Building bonds |

5 mins

Building bonds

The Beauty Lounge owner Gemma Jarvis tells Ellen Cummings about how she grew her business from the ground up and why forging strong brand relationships has been key to growth

Gemma Jarvis’s beauty career began in 1996, when she embarked on a three-year hair and beauty course at Canterbury College. She fell in love with the beauty side of the industry and went on to work as an in-flight beauty therapist for Virgin Atlantic in 2001. After being made redundant due to the financial crash, Jarvis used the redundancy money to set up her own salon, The Beauty Room, in 2010.

Starting life in a small office building before moving to the back of a hairdressers, Beauty Lounge has now been in its own premises in Whitstable, Kent, for 10 years, and has grown into a 12-strong team. The salon is a Dermalogica Platinum account, and Jarvis has forged a strong relationship with the brand over her 26-year career.

What changes have you made to the salon recently?

“Introducing microneedling services has changed my business and it’s one of my most profitable treatments because clients are seeking out advanced treatments.

Clients are so savvy now and they know so much that I think therapists need to step it up. I feel like I know more about the science of microneedling and how it works now that I’ve done training with Dermalogica.

“Microneedling was on my radar for a while because it bridges that gap between skin treatments and aesthetics. It’s something I’d invested in doing just before Dermalogica brought it out, with a company that had a needling pen, but then Dermalogica brought out their own so obviously it went hand in hand for me to go with them as they are my main product house.”

Why did you originally choose to work with Dermalogica?

“I used the brand when I was in college, and it’s stayed with me. They’re always bringing out new innovations, and that’s what I love. I’ve used other brands when I worked in different places, but the level of education from Dermalogica has always blown me away – and it’s free. The support you get is incredible; every account that turns over £1,500 a year gets their own representative.

“I’m always in contact with my rep, Jane, and I also know the general manager and the sales director – and I don’t know of many other big companies where you know the management personally. I had a hard time at the start of the year; I had damp, so had to shut up shop for week and have all new flooring, and Mark Hermann (Dermalogica’s UK general manager) sent me a really touching message.”

You’re very strong on education at the salon; how are you driving this?

“Having apprentices is really important to me. I’ve had four during my time at the salon, and three are still with me now. It’s hard to go out there straight from college with no experience, so I think apprenticeships are amazing. It’s lovely for us as therapists to watch them grow.

“I also work with Dermalogica’s undergraduate programme – Ieven got asked to give a talk at Canterbury College, so it was quite emotional to go back to where I started. I’m passionate about helping the younger generation because I feel like we should invest in this industry.”

Some business owners are afraid of training apprentices in case they leave what’s your take on this?

“I think it’s about how you are as a manager and how you treat them. My apprentices are paid more than the minimum apprenticeship wage because my view is that they’re working and earning the salon money. If you treat them well, they will stay – and that goes for all staff. I’ve only lost five staff members in 13 years.”

What else do you do to retain staff?

“I’m very flexible. For example, if they have kids and have to be off work, it’s never a problem. They all have a Saturday off every month because we all want to have a balance in life. Their happiness means everything because if you lose staff then you have to pay for more training, and clients don’t like it because most prefer having their regular therapist.

“I want to invest in their future as well because I’m not always going to be here, so I hope I do give them the ability to grow and even start their own business if that’s what they want to do.”

As a large salon business, what do you think of the current VAT model in the UK?

“It’s really tough. We’re only using a little bit of product and then we’re charged VAT on our service – on our time – which isn’t fair. My staff are well paid but they could earn even more, and I could invest more in the salon if we weren’t paying as much VAT. I think it’s holding a lot of business owners back because they’re trying to stay under the threshold.”

What are your thoughts on regulation in the beauty industry?

“There are nods in the right direction, and I know Dermalogica and associations like Babtac are involved in the conversations. I do think the more invasive treatments should only be performed by people with medical backgrounds – Idon’t think beauty therapists should be doing it. We have an aesthetic doctor at the salon and he has a medical background, which is so important to me.

“I really would love our industries to become regulated. I think that’s one of the reasons we got treated like we did during the lockdowns, because nobody took us seriously.”

What are your future plans for the salon?

“I’ve just collaborated with Dermalogica to create a retail area which has been absolutely amazing. I’ve had so many compliments on it and the salon looks like something out of John Lewis now. We’re also doing more training with them for the new advanced services.

“I’d love to expand the salon more – there’s an upstairs area that’s been offered to me a few times, but I’ve always trusted my gut and thought I’m not quite ready yet. We are struggling for space, but then I think that needing to turn people away can be a good thing. I’m fully booked until November. It’s the best feeling ever, and I never take it for granted because you never know what’s around the corner.”

This article appears in September 2023

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September 2023
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