Vas Maniatis proves that a person truly can learn more from their failures than they can from their successes. Although he has started several successful businesses he says he owes his success today to the failures he had along the way.
"I learned that there are variables beyond my control that I really can't foresee or prevent," said Maniatis, whose current company Seva Beauty Salon is an eyebrow threading salon that is now opening franchises in select Walmart stores. "I learned to try to control as much of your own destiny as you can with the decisions you make and the partnerships you forge. My biggest lesson is try to control all the variables you can."
By controlling those variables, Maniatis has been able to turn one failure into three other successful businesses, but perhaps his greatest success has come as a result of partnering with Walmart, a business that traditionally makes small business owners cringe. Today, through his partnership with Walmart, Maniatis now operates more than 25 locations in eight states with a hope to double that number in the next year.
Maniatis started this business journey before graduating from college. While at Indiana University, Maniatis began a chartered bus company to help students get back and forth between the school and Chicago.
"Up until then, the only choice for travel was a Greyhound, which was a nine-hour bus ride for what should be a two-and-a-half hour trip and it was expensive," said Maniatis, who is from the Chicago area. "I came up with an idea to charter buses and I branded it. That was my first little venture — it paid my bills in college."
Maniatis followed that successful business venture with a move into the 900 phone number business, which was just starting. Shortly after establishing 1-900 For Jobs and 1-900 For Rents, Ameritech, the company who had started to sell the numbers, decided they were going to get out of the business and Maniatis learned the other side of the spectrum when it comes to starting a business. Following his own advice of controlling all the variables, Maniatis soon established and sold two successful national rental- finding businesses, but a concept he had seen in the late 1990s continued to resonate with him.
"While my current wife and I were dating, she went to get her eyebrows threaded and I had not really known about this concept," Maniatis said. "She took me to a shop on Devon Street in Chicago and I witnessed this ancient concept of brow shaping and brow removal. At this point I thought this is an amazing concept, so I tucked it away in the back of my mind as something that at some point could be turned into a business model."
After returning from a vacation he had taken after selling his second real estate business, Maniatis felt that the timing was right to give this business venture a chance in 2007. Feeling that he could improve on the current model of eyebrow threading that had began to open up around malls, Maniatis began to seek out the partner he needed to put his plan into place.
"I looked for a new kind of partnership that would give us the exposure, I wanted one that also offered one-stop shopping convenience as well," said Maniatis. "So since Walmart is the largest retailer in the world, we decided to take our concept to Walmart. When I pitched it to them, they had absolutely no interest. I really worked on them for the next eight months telling them how it is a really great idea, but they really weren't buying in."
That persistence, combined with a need to fill space in a soon-to-open Indianapolis-area Walmart gave Maniatis 400 square feet to implement his idea. The new business model which Maniatis had for eyebrow threading came to fruition in 2008 when the first Simply Eyebrows opened. The store turned out to be a success as nearly 4 years after opening, it services 1,000 people a week.
"In late 2009, a couple Walmart executives flew into Chicago to meet with us about expanding the brand concept and coming up with something that would allow us to grow into the Walmart infrastructure," said Maniatis. "We wound up working with the Walmart team to expand Simply Eyebrows and incorporate other spa services. We rebranded Simply Eyebrows in Walmart to Seva and at the same time kept the Simply Eyebrows name at our other franchise stores, including ones at Meijer Supermarkets and at the airport in Indianapolis."
Although Maniatis has been able to experience success as a result of lessons learned through each stop on his entrepreneurial journey, he believes that the true key to success starts with passion and persistence.
"Persistence is absolutely fundamental, because first of all you need to truly believe in the business," said Maniatis. "I absolutely, positively, even to this day believe in my business model. Persistence is a natural if you believe in something. It is something that is absolutely essential."
Using that persistence has allowed Maniatis to experience both the good and bad of starting a business, which has given him the ability to have the potential of failure that all businesses face into perspective.
"I would say my overall advice is to just do it, jump in there and do it," said Maniatis. "If you watch Steve Jobs speech at Stanford, the way I interpret it is that we are all born and we are all going to die. So the only chance we have is during that time period to make a mark. You couldn't get a better defining concept than that. Just do it and what do you have to lose? Money, that is no big deal."