Starting a business when she was just 24 was par for the course for Raluca Nicoara, owner of Blinkwash, which launched in 2008, and Arts Concept Café, a coffee house which recently entered a crowded market in Bucharest. And she is not resting on her laurels: the businesswoman intends to increase awareness of her coffee house while Blinkwash grows its number of corporate customers.
After starting her career in the media industry, Raluca Nicoara, general manager of Arts Concept Café and owner of Blinkwash, decided to set up her own business back in 2008. The reason was very simple: “I like challenges. If I remained an employee I would have had to specialize in a certain field of activity,” remembers the young entrepreneur. She adds that another reason was that she never found a job she really liked doing during her whole time as an employee. “So I decided to put into practice an old plan of mine: to run the first carwash at customers’ homes that existed on the market,” says Nicoara, of the beginning of the Blinkwash business.
Once the idea took shape and the concept and market research were ready, she started to invest in equipment, materials and staff recruitment. “From the very beginning I followed the idea to create a carwash business where the service is performed at the customer’s residence. We noticed both a need for such a service and an uncovered market niche,” says Nicoara. According to her, the key element of the business concept was to save time for her customers rather than simply wash their cars. Blinkwash became operational in the fall of 2008 when the young entrepreneur was only 24 and had both the financial resources and the courage to start the business.
As for the coffee house Arts Concept Café, the entrepreneur says that the idea to set it up came when she was teenager. “I was even thinking of working for a coffee house in order to learn how to run such a business,” says Nicoara. But this year her dream came true. As soon as she had enough money and Blinkwash had reached its maturity, she decided to launch Arts Concept Café. The concept is based on live music on a daily basis and many forms of art brought together in the same place. “I wanted to bring onto the market new fresh business concepts both for Blinkwash and Arts Concept Café. They will become profitable and will allow me to develop myself as a person and as an entrepreneur,” she says. Nicoara adds that she is likely to invest in other fields too, with her passion for starting a new business being her main driving force.
She is also very optimistic about the two businesses she owns, saying that she truly believes in their future development potential. “Their freshness is what makes me think that they will be profitable because customers are interested in improved and customized services,” adds the businesswoman.
On the topic of the main difficulties Blinkwash has faced, the entrepreneur says that many of them were technical, and so quickly solved. Plus, they had no major impact on her business. “Another problem was the lack of trust of our customers when it came to handing over their car keys. But our professionalism was the solution.” However, there was a very difficult period for Blinkwash when its team crumbled.
If she started another business, she would be more “aggressive” and attentive to each detail of her company. Like many other entrepreneurs, Nicoara has faced a lot of challenges from her two businesses. While the biggest one for Blinkwash was and still is to maintain a solid team and to give it some responsibilities, for Arts Concept Café the challenge is to give her customers exactly what she promised them: more art at a high level of quality, an appealing atmosphere and a place where they can retreat after a noisy and stressful day in Bucharest.
Although the local coffee house scene is pretty crowded at the moment in the capital, Nicoara intends to bring something new onto the market, with this strategy being her main driving force to gain market share for Arts Concept Café. As for Blinkwash’s market share, the young entrepreneur says it is difficult to estimate as the customers are generally firms with car fleets. “For a year and a half our customers have been mainly companies and fewer individuals,” adds Nicoara.
Going forward, the young entrepreneur intends to increase Blinkwash’s number of corporate customers and to manage to extend her business in a franchise system as she has wanted to do since 2009. Meanwhile for Arts Concept Café her plan is to raise awareness of the business to make it well known on the market and to have at least 300 customers a week in the coffee house. She also intends to recover the initial investment in about two years from now.