The Hairforce â€“ Lice Assassins is one of the businesses supported by the Business & IP Centre, during both start-up and growth phase. Set up in 2006 by Dee Wright, the business provides a unique nit and head lice clearing service using technology that dehydrates the nits and head lice by controlled heated air.
I found out about the Hairforce when Dee applied to join our Innovating for Growth programme. I think the Hairforce service is unique and innovative, as it provides an effective solution to a known problem. As Dee states, the nit and head lice problem in the UK is significant with over 50% of all children catching it annually.
Parents spend a lot of money without getting very far and are highly frustrated by this. They claim that nit and head lice products donâ€™t work, delivering an over 80% failure rate. In contrast, the innovative technology â€“ the LouseBusterâ„¢ - used by the Hairforce delivers a highly effective treatment quickly.
The Hairforce technology
Dee has been using the resources of the Business & IP Centre since the early stages of setting up her business. Three years ago, she got a grant to examine the viability of franchising. She commissioned a franchising partner and successfully franchised in 2010.
Rasheed Ogunlaru is her mentor and recommended that she apply for Innovating for Growth, which provides high quality business and intellectual property advice and support services to help existing small businesses in London innovate and grow.
After being accepted onto Innovating for Growth in April 2013, Dee had a number of one-to-one advisory sessions with our expert partners and received support on evalutating her routes to growth as well as advice on how to approach her different target markets and strengthen her value proposition and customer appeal. It was really interesting to follow Dee during the programme and observe her progress.
The Hairforce growth business model is based on the franchising concept. At the moment there are six Hairforce Lounges and one Rapid Reponse Unit. However, the franchise model is not growing as fast as Dee wants, because she finds hard to convert enquiries about franchising to sales. Most of the potential franchisees that are enthusiastic about the business do not have the money to buy the franchise.
Our experts recommended that Dee should look for sources of finance to support her potential franchisees who are interested in the business but do not have the necessary financial resources. They also gave her advice to collaborate with people, who are more interested in the business concept rather than the service delivery, to help in sales.
As a member of the Innovating for Growth project team, I did research work for Dee and helped her identify the areas where her potential customers are located, providing her with contact lists of target markets in order to promote her services and products.
Following the advice she received during the programme, Dee is in the process of re-designing and re-structuring her website and promotional material, to be more clear and appealing to her different target markets by separating the service delivery message from the business opportunity message.
She is also in the process of meeting new business clients for collaboration, following the business contacts she got from market research at the Centre.
Best of luck to Dee as she continues on her journey!
Irini Efthimiadou on behalf of the Business & IP Centre