Mother & son who founded beauty business during pandemic reaping big

Ronda and Harvey Helou

COVID-19 had a big impact on us all and it seems we are yet to see the lasting effects. For mother and son, Ronda and Harvey Helou, it impacted them in many ways – good and bad. Half way through 2021, Ronda was admitted to hospital; years of stress from running her salon in Sydney’s South West had built up. She was required to undertake surgery days later.

Concerned with how her salon would continue to run, Ronda’s options were closing fast. On the day of her surgery, the news which would break many Aussie businesses flooded the hospital room, salons, hospitality venues, and similar businesses would be forced to close.

How did Harvey keep the business afloat?

The news did not land well for Ronda, a mother (and primary income source) for 3 who has been running her business since the age of 16. Harvey, a Construction Engineer at the time, was left at his mother’s bedside distraught and searching for ways to ease his mother’s stress and ensure the business would stay afloat during the prevalent global pandemic.

“There was no way we would let the business crumble. I saw my mother build-up the salon from when I was a child. I grew up in it, packing boxes and attending to phone calls. Before my HSC, we slept there because (again) we had almost lost it all,” says Harvey, 23.

Uncertain if grants would soon be available, Harvey began calling individual customers. “I would call them individually, check in on them to see how they were doing. We asked if they had been looking after their hair. We would then customise hair colour kits for them and package them up with a hair treatment my mother had been developing in her salon.”

Within a few days, Harvey and Ronda would be in a busy room of Bankstown-Lidcombe hospital, looking at photos of clients’ hair and providing virtual consultations. “We began packaging the colours with other hair care products. We had stock building up in the hospital and nurses had no idea what was happening.” Eventually, home-made videos speaking to the customised colour packages circled the web and led to more orders as restrictions continued.

How was Troya Beauty born?

Harvey and Ronda soon decided there was an opportunity to expand upon the salon, trying to turn their short-term success with the colour packages into a lasting service for clients.

“We began developing a website and speaking to suppliers. By using the website, customers around Australia would be able to go on and customise their own hair colour, add some other hair and beauty products to it, and have it delivered to their home. They would then be able to colour their hair from home, without having to visit the salon,” Harvey further said.

The website did well but issues developed, leading to Harvey taking it down temporarily. “Some colours cannot be achieved at home. We knew this already and did not offer them. But, more importantly, we didn’t want to impact salons around Australia by potentially taking work away from them. Many were already in difficult situations.” Harvey and Ronda then began speaking to suppliers, fighting to gain approval and trying to source more products.

“The beauty retail industry is difficult to break into. It is the reason many retailers aren’t approved resellers which is dangerous to consumers as they could be purchasing counterfeit stock.” With Ronda slowly recovering, and restrictions easing, they did not want to give up on the idea. Harvey began selling the limited products they had access to via social media and eBay, testing the waters to see if there was room for improvement in a competitive market.

Slowly seeing progress, they began to re-develop the website and Troya Beauty was born. “We had to build the trust of suppliers; sometimes sitting in on countless meetings and showing them what we could do. Many said no, requiring further convincing,” Harvey said

“For one particular supplier, I drove 4 hours and sat in their office until an Executive agreed to meet with me, after being rejected 3 times. In a market like this, we must do whatever it takes,” says Harvey who is now the full-time Director of Troya Beauty.

What is Troya Beauty’s go to market strategy?

With recognised brands like Dermalogica, asap, Medik8, Goldwell, NAK Hair, De Lorenzo, and more, Troya Beauty is determined to provide Aussies with a service above any other. Operating out of a warehouse in Sydney’s South West, Harvey oversees everything, staying up until the early hours of the morning and sleeping in the office before returning to work.

The newest introduction to Troya Beauty is something that Harvey and Ronda believe will separate them from many. The team have been putting the final touches on their private label – BONDED. The first product, an at-home hair treatment designed to improve upon traditional in-salon Keratin treatments, launches in the coming weeks. It is a two-step process that first involves a shampoo (which is provided), followed by the treatment.

It is used just like a hair mask (being left on for 10 minutes) and is completed by blow-drying and straightening the hair. The treatment is free of harsh chemicals (such as Formaldehyde) which traditionally plague Keratin treatments and is not tested on animals. After use, the treatment immediately reduces frizz and smoothens the hair, lasting for up to 3 months.

Where it differs from traditional Keratin treatments, is that gloves, combs, and other salon-equipment is not required to apply the treatment. With BONDED in full swing, Harvey and Ronda aim to ensure it helps women care for their hair from home whilst also being able to shop the world’s most recognised hair and beauty brands in one place; Troya Beauty.