Meet Merle Norman Franchise Owner Robyn Steinmetz
Multi-unit Merle Norman Cosmetics franchisee enjoys business success in Little Rock
Merle Norman Cosmetics franchise multi-unit owner Robyn Steinmetz grew up in the business; her mother first started with the company more than 50 years ago. Today, Steinmetz is a multi-unit business owner in the North Little Rock, Arkansas, region.
Steinmetz’s stores are about 10,000 square feet and are thriving as part of the store-within-a-store concept. “It seemed like the right thing to do — to make our store a little bit larger to add more merchandise and have more of a one-stop-shop for a lady who also needed a gift,” she said. She owns eight Merle Norman studios and eight Hallmark Gold Crown stores. She’s also opened the Merle Norman Spa in four of them and reports increased traffic and revenue from those additions.
Steinmetz told us about her unique historical perspective with the company, her stores’ success and what she wants prospective franchise owners to know about Merle Norman Cosmetics.
How were you first introduced to Merle Norman?
My mother started with the company, and I loved what she did and enjoyed being a part of it — even as a kid. Growing up, I’d hang out in the store, working part-time around going to school. After graduation, I went to California to the home office and was trained myself.
In fact, my mother ran a training center for the home office at one time. So, if you were a studio owner in the Southern states, you would have to fly to Little Rock and work under my mother’s supervision for about two to three weeks.
Since my mother was a trainer, they didn’t allow her to train me, so that’s why I went all the way to Los Angeles to the home office for training. I spent about one month there.
What do you like best about being a Merle Norman multi-unit owner?
There’s a lot of satisfaction just helping people feel better about themselves. I really do have a passion for serving others.
We’ll have women come in who have gone through a divorce and they’re very down, and then we might have a teen who is lacking self confidence and has some acne. In this business, you really just have to have passion for people.
It’s sort of like being a hairdresser — they talk, you listen, and they walk away feeling better, hopefully. It’s a very personal thing to work that closely with someone.
What’s the secret to your success as a Merle Norman franchisee?
I train my staff that the correct way to do their jobs is to teach the customer how to use our products. When they do that, customers go home, use it, and love it. If they don’t, they’ll return it and get something that works. Merle Norman has a very generous guarantee program. We get repeat business because we work hard for it.
I never want the customer to feel pressured or to feel like they are buying something that they might not like and then just be stuck with it. I’ll say, “I’m not here to sell you one time. I’m here to sell you a lifetime. If you get anything today that you’re not happy with next week or the next week, bring it back. We want you to be happy, and we don’t want you to just throw it in your drawer and not use it.”
Merle Norman will give us full credit for anything that is returned, and we will make the customer happy and they will get something else. Having that level of customer service and attention to the customer’s needs will make you profitable in this business.
What brings in new customers to your stores?
The corporate office offers a co-op advertising program where they pay 60 percent and owners pay 40 percent for certain marketing costs. We take advantage of that and send out catalogs and postcards and buy radio spots.
Giving out samples is important to us. We have gift time four times a year, and that’s a huge draw. It lets the customers try new products because they get little sample bottles in the box or the bag. In fact, we usually try to give everyone a little something when they come in just to thank them for stopping by. I’ll often give out lipstick samples and say, “This is a great new color. Try this.” She’ll remember me when she tries it and will want to come back because it will look good on her.
There’s a lot you can do outside of your business to draw customers in. My mother used to chaperone the Miss Arkansas pageant, and she taught color, makeup and wardrobe at the college. From pageantry to involvement in chamber of commerce events, you can find many ways to recruit new customers. We give out $10 gift cards and invite people to come into our store and try us. That often works well for the customer who has never worn Merle Norman.
How does Merle Norman train and support franchise owners?
Merle Norman stays right on track with colors and trends. They keep a close eye on what’s going on as they introduce new products throughout the year.
Every year they have a convention for Merle Norman studio owners, and they also have a training academy. They always feature different speakers and teachers. Recently, we learned new techniques from one of the artists who does makeup for Dancing with the Stars. Former First Lady Laura Bush was a guest speaker one year, too.
They invest a lot into training and supporting us. It’s very important to have ongoing training and stay current on industry trends, whatever business you’re in. Merle Norman does a great job with that.
Why should an entrepreneur choose a Merle Norman franchise instead of another franchise company or another business altogether?
Owning a Merle Norman Cosmetics studio is a rewarding career for the type of person who wants to be her own boss. It’s affordable, and the new look they rolled out last year is great! The new fixtures and the bar with all the product and color — they immediately draw people in. What woman doesn’t want to go play around with all that fun color and makeup? It’s unbelievable what that bar does.
What sets Merle Norman apart from the competition?
One main thing is the cost and quality of our products. In stores like Sephora and Ulta, products are so much higher than at Merle Norman. You won’t get that much more for all that money, either, and they’re not made in the USA.
To me, those things — the quality, the price, the being made in the USA and Merle Norman’s satisfaction guarantee — all set us far apart from the competition.
Now is the time to join Merle Norman Cosmetics franchise
If you own a small business, and you believe a Merle Norman Cosmetics franchise would complement it as a store-within-a-store concept, we want to talk with you! This customizable option is ideal for businesses such as gift shops, boutiques, salons, pharmacies, jewelry stores, bridal/dress shops, or any other retail venue that’s geared toward women and looking to easily increase revenue.
If you’d like to open a stand-alone studio, we’re excited to explore the details of that with you, too. Start-up costs for a store-within-a-store business begin at $34,803, and start-up costs for a stand-alone studio begin at $60,725.