual consultations. Clients can schedule video calls with our beauty experts to receive personalized advice and recommendations, replicating the in-spa experience as closely as possible.

    Enhanced Social Media Strategies: Social media has become a crucial platform for discovery. We increased our activity on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook, sharing beauty tips, product demos, and behind-the-scenes content. Collaborating with influencers has also helped us reach a broader audience.

    Focus on Wellness and Self-Care: The pandemic has heightened the focus on self-care and wellness. We expanded our product range to include wellness items like aromatherapy kits, meditation aids, and home spa essentials. Additionally, we promoted services that cater to mental and physical well-being, such as stress-relief treatments.

    Responsive to Client Feedback: Adapting to these changes has been an ongoing process. We actively seek and respond to client feedback, continuously refining our offerings and ensuring we meet their needs. This responsiveness has helped us maintain strong relationships with our clients, even during challenging times.

    Safety and Trust Protocols: For in-person services, we implemented strict safety protocols to reassure clients and staff. This includes enhanced cleaning procedures, social distancing measures, and contactless payment options, ensuring a safe and comfortable environment.

    Adapting to these shifts has required agility and innovation. By embracing digital tools, enhancing our online presence, and focusing on wellness, we’ve not only navigated the challenges posed by the pandemic but also found new opportunities to grow and connect with our clients in meaningful ways.

    What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs considering expanding to a new country?
    My advice will cut across 4 key areas because I wish someone had given me the same advice when I first started. Firstly, hire the right people and people smarter than you. Secondly, set SMART goals, and outline what you want to do and how you intend to achieve it. The third key area is to be financially savvy and know your numbers. And finally, keep innovating, stay trendy, and always look for a way to make your business processes better!

    What has been your most rewarding experience since becoming a beauty mogul, and what are you most looking forward to in the near future? 
    One of the most rewarding experiences since becoming a beauty mogul has been witnessing the financial independence I’ve achieved through hard work and dedication. Building my business from the ground up has not only allowed me to create a thriving enterprise but has also given me the freedom to make impactful decisions, support my family, and invest in my community. This sense of independence is incredibly empowering and validates the countless hours and effort poured into the business. Another deeply fulfilling aspect has been the opportunity to empower others, especially women, through employment and professional development.

    Seeing my team grow, gain new skills, and achieve their own financial independence has been incredibly gratifying. It’s a reminder of the broader impact a successful business can have on individuals’ lives and the community. Looking forward, my biggest aspiration is to establish the largest spa chain across Africa. This vision excites me because it’s not just about expanding a business but about setting new standards in the beauty and wellness industry continent-wide. I aim to create luxurious, accessible spaces where clients can experience top-tier services while promoting wellness and self-care.

      To achieve this, I’m focusing on:
      1. Strategic Expansion: Carefully selecting locations and ensuring each new spa maintains our high standards of quality and service.
      2. Innovation: Continuously innovating our services and integrating the latest beauty technologies and trends to stay ahead in the market.
      3. Community Engagement: Building strong relationships with local communities, understanding their unique needs, and tailoring our services accordingly.
      4. Sustainability: Committing to sustainable practices to minimize our environmental impact and promote eco-friendly beauty solutions. The journey ahead is challenging but filled with immense potential. I’m excited to lead this growth, knowing that it will not only elevate my brand but also contribute positively to the beauty industry in Africa and beyond.