Professional Beauty
Professional Beauty


Sharing business solutions

SOS – Support Our Salons



After operating as a sole trader for eight years, Catherine Carter aspired to expand her beauty business and saw an opportunity to do so by opening a salon that offered scope for hairdressing as well as beauty.

She established her business with three hairdressers alongside her beauty staff. When she later took maternity leave, Carter says she’d failed to notice the massive tension between the beauty and hair team members.

“What became apparent was that therapists and hairdressers work in different ways and while I wasn’t there this difference became a big problem,” she says. “Then, two of the main stylists decided to open a salon a few hundred yards away from my business, taking with them all of their clients. At the same time, my beauty manager was having personal problems and left within four weeks of the other two leaving.”

Overnight, Carter lost two thirds of her salon income and was faced with a huge dilemma, not to mention a small baby to look after, and a big mess to deal with on her return from maternity leave.

Know your strengths

“It was a massive wake-up call. Hairdressing had taken over my whole business and it hadn’t worked the way it should have done. I’m not a hairdresser by trade and realised that I should have concentrated on the beauty side,” she says.

Carter returned to work, allowed just one stylist to rent space from her and concentrated on building back customer trust with an extended beauty offering, that placed its major focus on quality rather than price.

“Previously, we used to discount treatments to get footfall through, but now we’ve changed focus and put a lot more value into the treatment itself,” she says.

“It took 18 months to two years to get back on track, but from 2014 onwards we’ve never looked back. Our turnover has increased massively.”



Just 12 months after investing £10,000 to renovate the leased premises for her first salon, Camilla Thompson faced catastrophic building issues when she discovered that the oil-fired central heating in an adjoining flat had been slowly leaking. The extent of the damage meant she had to find an alternative venue within days.

With a team of three to accommodate, Christmas just around the corner and semi-permanent make-up appointments booked months in advance, options were limited. Then a call from Jane Wilson, co-owner of Chester Medispa, a state of-the-art facility that had recently opened, saved the day. “Jane heard what had happened and reached out as a friend and an industry colleague,” says Thompson.

In addition to the practical tasks of informing clients about the new venue and moving equipment, the team had to carefully manage the transition for customers familiar with a local salon with parking to the larger, city-centre venue where congested traffic and niggling roadworks could be a problem.

Christmas rush

“We’d also planned to work over Christmas,” says Thompson, “but the Medispa was closed on some of the these days. We had to carefully reschedule and work overtime on other days to ensure no clients were disappointed.”

Thompson admits it was “the worst period of my life”, but the team stuck together, putting on a positive, united front to reassure clients in a time of great uncertainty. They also recommended the newly-opened Medispa’s aesthetic services to clients curious about botox and fillers, ensuring the two businesses gelled well.

The team eventually moved back to the original premises in June 2017. “What the building owners thought was going to be a small job ended up being an astronomical one,” explains Thompson. “They had to completely refurbish the ceiling, floor and walls, bringing environmental health professionals in to check the air quality.

“I’m lucky that I have an amazing team who went above and beyond during this time, and also a very loyal client base. The happy ending is that we’re struggling to fit people in and are now looking to expand.

“Chester Medispa helped save the day; I could never thank them enough. It’s so important to support each other in this industry. We are all in this together.”



Successful Liverpool chain Urban Calm has a celebrity client base, three sites and almost 30 staff.

As business flourished, Nicola Byrne and her business partner Sharon Doyle realised they needed to outsource responsibilities to free up their time for the day-to-day running of the business.

“We started with HR and we now pay a monthly retainer to a company that deals with things like contracts of employment, employee records and staff briefings,” says Byrne. “This ensures that we, and our team, receive proper, professional advice that is legally sound.”

Urban Calm then took the major decision to employ an in-house social media and business development team of two.

“As we got ever busier, we were conscious that the business development side of things, such as networking and working with local newspapers, was not being given anywhere near enough attention. It was taking us a long time to do jobs that weren’t our area of expertise and our profile had slipped slightly as a result,” explains Byrne.

Time management

The benefits have been manifold. “Before, we had lots of customer data but didn’t have time to communicate with customers as quickly as we’d have liked. Now, the in-house team sends emails every three weeks, can quickly create professional-looking videos and e-flyers for us, and takes care of social media.

“We can be reactive and our social channels look a lot slicker. The team also does some business development with local hotels and theatre companies, while we have time to concentrate on other areas of the business.”

Byrne says that, although it was a big undertaking, she had no qualms about handing over responsibilities to dedicated professionals.

“Neither myself nor my business partner has a therapist background,” she says. “Having previously worked as a project manager, I’m conscious of using the right skills in the right areas and of talent management – finding someone else to do something you can’t do, if they can clearly do it better.”



Sarah Virgo opened her first salon with three members of staff in 2014, having worked for 20 years as a mobile therapist. When the business expanded, she hadn’t anticipated how difficult it would be to create her dream team.

To tackle the recruitment problem, Virgo began to network with local salon owners and began a business course with consultant and trainer Susan Routledge, giving her access to a Facebook group of salon owners across the country, who pool ideas and provide support.

“We have a local LinkedIn network designed to help us all recruit staff and expand our therapist network. Rather than poaching staff from each other, we share information. So, if we interview people and they’re not interested in working for us, we ask if we can forward details on to a salon that would be a better fit.”

Virgo has also forged links with local colleges and schools, in an attempt to attract school leavers with apprenticeships and offer one-to-one mentoring.

“My receptionist wanted to work in beauty so I put her through NVQ Level 2 and she’s just finished her course. I did all the training in-house and Saks did the assessment. I think this is the best way to go to ensure you get the right quality staff.”


If you’ve been inspired by the stories in this feature, share your own experience with us and you could win one of our fantastic prizes, including £1,000 to spend on your business.

Support Our Salons (SOS) is a new campaign, organised by Professional Beauty to encourage salon owners and managers to share their experiences and challenges in order to help boost the industry as a whole.

The concept will launch at Professional Beauty North where the inaugural Salon & Spa Owners’ Convention will bring together top salon owners from across the UK to network and share best practice. A fleet of other support and networking events will also take place at the show.

To get involved just tell us, in 100 words or fewer, “What’s the biggest or most surprising challenge you have faced since starting a salon or mobile business and how did you overcome it?”

Email your answer to or leave us a message on our Facebook page: using the hashtag #SOScampaign

This article appears in the Professional Beauty September 2017 Issue of Professional Beauty

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This article appears in the Professional Beauty September 2017 Issue of Professional Beauty