This week in our Love Local interview series, we're talking about building a brand that delivers a unique quality experience with Henna4You. Grab a notebook: this one features some golden tips and tricks from a seasoned entrepreneur!

It’s Monday morning, before 9:00 AM. Bhupi Rajput rolls in for our interview all rockstar-like: sunglasses still on, coffee in hand, and wheely suitcase behind her. She’s running on less than 6 hours sleep, having arrived home from Toronto’s iconic Pride Festival at “half past eleven” the night before.

This is a pretty typical scene for Bhupi mid-summer. It’s Henna season, after all.

On the Road Again

Toronto’s Pride Festival wasn’t the only event Bhupi’s business, Henna4You, was involved in this weekend - having just finished an event at the Univerisity of Waterloo Canada Day Festival and the Stouffville Strawberry Festival the day before. Is this typical for Henna season? “Almost every weekend,” she said. “From May 24 until October, we do about 40 events.” And that doesn’t even count birthdays, weddings, and corporate events! Her husband Sanj jokes that they never see her during the summer. Travelling as far as Ottawa and Montreal for events that vary from Comic Con (MontrealNiagara Falls and Ottawa) to the Yoga Conference and Show, Bhupi is making a name for herself and her Cambridge based business all over Canada.

Though she admits it’s incredibly draining, she comes by the travelling bug honestly. (Sidecar: you should know Bhupi is English, and you should read her answers in an accent because it’s a lot more fun that way). Born in Africa, Bhupi first started her business in England after learning henna in India, while backpacking through Europe. What was it like starting the business over again in Canada? “I had to start from scratch, build my client list and my reputation all over again.” With a degree in business management, and a background in website development and marketing, Bhupi definitely had some advantages in re-establishing her business again the right way. So how has the business evolved? “It’s changed so much since then: in England, it was more about money and establishing my reputation. Now, it’s about building relationships and a stronger community for my boys to grow up in.” So what makes this city so worth coming back to, I asked her. “Cambridge is my home. When we first moved here I remember walking in downtown Galt and feeling like I was back in Europe… just like the countryside in England.”

Crafting a Distinct Experience

I have an advantage and some background on Henna4You. I’ve already gathered some information on Henna4You while writing her nomination for YWCA Cambridge’s Women of Distinction awards. From this, I know that in an unregulated industry, Bhupi makes choices that reflect quality and high standards not because they’re required, but because she believes in them. Her standards for hiring staff are high, with all kinds of certifications, a love for art, and outstanding people and customer service skills. “We’re professionals,” Bhupi said. “I want a staff that’s able to work at corporate events, with police checks, first aid, everything.” Bhupi takes the same attitude when it comes to her products, all organic (which cost substantially more and are difficult to source) in order to guarantee her client’s safety, and a quality experience.

Building a Brand

Henna4You_logoShowing up and being present with clients in the midst of such a crazy travel schedule must be incredibly taxing. So what keeps her driven? “It’s that warm fuzzy feeling seeing people so happy and excited… the hugs and blessings I get make all the hard work worthwhile.” Bhupi talked about how it can be difficult to keep planning and growing the vision while being the one in charge of keeping all the balls up in the air. “I have to stay up to date on the latest celebrity trends, like Rihanna’s latest design, or Beyonce’s. Not to mention there are always new festivals and events to research.” Obviously, it’s impossible for Bhupi to be at every event. So how does she make sure her staff are delivering that quality experience? “I don’t just train them on how to do henna, but the history of it, too. I teach them about Indian culture, the significance, and the symbolism. They are ambassadors of my artistry, and that’s very important to me."

Tools for Staying on Top of Everything at Once

Full disclosure: Bhupi works 10 feet away from me. So close that I can sometimes hear the Bollywood music streaming in her headphones. On top of holding down the fort full time for Henna4You, Bhupi is also the office manager at The Marketing Multi-tool: otherwise and affectionately known as the “Naggin’ Dragon.” How is it possible you have time to do everything? I asked. “Staying organized is critical. And by organized, I mean a work in chaos,” she laughed. “I have one large calendar and a Google calendar with all my events, business and family stuff in one place. I can never book something without working around all of those things simultaneously.”

With a team that works remotely, how do you ensure good communication? “Trello, of course,” she said, referencing a collaboration and team management tool that we use at The Marketing Multi-tool as well. And trust me: once you go Trello, you don’t go back. “It allows me to keep track of all the events, staff schedules, everything at once. If there’s an issue with parking at a venue, if we need to make a staff change, it saves us sending lots of emails and texts back and forth. It’s also the best way to ensure everyone’s in the conversation.”

Crazy for Community

When I asked what’s been her greatest success or source of business pride, she didn’t hesitate when she told me community. “Networking has been so helpful. You get so much information that way, and a direct line to the right contact who’s usually happy to help. Referrals have also been the major foundation for the business.”

Bhupi’s client base is loyal, and frequently seek her out at festivals. They even plan their events around her schedule, or make special vacation trips out of coming to see her! When her clients come to Cambridge from out of town, what are a few recommendations you give for them? “There’s also so much greenery and trails for hiking, and I always recommend yoga at Moksha Yoga Cambridge.” For food? “Definitely Monigram Coffee RoastersThe Farmer’s Market is great on the weekends, and Blackshop for lunch or dinner. I always recommend local-based business. If the money stays in the community, it keeps everyone employed, and businesses and families strong.”

Caring for Charities

“Building community within my charity work has been one of my biggest successes,” Bhupi said, referencing her work with local groups such as LangsYWCA Cambridge, and The Arthritis Society. “We can offer a significant discount in lieu of sponsorship, and everyone benefits,” a practice she recommends to all business owners. In particular, Bhupi's proud of her work with HopeSpring, doing henna for terminal cancer patients. “They’ve gone through so much, and I get to give them an experience where they get rid of their wigs and take their power back and bring them some peace. That’s an honour, and a privilege” Bhupi said.

That sounds like a great attitude to have about your work, doesn’t it? To get the full Bhupi experience, you can book her or find out more about Henna4You on her website.


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