As a group of women working towards common goals for STYLE Canada‘s brand and business, we understand the value of peer support in the workplace. So, after our last Supper Club at Soho House, we decided to bring like-minded women in business together and feature them in an ongoing series: #LeadingLadies. Learn more about #LeadingLadies Annie Lam and Shannon Giang below.
SC: If the two of you were to introduce yourselves to a group of people for the first time, what would you tell them?
FIKA: We are Shannon and Annie, sisters-in-law, matcha latté addicts, and beauty professionals driven by our passion for all things self-care. We are two girls, in love with our craft, and excited to share our positivity and chill vibes with our community. We love to be girly and enjoy anything with a good sparkle but you can also find us working in jeans and a comfy sweater because at the end of the day we choose comfort. At the end of the day, we also usually choose Cheetos and Prosecco, because, you know, balance!
SC: How would you describe Fika to a first-time customer?
FIKA: Fika means to slow down and appreciate the good things in life with friends. That is the essence of our culture here. We believe, especially in these times, people need a safe space to come and decompress while enjoying a moment of self-care. We believe in sustainability, recycling 95 per cent of our waste through Green Circle Salons. We are trying our best to support local and Canadian brands wherever we can and love working with local artisans to create our Fika Signature products.
We are a spacious, open concept studio, built in a beautiful warehouse with high ceilings, natural light, greenery, and of course our favourite colour, pink!
SC: How did you come up with the idea for your business?
FIKA: The idea of Fika was born during the height of the pandemic, when we all went into lockdown! We were given an opportunity to stop our usual hustle of working in busy downtown salons and reflect on what we were offering our clients as well as how we were prioritizing our own values. We realized that we wanted a to curate a space where we felt free to work in a more relaxed and comfortable environment that nurtured self-expression, warmth, and most importantly, community over competition.
SC: You’ve said that Fika is making the change from a business centred around vanity to a community that supports self-love through self-care – so why open a beauty salon?
FIKA: Fika Beauty is about a lifestyle. Showing ourselves self-love is an instrumental part of maintaining our mental health and we feel a great way to do that through the act of self-care. Giving yourself a few hours out of your regular schedule to treat yourself to a relaxing shampoo and scalp massage or luxurious pedicure is self-care. We are also creating a welcoming energy about showing up for yourself, whatever that looks like for you.
SC: What obstacles have you overcome as business partners to get to where you are today?
FIKA: We have been very blessed through this entire process in that everything has been very serendipitous. The biggest obstacle we faced separately was gaining the courage to jump in and do this, especially during a pandemic. Neither of us were unhappy in our previous workplaces, but when we started looking at the industry as a whole, we realized there was a lot of room for growth. We had to put our full faith in one another that we would show up ready to go all in, and we have.
SC: What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned about working with a business partner?
FIKA: Communication and trust are the pillars to a strong business relationship. We both communicate a little differently. Now that we have learned each other’s communication styles and needs, we make decisions easily, we trust openly, and we talk through issues as they arise. Never let something fester, always be honest about your feelings and needs just like in any relationship.
SC: How has COVID-19 changed the way you run your business?
FIKA: It really hasn’t! We have opened within the COVID-19 pandemic, so our studio is set up as if COVID protocols are the normal routine. We designed our salon to maximize the ability to social distance, creating a very open and airy space. We set our booking times to allow for sanitization between clients, and we created an online booking system which now has a built in COVID questionnaire. We are not a studio that had to pivot halfway through, we opened within.
SC: Are you optimistic about what’s in-store for your genre of business in a post-COVID world?
FIKA: We think COVID has set a new standard for our industry and client care. We built our business model around COVID-19 protocols, prioritizing safety, sanitization, and social distancing. We plan to continue working within these guidelines because that is and will continue to be the new normal.
Although we have created a sustainable business model within the lowered client intake numbers given social distancing rules, we look forward to growing into our space further when restrictions allow.
SC: What influenced your decision to create a product line that includes everything from tea to scrunchies, in addition to running your full-service beauty salon?
FIKA: When we decided to open Fika, it wasn’t just about opening a hair and nail studio. We are creating an entire lifestyle brand around our vision and values. Each product we introduce to the Fika Brand is about creating a moment of self-care. We understand going to the salon regularly is not feasible for everyone right now, we also want to shift the focus to acts of self-love which can also be done from home.
How lovely would it be to have a hot cup of tea, in a creamy bath, exfoliating your skin with a clean beauty, exfoliating scrub that smells like pure happiness? Pretty great right? That is self-love.
SC: Why was taking an all-natural approach important to you?
FIKA: With everything that has happened over 2020, keeping things clean, simple, and sustainable seemed more important than ever. Not only has the population endured a global pandemic, we have also started to see real effects from climate change through natural disasters, rising pollution, and more. It was no longer something we could tell ourselves was out of our control. If we can do our small part to help, then we should, and we are continuously educating ourselves on better ways to create our future products.
SC: Can you describe your offerings and what makes them special?
FIKA: We offer a spacious, calm, welcoming studio with a team of down-to-earth people just looking to help you find a moment of peace from your regular day. We specialize in advance colour techniques as well as dip nail manicures, taking education and the advancement of our craft seriously so that we can customize each appointment to a client’s specific need.
Our products are a mix of clean, beauty items handcrafted in house, or sourced through local companies. What makes us special is that we are teaching each Fika customer that they are special.
SC: What is your greatest joint-achievement of the past decade?
FIKA: Opening Fika Beauty! The community of like-minded entrepreneurs we have met and been lucky enough to work with throughout the creation of Fika has been so inspiring. We created a bath soak with Bathorium, a tea with Tease Tea, and are working on launching a candle very soon with Hush.T. We love blending our passion and creativity with the incredible talent of other local business owners.
Becoming owners has also allowed us to start to give back to our community, something so important to us both. We have hosted our first of many Fika Days with Chrysalis House (Chrysalis House is a safe and secure 25-bed shelter in Western Ottawa. It is a place where a woman can go to protect herself and her dependants from violence and abuse. In this supportive environment, a woman can focus on her personal needs and choices, as well as on her dependants’ needs.) We gave cuts and styles as well as a manicure or pedicure to women currently staying at the shelter. It was incredibly moving, and we can’t wait to continue offering our support to these women.
SC: What future goals do you have for Fika?
FIKA: We want to build a team and teach them they can be successful and have a work life balance while maintaining their health and well-being. This is also something we hope to educate on a larger platform in the future. We want to continue to grow our lifestyle brand, we have some exciting new product launches coming up for 2021. We want to continue to nurture relationships within our industry and spread the message that sustainability can be simple, beauty is not one dimensional, and it is about community, not competition.
SC: If there’s one message you want your brand to send, what would it be?
FIKA: It is not about looking like everyone else, it is about looking and feeling your best self, whatever that looks like for you!
SC: We’ve got to know – what’s your favourite product?
FIKA: It is so hard to choose because we have added so many to our Fika Fam recently. Right now, we are absolutely obsessed with our Signature Fika Scrub. It is a gorgeous exfoliating sugar scrub blended with our signature ‘happiness in a bottle’ scent of grapefruit and bergamot. It leaves your skin feeling soft, hydrated, and with a natural glow. Our guests can’t get enough, it has sold out three times!