Her Majesty’s Pleasure co-owner Sara Kardan is this month’s Creative Career mom and I couldn’t be happier to share her story. Sara Kardan and her husband Jeff Armstrong opened Her Majesty’s Pleasure (a unique beauty bar located in Toronto’s lively King West neighbourhood) a year ago this month and their vision is something to be savoured and shared. During my first visit to HMP I found out that Sara was a new mom and I was immediately interested in her entrepreneurial story. Chatting with Sara felt like hanging out with an old friend; her honest and forthright attitude about being both an entrepreneur and a new mom was so refreshing that her words inspired me to write another piece on letting go of perfection and the simple act of “drowning out the noise”. After re-reading and editing this interview months later, I still feel inspired and comforted by the words of this fellow mother and girl boss who understands the delicate balance of family and business life, and who strives for happiness rather than perfection.
- First things first, let’s hear your story. How did the idea for Her Majesty’s Pleasure first come about? What gave you the idea for the name?
It’s really quite simple where it all started. I wanted to create a destination for my close friends to gather and enjoy some of our favourite pastimes together – music, manicures and martinis, but in a way that was design driven with class and sophistication. Ah yes, the name, always a popular question (laugh). To me the name represents empowerment. Not worrying about permission to do the things we really want in life, including having a drink when we get our nails done. More than that, I like taking risks and it seemed like the most unlikely name for us.
- How would you describe the overall experience that you were going for when you created the salon?
I was very inspired by the beautiful cafes and hotel lobbies I have experienced travelling, that left me a sense of being cool, calm, excited, and in a familiar yet foreign place. I wanted to design it in a way that got away from everything we have become used to with the salons we frequent. I wanted it to be an escape, even for that brief 30 minutes we manage to take back from our day as busy and modern women. We deserve it. We have complex lives. But the simple things bring us so much joy.
- What sets Her Majesty’s Pleasure apart from other salons, spas, bars and cafés?
The answer can be as obvious as saying we have a full-service mixology bar in our salon, but it’s so much more than that. Every day I’m so excited to go to HMP and see what guest dynamics unfold. At any given time you might have a high-powered marketing executive getting her weekly gels done for the boardroom, while a group of male fashion designers look on from the bar, only to be interrupted by the bachelorette dance party that has erupted in the private lounge. But my favourite moments are the besties, or the couples that come to experience our sensory environment, together. We’re going back to the roots of the salon, bathhouse or barber shop. It’s about gathering and enjoying the simple things.
- Her Majesty’s Pleasure is an instagram lover’s dream! How would you describe the design aesthetic behind this picture perfect space?
We love our Instagram followers and all of our supportive guests and friends of the business. It’s very rewarding to see the photos and comments and sharing on social media. I would say we are a mix of Paris café, New York Bar, South Beach Miami Lounge and Muskoka Cottage. All my favourite things!
- You recently partnered with Colette, adding Colette Petit Café to the space. This seems like the perfect partnership. What is the common thread that unites your two companies?
Our desire for the ultimate guest experience. It starts and ends there. Everything in between is about standards of excellence and points of differentiation. We think very highly of Colette and their team.
- I know that you and Jeff are also new parents, what was it like starting a business while also being a new mom?
It was crazy, every minute of it. I was pregnant through concept, construction and commencement. But looking back, we feel an incredible sense of accomplishment for bringing two very rewarding aspects of our lives into this world. And I think that now having gone through both, at the same time, we feel like we are capable of taking on so much more than we ever thought possible. We are thankful every day, for both, but especially our beautiful and curious little girl, Ella.
- Now that the salon is up and running, how do you juggle the demands of a growing business and a little one at home?
It’s never perfect and I think it’s important that we not strive for perfection, rather, happiness. There are days when the business does not have my full attention. And to be honest there are days when I might have to stay late and I might miss story time because my staff or customers need me. The most important thing is that as a family and as business owners we have decided what is key to maintaining balance within both. And out-side of those priorities, nothing else matters.
- As a mother and entrepreneur, what advice would you give to new mom’s hoping to start a new business?
Ignore most of the advice and distractions around you and surround yourself with people you want to be like. The reality is only you know what you want, and what you are willing to do to achieve your dreams might be a little different than the women next to you, and that’s OK. But it’s critical to be in touch with what makes you happy and to focus on that, above anything else. Business motivates you and can set you free, but family grounds you. In addition, don’t be afraid to ask for help, at work and more importantly at home. You are not the first or last woman to experience the struggle. Oh, and the first few years, it’s going to be really, really, tough and that’s Ok as well.
- Her Majesty’s Pleasure is a stunning space. How does it fit into mommy life? Do you think of it as an escape or a place to head out for an afternoon with baby?
Our business has a number of personalities to it, which makes it so rewarding as an owner. We have new moms that come and catch up during our sun-drenched mornings and early afternoons with the baby in company. But I think more importantly, we have new moms and the girls that have missed them on the scene, come and let loose, enjoy some pampering and provide a well-deserved escape from the most important job in the world.
- What are your hopes for the future of Her Majesty’s Pleasure?
Listening to our guest feedback, and getting better every day at being the most unique destination for women to experience feeling beautiful in and out. Above and beyond that, corporate expansion to big markets. If Ella is like her mom, that plan includes big cities, big lights and beaches!