Founder and MD of The Australasian College Broadway, Maureen Houssein-Mustafa is a straight-talking business woman with a desire to make a difference. What you see is what you get. It is these qualities that have propelled her to success and firmly cemented her position as a key player in the beauty industry. She shares her story with Jessica Stanic.
It is clear when you first meet Maureen that she is a women respected by her peers, her staff and students. She not only commands respect but delivers it back in spades. Living by the philosophy, “treat others as you would like to be treated and you can never go wrong,” Maureen has tirelessly campaigned for student rights over the years, seeking to improve the standard of beauty education in this country and equipping the next generation of students with the skills they need to survive in the workforce. Not your typical entrepreneur by any means, Maureen is more intent on making a difference than making money.
SHAPING THE INDUSTRY
“There are no shortcuts to anything worthwhile”
Maureen first opened The Australasian College Broadway in 1994 with the goal of establishing a beauty college known for quality training. Starting out with an initial investment of $1,600, the College now turns over in excess of $8 million, with up to 750 students, both domestic and international. It is a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) offering qualifications in nails, beauty, makeup and hair. It was the first in the industry to be accredited through VETAB (Vocational Educational Training Accreditation Board) and the first private RTO to be awarded the prestigious Training Provider of the Year award in 2000 by the NSW Department of Education and Training. Maureen has achieved tremendous success since opening the College in 1994, taking things slowly and conquering one battle at a time.
Here she explains: “We started as the Australasian College of Nail Technology and we grew and developed that. We then went on to makeup, then beauty and then hair. We made sure we focused on the domestic market first before we cracked international. Everything we have planned to do has come to fruition because a lot of time and effort has gone into it.”
Not one to mince her words, Maureen believes they are pioneers of the industry. “We lead while others follow,” she proclaims. So how have they achieved this? “Through sheer determination, not taking no for an answer and working damn hard,” says Maureen.
IT’S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY
“We sell education, not money”
From the get go, Maureen is quick to point out that her main focus is education and not making money. She strongly believes that once you take the focus away from what your core business is, you dilute your energy and success. “We sell education. We don’t sell products. We are not in it for the sole purpose of making money.”
The message couldn’t be clearer. Maureen is a passionate woman with strong beliefs that filter down through to her staff and even the students. General manager Janice explains it best. “We have a strong belief in supporting people. It’s not enough to take people’s money. It’s about giving them the skills they need so when they walk out of this place, not only do they have the references, but the skills and know-how to survive in the workforce. From day one they know what they are doing.”
It is this desire to ensure students leave the College with the best possible prospects that led Maureen to develop the ‘Beauty on a Budget’ concept. Purely based on developing skills rather than making a profit for the business, the College offers free beauty treatments to the general public. Anyone can get a free manicure, pedicure, haircut, facial, wax, for the bargain basement price of $0. (Although be warned, there is a waiting list!) So what’s the catch? “There is none,” says Maureen. “The more treatments you do, the better you get. It’s as simple as that.”
“Your most valuable asset is your staff”
Part of what makes a business so successful is the staff comprising it, says Maureen. ”When we have an asset in our home and it’s valuable we insure it. So why wouldn’t we do the same for our employees?”
It all comes back to the “treat others as you would like to be treated” philosophy. Maureen is loyal to her staff and they are loyal back to her. Maureen’s general manager is a shining example of this philosophy.
“Janice’s is a beautiful story,” explains Maureen. “She started as a temp and is still with us 15 years later and she is now the general manager.” That, in a nutshell, is what the College is all about. “We are very big in growing people,” she says. “Our staff get a lot of experience through a variety of different roles. Everyone here is multi-skilled.”
If you look after your staff, they will in turn, look after you and your business. It is this principle that will ensure the business survives into the next generation, says Maureen.
“Every good planner has a succession plan. A lot of businesses only think about a succession plan until they are ready to sell, but it is important to be prepared, to know your business will be in safe hands when you hand it over.”
“Treat others as you would like to be treated and you can never go wrong”
While Maureen is an astute business woman who has successfully lifted the standards of education in the beauty industry and built a thriving business, at the heart of it all is her desire to give back to the community. She is heavily involved in charity work, but it is not something she likes to draw attention to. “This is not something I like to talk about freely,” she explains. “It’s a private thing. I don’t want any accolades; it’s not about getting brownie points. It’s simply about making a difference.”
The College is currently involved in a mentoring program in partnership with the Leichhardt Police, working with troubled youth and giving them the skills they need to make a change for the better. Girls are given the opportunity to complete a beauty course at the College, learning how to do manicures, pedicures and makeup; as well as learning life skills such as the best interview techniques and how to write a CV.
The program is something close to Maureen’s heart, and she urges other businesses to get involved in the community, and to think beyond the business.
“I strongly believe that all businesses should generate about 10 percent of their time or money to helping others. At the end of the day it’s about being a decent human being. Giving because it’s the right thing to do.”
“When in doubt, always tell the truth”
Having already accomplished so much, Maureen is looking to the future and investing in her next venture.
She freely discusses her plans, which range from selling to expanding the business.“Ultimately it is now ready for sale. This is the next phase. This comes in consultation with staff, with our succession plan already in place. I am looking for someone who would continue on the dream and the goal I set out to achieve.”
It seems the natural next step for Maureen who has achieved everything she set out to do and is looking forward to the next phase of her life.
However, she concedes that there is always room for growth in the business. “If I wasn’t to leave I would want to expand the College. Get more courses, and expand into other states. I want to become a higher education provider within three years, and a university within 10 years.
“I have been working hard to get to this level. I have planned it. This is where I want to be.”
For more information about the Australasian College Broadway, please visit www.australasiancollege.com.au
Did you know?
The company logo depicts nails atop the Opera House, combining beauty with an iconic Australian landmark. Maureen explains: “When we commissioned for our logo we wanted it to be Australian. In those days Ken Done was big, so we had the Opera House with fingernails and it was very funky and Australian and us. When you see golden arches you think McDonalds, so we wanted our Opera House and our nails to be known for quality training, and I am very happy to say that we accomplished that.”