After 35 years in the power industry, Linda Hellings' husband, William, was actively searching for new opportunities when, in 1989, he met a prosthetic engineer at a marketing seminar in Dallas. William, who's been a fitness addict for most of his life, was immediately intrigued by a product the engineer designed. The device, The Facial-Flex, was originally intended to treat facial burn patients, but William saw the potential to expand it to other markets.
"He immediately recognized it as something special," said Linda Hellings, CEO and President of Facial Concepts, Inc. "The device affects all the muscles in the neck, face and chin and William saw an opportunity to bring it to the cosmetic market. We ended up buying the rights to the product, brought the molds back to Philadelphia, PA, and began producing the product. To cut down on costs, we outsourced manufacturing and marketing and worked the first couple of years out of our home."
Linda, who's originally from Wisconsin, utilized the skills she developed working in sales and consulting for a computer manufacturer to help grow their new business. Nevertheless, as she shared, with any new business, there were plenty of challenges they faced along their journey.
"Back then, it was a struggle to find ways to market our product," she said. "We didn't have the Internet at our disposal. We had to utilize traditional marketing techniques to reach and educate our customers. Catalogs were big and we took advantage of advertising in several of them. We got into a self-care, women's and airline magazines. That grew our business tremendously. Another challenge was working out of our house. We had boxes everywhere, there were fax machines and semi-trucks pulling up to the back of our house. It was something else."
After approximately ten years in business, Linda and William reached a point where they felt comfortable not being directly involved in the day-to-day operations. They were still the owners, but wanted to take a step back and enjoy some time off. They spent the next 15 years cruising up and down the U.S. east coast on a 50ft sailboat. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. In the case of Linda and William, it was more than just their sailing adventure.
"About three years ago, we became aware that the new management wasn't taking care of the business," she said. "If we wanted to turn things around, we had to get involved and work the company back into shape. We were living in Palm Coast at the time and made the decision to move the company from Pennsylvania to Florida. We first discovered Palm Coast after living on our boat in St. Augustine for a few winters and absolutely fell in love with the area."
After relocating the business and taking over as President, Linda got to work renewing relationships with HSN and QVC and worked on expanding their global reach. Having sold over 1,000,000 units, Facial Concepts' footprint, with the help of distributors, extends throughout the United States and Europe and will soon be in Mexico. They've recently teamed up with Office Divvy, a co-working space that provides additional professional services, as a way to integrate into the community. With the launch of a new website, Facial Concepts is poised for even more growth in the coming years.
Looking ahead, Linda, who loves the challenges associated with running her business, is focused on building and strengthening the relationships they've worked hard to develop. Once they get the business back to where they want it to be, they'll evaluate future options at that point.
What advice does Linda have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Consider partnering with an organization like Office Divvy as a way to outsource as much as you can," she said. "We outsource everything. We have no employees and it make things a lot easier. Also, don't be afraid of failure. I tried many businesses before I met William. None of them worked out. Over the years, if you keep at it, you'll figure things out."