When Nicola Thompson moved from a two-room set-up in a local hairdressing salon in Sheffield to rent her first standalone premises one mile away on Abbeydale Road in October 2008, it was a milestone moment for the beauty therapist. “The business needed to expand as we were getting bigger. I raised a substantial loan so I could open the four-treatment-room salon, which I renamed The Beauty Clinic, and had to completely overhaul the premises. It was a challenging time”, she says.
But this was just the start of Thompson’s vision. She also wanted to open a specialist laser clinic in the unit next door where she could offer more advanced treatments for hair removal, age spots, pigmentation and red veins.
“I’d been watching the rise in lasers for some time and could see that hair removal was growing in popularity, especially as lasers were becoming
More readily available to beauty salons as opposed to just doctor-led clinics”, she says. “However, I wasn’t financially ready and the premises wasn’t available to rent yet, so I couldn’t open it at the same time as the salon.”
A firm believer in doing her homework, Thompson spent the next five years learning everything she could about lasers, from which works best for each skin condition and the systems available, to the outlay required, making sure she had the knowledge to pick the right machine to launch her laser clinic with.
She even did Core of Knowledge laser safety training at aesthetics training academy Mapperley Park in Nottinghamshire before talking to manufacturers about investing in a device, because she wanted to fully comprehend how lasers worked.
“I wanted to understand the different parameters for various types of machines and if you don’t have the training in it, it’s hard to know if one is better than the other”, explains Thompson. “When sales people are presenting their machines they all sound great, but you can get really bogged down with jargon.”
In 2013, Thompson felt ready to open The Laser Clinic, and the next-door unit was available to rent, but she surveyed her client base first to make sure there was an appetite for aesthetic treatments. “A skin clinic had opened not too far from us, so I had concerns around whether the business would be able to draw extra custom. I had to make sure people were interested, which they were”, she says.
In February that year, Thompson bought a reconditioned Lynton Lumina device for £35,000 and opened The Laser Clinic with one treatment room. “I needed a device with multiple add-ons so I could have versatility. I wanted to do hair removal up to skin type four and I could see a trend emerging for people wanting to have tattoos removed, or faded ready for cover up with a new tattoo. I wanted to be ahead of the curve and offer this service too”, she says.
Lynton’s local maintenance team, who could get to the clinic in a day if something went wrong, was another pull. “Laser devices are delicate and need regular calibrating”, she says. “Some of the other machines I looked at were made overseas and I was worried about what would happen if something went wrong. You could wait ages for a part to come and it might be weeks before you could treat anybody, which isn’t good for business.”
Thompson’s personal knowledge of the team was also a crucial deciding factor. In 2008, one of the current Lynton team had been working for a different company which sold Thompson a skin diagnosis machine. “However, not long after I bought it the company went bust, yet that sales person came and helped me with my machine for nothing. When I found out she was working for Lynton, it gave me even more confidence in the company’s products and the care I would receive after purchase”, adds Thompson.
But Thompson says there were immediate challenges in terms of setting up a laser clinic in comparison to a beauty salon. “Offering laser treatments increased our turnover but not so much the profit margins due to the loan for equipment, along with the costs of setting up the clinic in terms of advertising, web design and training”, says Thompson. “However, now these overheads have been paid, the profit margins are high – until the equipment needs to be renewed.”
However, introducing laser into the business has boosted staff retention and the interest therapists have in their work “because they can learn and offer a bespoke, results-driven treatment”, says Thompson. “Due to its popularity, we’ve even been able to give staff bonuses reflected purely on laser treatments.”
Size: 1,500sq ft
Treatment rooms: six
Team: one part-time and three full-time therapists, three part-time receptionists, one podiatrist, one nutritionist, one self-employed holistic therapist
Brands: Lynton, Environ, Eve Taylor, Jessica, Sterex, Jane Iredale, Heliocare, St Tropez, Lamberts Supplements
Four years on and the business is thriving, well known in the area for offering effective laser treatments that tackle acne, red veins, pigmentation and age spots, as well as tattoo and hair removal. The business’s overall client base ranges from early 20s to late 70s, now attracting a healthy number of male clients, and Thompson says that profits for the past year have been significantly higher than previous years “thanks to strong custom, very little expenses and the loan for the equipment finally being paid off”, she says.
Thompson adds: “We now have clients who come in for a treatment in The Laser Clinic and then get something done in The Beauty Clinic and vice versa – so the businesses are cross-promoting each other as I’d hoped.” PB