The inspiration to start a business can come from many places: to showcase a unique skill set, to make more money, to have the freedom of being your own boss. But starting a business to simply make people feel special is a feat that many seek out and that also can be difficult to accomplish. The Sparkle Bar, a makeup studio in Scottsdale, Arizona—through hard work and intention—began with this exact mission in mind. In this week’s episode of Behind the Review, we hear how The Sparkle Bar makes their in-studio experience so special and what other businesses can learn from it.
Alex Bradberry, founder and owner of The Sparkle Bar, focuses on the feel-good customer experience above all else. “It’s about building that culture. We really believe that it’s just like the Maya Angelou quote: ‘People may forget what you say, they might forget what you do, but they will never forget how you made them feel.’ And it is with that principle that we lead at The Sparkle Bar.”
And that shines through with its customers. This week’s reviewer, Kimberly Vickers-Martin, is a retired flight attendant who typically loves reviewing her travel experiences, but one specific encounter inspired her to leave a Yelp review for a completely different type of business. Vickers-Martin visited the makeup studio before a wedding and was impressed by every step of the process—from the original booking to her post-wedding reception glow, where her “fabulous face lasted well into the night.”
While a top-notch customer experience and lasting impression are important parts of running a successful business, there is another very important element that Bradberry shared: creating a space that celebrates diversity and uniqueness.
“We use a number of products to ensure we have something for everyone,” Bradberry said. “What makes people feel super comfortable is when they see that we carry an extensive amount of shades. We want everyone to know that we have something for you. As a woman of color, a black woman, I have had experiences where my makeup wasn’t the right shade or matched appropriately. It was with that in mind that we made it a point to ensure we source all products so that would never happen in the studio.”
Here are a few exemplary takeaways from episode three:
Creating an energetic and positive culture goes a long way—from your staff to your customers—it emanates
Celebrating diversity and uniqueness is always a winning strategy
When your business is a service, rather than a product, focus on the way you make people feel—they’re much more likely to remember you
Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Bradberry and Vickers-Martin, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.
Behind the Review, episode 3 transcript It’s how you make them feel
KIMBERLY: It started before I ever walked in—it started with my first interaction. They have a link that you can book; that’s important. They’re informative with that link and if you don’t get your question answered you call, so I got Charlie, she answered my question.
EMILY: That’s Kimberly, a former flight attendant and resident of Scottsdale, Arizona. I connected with her after reading her review for a place called The Sparkle Bar, a makeup and beauty studio in the heart of old town Scottsdale. The business page caught my attention because not only did they have tons of 5-star reviews, but they didn’t have a single 1-star review AND so many of the reviews were saying the same thing. Here’s Kimberly’s review.
KIMBERLY: The Sparkle Bar is cute, clean, and vibrant. There is a water and coffee tea bar after you’ve checked in. Everyone here is full of energy and nice. That’s a great thing because Scottsdale is full of gorgeous people and it can be intimidating. … I had a fabulous face that lasted well into the night with dancing and post-wedding reception fun minus the heavy made up feeling. I had so many compliments on my look. 10 stars all the way. I truly wish I could have The Sparkle Bar as my glam squad every time I have somewhere to go. This is now my go-to for make up on special occasions.
EMILY: Everyone here is full of energy and nice. Kimberly’s review, and her memory of the Sparkle Bar is all about how it made her feel, about the connections she had with multiple employees, and the entire experience from start to finish that wowed her with consistency. Like many people experiencing The Sparkle Bar, Kimberly was getting ready to go to a big event—her friend’s wedding—and even with a last-minute booking, the red carpet was rolled out, and Kimberly felt pampered from start to finish.
KIMBERLY: The Sparkle Bar, if I remember, she had the door open, and I had just spent $75 getting my hair done, and now it’s becoming a mess, and she said we can fix that too. They make you feel like they’re going to help you. It’s a little intimidating at my age to be getting your hair and makeup done, and they made me feel like I was one of them, and it was nice. So they walked me in, I got coffee, they sat me down, I calmed down, and they just walked you through everything. I love the fact that it was so welcoming and professional from the get.
EMILY: This place sounds like an absolute dream and an exceptional example in customer service. I was excited to connect with Alex, the owner, and find out how that culture and consistency is executed by her team. So let’s just dive right in! When I asked Alex how she was able to create so many of these positive and consistent experiences, she made the answer sound simple, when in reality the daily work and consistency in execution is very hard.
ALEX: It’s definitely about building that culture where we really believe that it’s just like Maya Angelou’s quote: “People may forget what you say, they might forget what you do, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” And it is with that principle that we lead at The Sparkle Bar. It doesn’t matter who you are when you come into that space, you are everything. And so we really focused on making sure that everyone feels seen.
EMILY: I’m going to go deeper with Alex on this in a moment because ensuring everyone feels seen, one of Sparkle Bar’s core tenants, is a great takeaway and lesson in itself. But, before we dive into that, let’s first talk about that quote: people will never forget how you made them feel. To truly embody this involves going beyond the customers. Going beyond the people you think are watching. It’s making sure that everyone who interacts with the business feels this positivity.
ALEX: We really do believe that it is an experience end-to-end that from that first interaction, it is important that we are pleasant and that people can feel the smile on the other side of the phone, that this can be an intimidating experience, and to make it as comfortable as possible. We are so lucky to be able to do makeup for a living and to be able to share in special moments like weddings and anniversaries and birthdays and job interviews. So it’s truly an honor. And I think that we’ve made it a point to ensure that our team knows that and just treats every single phone call and individual person with dignity and respect, from the second that that call is made. And then it carries on from when they come into the door, whether it’s the mailman, the garbage person, a client—we say hello to everyone, offer everyone water, you know, it’s important to make eye contact and just make everyone feel very seen. I’m sure you’ve experienced walking into a store or perhaps somebody doesn’t greet you and how that might make you feel. And so it really was about this all encompassing sensory experience from the sound you heard to the smell in the air to the conversation in the studio—all of it is part of what The Sparkle Bar is.
EMILY: I want to acknowledge two really important things Alex shared. She feels it’s an honor to take part in those special moments of their customers’ lives, and impresses upon her team that no matter who is interacting with The Sparkle Bar—customer, mailman, or garbage man—they should be treated with respect and made to feel seen, all with positive energy. When you take the core principles of your business and use them to lead but also apply them to every aspect of your business, they become second nature. The Sparkle Bar IS customer service. It’s about giving attention to each and every one of their clients, and it is a focus on leaving them with a positive feeling. Let’s get right to Alex. I asked why she opened The Sparkle Bar.
ALEX: To create a space that celebrated diversity and uniqueness and those individual features that make you uniquely you. So it has been this labor of love, and I’m so honored to be able to create a space that is inclusive and celebrates individuality through makeup. In cosmetics, it can feel exclusive or like it’s not for everyone, and we absolutely take that and reframe it. What we do with The Sparkle Bar is make beauty feel approachable and fun, and we celebrate that and it should feel accessible to everyone. We take a luxury experience and make it fun. We celebrate you. We remind you that this is supposed to make you feel good and that you should use a product to enhance your natural beauty but that this is really a reflection of self care. We like to say that the sparkle in us recognizes the sparkle in you, and for us it’s really just doing that. Helping people feel good.
EMILY: Making people feel confident and positive about themselves doesn’t happen with a few compliments and fresh tea. Alex shared that so much of her business’s culture is about representation and how making clients comfortable isn’t just about what you say, but in her line of business, what products you carry. As a makeup and beauty business, it’s important that Sparkle Bar carries a variety of products, including high-end options and is knowledgeable about those products. Kimberly actually mentioned it without me even bringing it up when she was speaking to their expertise.
KIMBERLY: There’s high-end product. You have Christian Dior kind of product, Chanel. It depends on your skin and they will ask you, do you have sensitive skin? Does your skin turn red? Do you have acne-prone skin? Do you have dry skin? So they make sure to go that through the process—they’re not using something that’s going to reden you, they’re very detailed.
EMILY: But the variety of products aren’t just there to impress clients and provide options, it’s to actually serve a diverse range of clients.
ALEX: We use amazing products and carry a number of lines so that we have something for everyone. So when you step into the studio, you’ll see an array of products. Chanel, Dior, AJ Crimson. We use a number of products to ensure we have something for everyone. I think that what makes people feel super comfortable is that when they step into the studio, you can see that we carry an extensive amount of shades because we want everyone to know that we have something for you. As a woman of color, a black woman, I have had experiences where my makeup, maybe wasn’t the right shade or matched appropriately, and it was with that in mind that we made it a point to ensure we source product from everywhere to ensure that would never happen in the studio. So we do really make sure that we’ve got a finish, a product for everyone to ensure that we make everyone feel comfortable so that they feel and look as glam as they possibly can.
EMILY: Alex has felt out of place while getting her makeup done before. Sparkle Bar not only addresses that moment in her memory but works to ensure that other women have a completely different and positive experience BECAUSE they chose Sparkle Bar. Something worth noting is that while Alex’s lived experience brought her to this place of inclusivity when it comes to products and representation, you too can think from the perspective of your diverse customer needs. When you began your business you were addressing a need, right? Identifying something you were good at, and that you thought there was a market for. You had your target demographic in mind. Over time this may have shifted or evolved, and you may even recall a handful of times that a certain customer’s needs weren’t entirely met because you hadn’t yet thought of them. One example would be brick-and-mortar businesses and accessibility. If you’ve never been in a wheelchair or had a friend or family member in a wheelchair, you may not think about accessibility when you walk into a new restaurant or store. Something that could open your eyes to this experience, even if you never have a personal interaction with wheelchairs, is having children. When you move through the world with a stroller, you better understand those in a wheelchair. I’ve had a handful of business owners share this example with me before. Once they had children and started to see the world through the lens of stroller accessibility, they better addressed accessibility in their brick and mortar.
Considering the diversity of your customers, or anticipating the needs of certain groups and then incorporating them into your business, can help you not only provide a more intentional and connected experience but also become the more elevated option from your competition.
The last thing I want to touch on this week is the why behind Kimberly’s online reviews and Alex’s mentality when it comes to reviews—how she uses them in her business.
KIMBERLY: I really like supporting the local flavor, if you will. When I write a review, I try to keep in mind what somebody might be looking for in my review. I really think when you get something like The Sparkle Bar, you know, It’s kind of a fun, different sort of thing to have, you know, just to have a makeup place. And so I just try to go from how professional they were, how courteous were they, point A to point B to point C, and just try to cover it. And my reviews are sometimes really long, but I don’t know, I try to think of it from the business standpoint to the consumer standpoint.
EMILY: Supporting local flavor and supporting businesses through reviews is a theme our reviewers will share time and time again in these episodes. But Kimberly also mentioned The Sparkle Bar having that “something special,” that “something different,” and those little unique details motivated her sharing. Kimberly also mentioned that she thinks of things from the business standpoint and the consumer standpoint. The best reviewers, in my opinion, will share a similar sentiment. Running a business is HARD, and if you’re going to be critical, it’s important that you do it in a way that is constructive as well. Alex fortunately hasn’t had to deal with a lot of negative reviews online, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t still engage with and utilize her reviews to market her business.