My mother and I own and operate King’s Crown, a men’s grooming business in Toronto. We offer men an internationally-sourced selection of grooming and lifestyle products in our studio and on our website
Our website launched in 2014, and our first grooming studio, which offers everything from haircuts and beard care to hands and feet detailing, opened up in the prestigious Bayview Village in October 2015.
Like any small business, we fought for what we had, trying our best with each customer interaction. We got some bumps and bruises along the way, but, for the most part, we were winning!
Then, in November 2019, we opened our second studio on the 5th floor of the Hudson’s Bay flagship store on Queen Street. We had two studios and an online business. We were growing!
But at the beginning of March 2020, the writing was on the wall: COVID-19 spreads quickly, and it could be deadly.
On March 16th, before the government mandate to close down, my mother and I made one of the toughest decisions to date. We were temporarily closing the studios.
Could our competition swoop in and take our customer? Maybe. Could we potentially lose a lot of business? Of Course. In the end, we knew that to protect our employees and our customers, it was the responsible decision.
With the heaviest of hearts, we laid off all our employees. We helped them apply for the necessary government programs, and we provided support in every way we could, including covering 100 percent of their health benefits and drafting letters to their landlords to assist in requesting rent relief. We stayed in touch and made ourselves available to support them and their families.
By March 19th, both studios were closed, and we had no idea what lay ahead. At first, we thought it would be a few weeks, and then we can open everything up again. But by the end of the week, we knew it was much bigger than we ever imagined.
We continued to connect with our clients via email, phone, and text. We were trying to keep everyone in the loop and see if they needed anything that we could help with. Clients told us they needed hand sanitizer and disposable gloves to keep them and their families safe. Since these were already in-studio staples for us, we knew where to get our hands on some. We called our suppliers and secured the sources.
We put the products on our website and started emailing our clients, letting them know what was available. We were selling one-liter bottles of hand sanitizer, disposable gloves, and masks online and shipping everything out.
We included a hand-written note thanking our clients for their support with every order. We also included free samples of other products they might like to put a smile on their face amid all the chaos.
There was a bit of money coming in, but nothing compared to what we were doing before. Our commercial rent (not to mention the other expenses) were looming over our heads, and our employees were still laid off.
At night, we tried to figure out what we could do to survive—we were in survival mode, and it wasn’t fun. Between the online orders and getting the studios ready to open, we were working harder than ever, with little return.
In June, after three months of being closed, we were finally given the “green light” to open our doors, and we did! We hired everyone back and were working harder than ever, sanitizing surfaces every 15 minutes, and before and after each client.
Service areas we either placed six feet apart, or we had custom partitions to divide stations that couldn’t be separated. We ordered disposable capes and made sure each client had a new one. Gallons of alcohol (a common disinfectant) had more than doubled in price, and we were using hand-sanitizer more than ever. The cost of business had skyrocketed.
After about three weeks, business dropped. Clients weren’t coming in as often as many were still not going into the office. We were open, but we were still in survival mode with no end in sight.
After another “what are we going to do” discussion, my mother had a thought—why don’t you call Bob Proctor and see what he has to say?
Bob was a long-time, valued client of ours. I was already connecting with him to arrange and re-arrange his haircut, making sure he had a spot booked as soon as we were able to open. So, I called Bob with a small request: I’m struggling and need help, can you meet with me?
To my surprise, Bob agreed. He graciously gave me an hour of his time. Bob’s feedback was simple: you attract what you focus on. Find the silver lining and focus on it.
At first, it seemed crazy. There was nothing good that came from COVID-19- NOTHING! However, after some reflection, I started finding several nuggets of gold in my situation.
To name a few, I got to enjoy dinner with my partner every night—a luxury I got only once or twice a week before. It allowed me to focus on and start the online business again. We buttoned down on all our expenses and found new and innovative ways to save money.
This fight is not over, but by taking control of my thoughts and focusing on the positive things it has helped me “weather the storm” and the stress!
We are grateful to Bob and our employees for keeping their faith in us and all the clients that have shown us immeasurable support by “shopping small” and supporting local businesses. We pay it forward and do the same, opting to spend our money with local companies that feed and build our community.
What I know for sure is this too shall pass, and I will be stronger because of it. I will forever remember the power of good mentors, positive thinking, and, of course, the scrapes and bruises that made it possible for me to open up and gain valuable life lessons along the way.
As a special THANK YOU we are giving the Proctor Gallagher Community 15% off our entire website. Shop our full selection of products and use code “ProctorGallagher” at check out to enjoy 15% off. Click Here to access.
Bernadette Taggio is Co-owner and President of King’s Crown. With her strong business acumen and an innate customer-centric approach, she has built King’s Crown operations and processes, including a lean inventory management system, from scratch. Bernadette holds a fast-tracked degree in Management and Marketing from Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University. This, coupled with years of online and digital marketing experience, first working on high-profile CPG brands at Kellogg’s Canada and then launching a robust website, and first online game and branded app at Winners, has taught her how to lead with strategic vision and a firm understanding of KPIs as a path to success. Bernadette is a mentor to other female entrepreneurs in Toronto, engaging with WeWorking Women and EI to build a tight knit network of trusted business confidantes. She passionately supports local charities and Toronto- based small businesses and is often called upon for trusted local restaurant recommendations.