You’ve been in the profession for more than 50 years; what changes have you seen in that time?
“In 1971, beauty salons were only for the affluent, but I started persuading more people to come in for manicures and pedicures initially. Now, the market is much more sophisticated. Women are more demanding; they work longer hours and want instant results. Skin therapists underestimate the important role they play in society and I think we should be proud and do justice to our jobs.”
Yours was one of the first salons in South Africa to employ black therapists, during apartheid.
Did you face resistance?
“Skin colour never entered my mind because I employed the individual and was only interested in their ability, not their race or culture. If any client was upset about a black woman doing their wax or manicure, I would say, ‘well, go to another salon then’. In those days, there was a lack of understanding; some clients assumed a black person wouldn’t understand European skin and vice versa, but that’s complete nonsense. A good therapist understands each individuals needs.”
How have you kept the business successful for so long?
“The Mask has its own culture; it’s not a fancy salon, we are welcoming and all my staff know they have to behave that way. We all support one another so it’s a team spirit, but, ultimately it’s all about the client. “I treat everyone in my team equally.
None of them are on commission. I will not make them different that’s why they work as a team. If beauty therapists feel they’re in competition with their colleagues then you have a problem with discord in the team. It’s helped that I’m an owner who is present in the salon. A lot of owners aren’t there in the business so they don’t always understand their team and clients fully.”
What’s the biggest business mistake you’ve learned from?
“I saw the correlation between the medical community and ourselves and I opened up salon in a hospital but I wasn’t there. I put in a young woman who was an absolutely fantastic therapist but I couldn’t mentor her so there wasn’t the continuation and I lost a bit there, but you have to pick yourself up.”
What’s your advice for someone wanting to open a salon today?
“Do your homework and be clear on what market you’re trying to reach. Make sure you’re up to date and that you’re the one keeping clients in the know. Doing the same treatment over and over again is something I do not encourage. When a client calls, if I hear my staff say ‘what would you like to have done?’, I always say, ‘they’re coming here for treatment. You should be telling them what they need to have done’.
“Beauty therapists have really got to sing from one book and join their national organisation. You have no power if you’re talking alone, and the people running these organisations, like Cidesco and others, need the support of therapists. It’s no good whingeing but not supporting your national organisations, because they have the power to make a difference.”