Talking Shop with the Lysell family of State Beauty Supply

Monday, April 25, 2011
Siblings, from left, Emilie, John and Lindy Lysell are co-owners of State Beauty Supply in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

The Lysell family's wholesale beauty supply business has grown steadily in an economy where many others have struggled. It was recognized as State Beauty Supply Store of the Year for 2010 out of 225 State Beauty Supply stores in 18 states. Siblings John, Lindy and Emilie Lysell started working together 19 years ago and continue to see the business grow.

Question: How did you get into the beauty supply business?

John: Our parents bought the business in 1992. We were 23, 24 and 25, so we were very young business owners. It took us many years to gain the respect, but people soon realized we were willing to work hard.

Lindy: We were taken under a lot of very strong people's wings in this industry and that gives us an advantage to have had strong mentors. We own two territories, and we have three stores within those territories. Cape Girardeau, Marion, Ill., and Mount Vernon, Ill. We have cousins that own stores. We have lots of family in the business.

Q: What's it like working together as a family?

John: A lot of people would think three siblings working together is a bad combination. But I think the business thrives because of it. We do all find what our niche is.

Lindy: I'm the numbers nerd.

John: I'm all about sales. I'm on the road four days a week. Emilie does pretty much whatever we need her to do.

Lindy: Right now she's in sales again. She was in the stores. The truth is she's so good at sales that she'll be a salesperson for a very long time.

Emilie: I'm not in her shadow. He's not in my shadow. We all have established ourselves as being successful, but I don't think we would be as successful without the three of us.

Q: What advice would you offer to others who are in sales?

Emilee: I make sure I start my day with a pleasant customer and end my day with a pleasant customer. If you start off the day with someone who is negative, it sets the tone for your whole day. If you end the day with a negative person, then you go home and take it out on your family. That's how I handle being on the road.

Q: How has your business model changed over the years?

A: John: For me it's not about sales anymore, it's about helping people grow their business. Our company's motto has always been "helping salons prosper." We always thought we were helping them because we had great products.

Lindy: Now, instead of coming in and taking orders for beauty supplies, we do more than that. We consult them on how their business can be better.

John: Since the economy got bad our business has done nothing but go up.

Lindy: Last year the average wholesale beauty supply store was down 6 to 8 percent, while we grew nearly 10 percent. Its attributable to the business consultants we use. They've taught us so much and in turn we've taught our salons so much.

Q: Are beauty products and services one of the first places people cut back when they're on a tight budget?

John: People aren't cutting back on services. People may cut back on the frequency of their visits. Where they were a four to five week visitor, now they may come every eight to 10 weeks. Salons have to find ways to find more customers since their existing client base isn't visiting as often.

Lindy: They certainly have to find new ways to offer value. That's one of the things we focus on in our business training with salons. How to offer the best value to their customers, because what does everybody want right now? They need a deal. The want what's on sale?

Emilie: If you feel like you look good, you feel good.

Q: What did being named State Beauty Supply Store of the Year mean to your family?

Lindy: This was our third time to be nominated, but it's our first win. We worked really hard for it. Our parents started the business. Our dad hasn't been in the business for a long time, but our mom, Emie, just died in September 2009 very unexpectedly. For us to be able to come off of that with this success meant even more.

Emilie: It wasn't just us. We have a wonderful staff. Everybody just dug in and said we're not going to fall down and mope. Our mom was a mom to a lot of the people who work here. She was the only grandmother some of our staff's kids had.

Lindy: She owned the company until her death. We got to work with our mom every day. Most people don't get to see their parents every day. We were really lucky. And she kept us on task, too.

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