Kush Kapila founded Sterlings Mobile, an on-the-go barbershop service, in 2012. The concept, Kapila said, was to make haircut appointments easier to manage by bringing the barbershop to the customer. By partnering with companies as a subsidized service that is offered to the organization’s employees, Kapila has been able to grow the business from simply offering haircuts to one that boasts a full array of salon-style services. Kapila went behind the business plan with Business News Daily to discuss his salon on wheels and his plans for the future of Sterlings Mobile.
Business News Daily: In a nutshell, what service does your business provide?
Kush Kapila: Sterlings Mobile is the premier mobile salon and barbershop for busy professionals, providing convenience and quality haircare services through our customized Sterlings unit, which has three stations, a restroom, waiting area, is fully climate controlled and self-contained with water and electricity. During the week, we partner with fortune 500 companies to bring our services on-site, where the busy professional can then go online and book a subsidized service with their favorite barber or stylist. Now they don’t have to drive or wait, and they get a more personalized and quality service. For men and women, we provide quality cuts, colors, straight razor shaves, manicures and waxes. On the weekend we do a variety of events such as weddings, corporate, fashion and sporting events, to name a few.
BND: How long have you been in business?
Kapila: Three and a half years; the first month of launch was May 2012
BND: Did you start with a formal business plan? If not, how did you lay the groundwork for your business?
Kapila: I never wrote a business plan, but wrote a very detailed two-page executive summary, which I refined for many months. This included the concept, sales, marketing, finances, competition, team — and, ultimately — direction. Many entrepreneurs will tell you that you can plan, but when you launch, things change quickly and you have to be willing to pivot your business.
BND: How did you finance your endeavors, both initially and as your business grew?
Kapila: We did small investments of $10,000 to $20,000, [which we obtained] from friends and family.
BND: How much did you invest personally?
BND: Is your business today what you originally envisioned at the outset, or has it changed significantly over time?
Kapila: It has changed quite a bit. We started out as a mobile barbershop just doing cuts. We quickly realized that many women were coming in, so we branched out to be a full-service salon and barbershop, providing not only cuts but colors, shaves, manicures, waxes, threading, eyelash extensions, etc.
BND: What are some lessons you’ve learned? Is there anything you would’ve done differently?
Kapila: I would have launched sooner. I was trying to make the business as perfect as possible and worrying about things that in the end were not even relevant. I should have launched as soon as the trailer was built and I could accept payment.
BND: What were the most important factors that contributed to your success?
Kapila: A willingness to change. The market will tell you what they want and you have to be willing to change your business in order to fit their needs.
Tenacity. Startups are hard, emotionally draining and there are times that are really tough. You have to have the strength to keep pushing forward.
BND: What are the next steps you want to take as a business owner? How do you see yourself achieving those goals?
Kapila: We have spent the last three years refining our business and technology and now have a scalable solution that we will be taking nationally. We’re currently in the expansion phase with locations to launch in Seattle and San Francisco in early 2016. We realized that the cost of manufacturing of trailers needed to come down and as a result, we’ve decided to vertically integrate the manufacturing and building of Sterlings trailers in Mexico.
BND: What is your best advice to someone with a great business idea who is ready to give it a shot?
Kapila: It can be overwhelming when you start to think of all the things you need to do to start a business. Break it down into small tasks and work on it every day, even if it’s only a few minutes, so you don’t lose momentum. Work toward an MVP (minimal viable product) and as soon as you achieve that, launch it to the world.