Beauty

The Beauty Industry Is Finally Back And Caroline Hirons Is Helping

With salon doors open for business from Monday, we find out how beauty industry veteran Caroline Hirons has been helping firms to stay afloat. Plus, we hear from hair and beauty specialists eager to see you back in person

By Rhea Cartwright

7 April 2021
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fter a year of closures in which the beauty industry has been decimated, the Prime Minister has confirmed that beauty services will officially be allowed to reopen on Monday 12 April.

For those within the beauty industry, it has been an arduous year. Stripped both of their primary income stream and the client interaction that beauty professionals love so much, many within the sector have felt ignored by the government, despite the beauty industry contributing more than £28 billion to the British economy each year.

It is an industry monumentally propelled by women with an 88% female workforce and 82% female business owners. These women are not just hairdressers, nail technicians and facialists, they are also mothers, daughters and sisters who are often responsible for their household incomes, and who have struggled to keep their heads above water.

Heralding the beauty sector re-opening its doors is industry powerhouse Caroline Hirons. Having successfully raised more than £600,000 in fundraising donations for the Hair & Beauty Charity, she has tirelessly campaigned and supported those most affected by industry closures.

Beauty Backed founder, Caroline Hirons.
Image by Nicky Johnston

Launching the Beauty Backed Trust, Hirons and other trustees are fervidly advocating for beauty professionals with a range of financial support and educational resources from the likes of aesthetician and founder of the Black Skincare Directory Dija Ayodele, reknowned hairdresser Errol Douglas MBE, and CEO of The British Beauty Council, Millie Kendall MBE.

“We see ourselves in our colleagues and, as past and present beauty business owners, we understand the hardships COVID-19 has created alongside the repeated delays in re-opening our sector and lack of individual sectoral funding support,” she says.

With launch day looming, we spoke to five leading hair and beauty specialists about how they coped during lockdown and their thoughts on returning back to work.

ANDY MILLWARD, ADVANCED FACIALIST

Andy Millward, Advanced Facialist and Beauty Backed Trustee
Image by Andy Millward

Beauty Backed trustee and facialist Andy Millward is one of the most respected skin specialists within the industry. Specialising in advanced skin treatments, such as facials, chemical peels, microneedling, radio frequency and low-level laser treatments, Millward worked as a skincare educator for leading aesthetics institution, the Confederation of International Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology (CIBTAC) before focusing on his full-time clinic in 2019.

What have been the biggest challenges?

It has been both mentally and emotionally challenging. With the various stages of lockdown, it’s hit different people at different stages. There have definitely been times where I’ve been super-positive and seen it as an opportunity to grow and develop other areas of the business such as online sales.

There have also been times where my energy levels have been low, and anxieties have been high. A big part of why we do what we do is because we love working with people, and the isolation of being at home, at a desk all day and the lack of human interaction other than via email or Zoom, can take its toll.

In what ways did you pivot your beauty business during lockdown?

Thankfully, I already had a very loyal client base and a fairly decent focus on retail products to support treatment results. I also already had my online booking system and e-commerce site up and running before lockdown hit, so I transitioned to online consultations and focused on building the retail income to help support the missing income from treatments. This revenue enabled me to pay my rent, machine costs and other outgoings, as well as pay myself a wage, while the clinic room was closed.

What government support have you received as a beauty business owner?

I was in a weird transition with my business. I had operated as a sole trader for my training income and was only part-time in the clinic, so from a financial perspective the business hadn’t been in operation long enough to get help.

Being the only person in the business, I’m not on the PAYE scheme so couldn’t be furloughed (a bit of an oversight at the time of setting up the company, as my accountant sorts my tax returns and said it wasn’t needed at the time. Hindsight is a wonderful thing).

As the only director, I also felt even if furlough was an option, it wasn’t really an option as it would have meant being unable to continue with certain business activities (such as Instagram promotions) that I felt were vital to staying present. I received two small sole trader grants from my training work in May and August, but nothing since.

What are you most looking forward to when beauty reopens on Monday?

Definitely getting back to doing what I love – seeing clients in person and being hands-on in treatment. I am very grateful that my online presence and retail side of the business has done well enough to keep the clinic open and be in a decent position for returning to work, but it’s no substitute for hands-on clinic work and face-to-face appointments.

NUKA NAILS

Founders of NUKA NAILS, Anouska Anastasia and Kadimah Aaliyah
Image by NUKA NAILS

Having met while working at WAH nails four years ago, self-taught nail artists Anouska Anastasia and Kadimah Aaliyah quickly became best friends before blossoming into business partners with the launch of NUKA NAILS. With legions of celebrity and social media fans, the duo kickstarted NUKA at the Wi-Ki Woo hotel in Ibiza in 2019 and are soon to open their own studio in Ladbroke Grove.

What has it been like trying to maintain your business during the lockdown?

It’s been a rollercoaster. We spent the first lockdown together, creating insane nail designs and charms that went viral on social media. We had to think outside of the box so took everything online.

We held Zoom workshops with a global audience on how to do a selection of our iconic NUKA designs and started creating content for brands such as The Gel Bottle, ASOS, Nike, Juicy Couture and Converse. It’s literally been eat, sleep, nails, repeat.

What have been the biggest challenges?

Finances – not having a regular income to rely on was really hard. We haven’t received any help from the government; we’ve built NUKA off our savings and by doing masterclasses.

With treatments on hold, what have you been working on?

We’ve got a lot of exciting things to show everyone as this is now our own studio – we pulled out all the stops to curate an exciting and vibey nail space. This isn’t your typical nail studio – we have a DJ booth and a custom-fitted bar, all set beside a giant pink inflatable sofa. It’s a truly Instagrammable destination. Walking into the NUKA studio is like walking into the NUKA brain. You have to see it in person to understand. We are so excited to launch and get back to business.

What have you missed most with the forced closures?

Seeing our clients. We cannot wait to catch up, show them what we’ve been working on in the new NUKA studio. We’re so proud to be a part of the beauty industry, as you can express yourself in many ways beyond just nails. At NUKA, it doesn’t matter what you look like or your background, everyone is accepted.

Elite Hair Lounge

Elite Hair Lounge Founder, Talisha Cox
Image by Talisha Cox

Specialising in the maintenance of natural and relaxed hair care, Elite Hair Lounge is an Afro and European hair salon, owned by Talisha Cox. Having first opened its doors in 2015 in Stockwell, subsequently opened two more branches in Lewisham and Archway.

In what ways did you pivot your beauty business during lockdown?

In an attempt of trying to stay positive, keep our head above water and attempt to plan for a future that we were unsure of, we opened an online shop to retail all the products that we usually sell in store. We launched branded merch, such as a headscarf and a scalp massager tool, which we supported by regularly answering hair advice questions on Instagram stories.

Behind the scenes, we’ve been improving our whole business model and working on improving the customer experience, as you can never be good enough and there is always room for improvement.

What are you most looking forward to when beauty reopens on Monday?

Most importantly, being back to business. Getting to service our clients again and helping them back on track with their hair journeys. Having our team back in the salon is also crucial, doing what brings them joy, getting creative with hair and having a chinwag with our lovely customers.

Clients have dearly missed their appointments but what have you missed the most? Hair and beauty is all I know – it’s my world. I’ve been in the industry since I was 15, so just over 15 years. I’ve missed seeing all the hair transformations, the before and after photos , the selfie tags on our Insta stories from all our satisfied customers. The staff group chats with our salon teams applauding each other’s transformations. It’s been a long time and it’s been missed!

Blue Tit London

Blue Tit London Co-founder, Matthew Gebbie
Image by Blue Tit London

Having originally launched in 2011 in Dalston, Blue Tit has quickly become a London mainstay with its 10th location opening in Greenwich on 12t April. Co-founder Matthew Gebbie talks us through Bluetit’s roadmap to reopening.

What has it been like trying to maintain your business during the lockdown?

The biggest challenge has been the pressure of worrying about our business, our family and our staff. Now being in the third lockdown, those pressures aren’t as great, but at the start it was suffocating.

It’s been hard but it’s also been a great opportunity to review the entire business without the hecticness of the daily tasks. We had time to actually take a step back and think about all the positives, negatives and areas we can improve upon.

What have you been working on while Bluetit has been closed?

Primarily our rebrand. Now being 10 years old with more than 100 staff members, we really wanted to evolve our branding into something that our staff, but also all our clients, can relate to.

As creative directors for sustainable haircare brand Oway, we’ve also been preparing for its annual collection and concept for the year ahead, which we can’t wait to reveal.

We have a new Afro/textured hair educator, Sharley Butcher, joining us who will be rolling out some of the best training to all of our staff in 2021. We are very committed to making sure we can cater for all hair types in each of our salons.

Lastly, our head office manager, Naoya, and our wellbeing manager, Harriet, have also created an amazing equality, diversity and inclusion training which has been taught to all staff following our training with Equality and Diversity UK.

What are you most looking forward to when beauty reopens on Monday?

The buzz of the salons, seeing our staff do what they do best and seeing our clients loving their new hair. The connection between our teams and clients is such an intimate experience and you build powerful connections within beauty services – I’ve missed that the most.

We have so many characters within the team, and they constantly inspire me with what they’re wearing and which hair colours they’re rocking. I’ve worked with some of these people for nine years, so those bonds and friendships transcend purely work.

The Short Stack

As the beauty industry prepares to open its doors, we find out how one industry veteran has been helping businesses behind the scenes. Plus, the fresh ideas the beauty pros have got planned ready for your visit.

By Rhea Cartwright

More from Beauty
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