by Michael Abbey
I dropped in on Casandra and Ovidiu Haprian to discuss Melli, their organic cosmetics store at Lansdowne. I was greeted by an enthusiastic pair of entrepreneurs committed to a mix of quality offerings and satisfied clientele. The Haprians are well travelled in Canada. The lease in Ottawa was signed while in Toronto, having “read a lot about the Glebe, actually most of Canada. Lansdowne is an especially beautiful place that needs a store such as ours.” The establishment is state-of-the-art, with a European look and feel reminiscent of a stroll along the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
They have been open a few months and are already tuning and refining their offerings and services to cater to their existing and ever-growing customer base. Their brand uses only exquisite natural and organic ingredients, supported by Casandra’s research and a wealth of experience as a professional biochemist. They took over three years to develop and formulate more than 500 highly performant organic beauty products that are today manufactured in their Riverside South lab here in Ottawa. Raw goods that come together to make their product line are from everywhere, reaching out to local vendors as much as possible. They are most interested in what goes into their merchandise rather than its origin, an approach that ensures the best of the best.
The packaging and their approach to selling are both friendly to the environment. Their deodorant, to mention one of many, is elegantly packaged in a richly coloured medium paper stock with a string tie, which is simple and effective. It is a paste-to-powder offering, lasting as long as 48 hours.
Casandra and Ovidiu believe that once people adopt one of their products they will never go back to what they may have been using before finding Melli. This intrigued me. I wondered if more traditional products (non-Melli), though effective in the short term, may indeed have long-term undesirable side effects.
Their wares are warmly received by clients, both old and new. Ovidiu mentioned that there are surges of traffic through the store at unpredictable times, hinting at their growing popularity. Sunday is their busiest day, with the majority of their customers between 30 and 55. Students get a 20 per cent discount.
“What is there for the guys?” I asked. “Shaving cream, hand cream, shampoo and more, naturally, Michael!” said Casandra.
Melli is derived from μέλι, the Greek word for honey. Their website at www.themelli.com highlights a plethora of services, from manicures to a visit to their beauty lounge, on your own or with friends or colleagues.
Success at Lansdowne has accelerated their expansion plans, with an eye to George Street in the Byward market in the new year. A move into the cosmopolitan Montreal market on Rue Ste-Catherine is planned for 2018 as well. The store in Mississauga is popular with lots of walk-in traffic, which is a large portion of their existing business. They are committed to the retail business, though they do see a niche for their line in trendy boutique hotels if feasible in the future. They are not planning any wholesale initiatives that would lead to third-party sellers of their goods, as they believe that would end up increasing prices to their retail consumers.
“We have a program for makeup artists; people have weddings with makeup needs and they can use our facilities.” Their business team is eager to work with new or existing entrepreneurs to take them from start-up to established players in the industry. I found that unique because Casandra and Ovidiu, though wanting to expand their own business, are also keen to assist others to do the same.
Women and men in the makeup space can test drive Melli products for a monthly fee, with assistance from Melli personnel, and kickstart their own commercial initiatives. “We bring artists in … it’s an introduction to Melli, and their access to our product with their monthly fee helps us all develop business and move organic products. As well as the space, the monthly fee approach allows artists to get started without massive investment. We give them 30 per cent off for products they may use outside our store.” Casandra and Ovidiu can adapt to just about any request and are gaining ground with a new twist to the corporate party, Melli-style. Melli is well positioned on the internet, the contact page offering a way for the consumer and potential investor to reach out to them in the blink of an eye.
Casandra and Ovidiu bring an eastern European enthusiasm to everything they say and do. The look and feel of their store and their commitment to growing a health-conscious line of products speak to their passion for what they do.
Michael Abbey is a retired high-tech professional and bridge enthusiast who writes about business for the Glebe Report. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Prefer Majors.
100 Marché Way
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Mon–Fri: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sat: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sun: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.