Inspirational Woman: Roz Colthart | Founder, Salon Studios

Roz ColthartBorn in Edinburgh and as an alumna of Napier University with a Masters’ in Business Administration, Roz has spent most of her life living abroad and working for some of the most influential hospitality companies in the world.

Her business journey started at Disney World, Orlando and since then, her resume reads like a list of ‘dream jobs’!

Roz currently lives in the Maldives working for leading sustainable luxury resort, Soneva, who are pioneering a trend for back-to-nature luxury holidays. Prior to that, she worked onboard ‘The World’ – a unique concept where passengers travel the world from the comfort of their own ‘home on the ocean’. Roz has also been part of the management team on Sir Richard Branson’s private island, Necker as well as UK Marketing Director for Malmaison hotels.

Her latest business venture is Salon Studios, a co-working hub for ambitious and entrepreneurial professionals, headquartered in Corstorphine, Edinburgh. The concept is a re-invention of traditional salon ownership, providing self-contained, move-in ready, stylish salons for many different self-employed professionals – hairdressers, beauticians, chiropractors, nutritionists, dieticians, wedding planners and more.

The business model makes it possible for all independent professionals to run their own business and make more money without the risks associated with owning a conventional space – all for the same rate as a chair rental in a traditional salon and often less. For more information visit www.salonstudios.co.uk

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I do a few things… in the winter, I work in the Maldives for a sustainable luxury resort company; as the only company that sells property to foreigners, I head up the sales team.  Alongside that I launched Salon Studios in the UK last year – this is a new model in the UK but exceptionally successful in the USA – essentially we provide hair and beauty professionals with their own salon space for the same price they pay to rent a chair. Finally, I set up The Salonpreneur to provide self-employed hair and beauty professionals with the sales and marketing tools they need to grow their business.

Prior to this my career has been mainly in luxury hospitality – I was the UK Marketing Director for Malmaison boutique hotels for many years, part of the management team on Richard Branson’s private island (Necker) and sold floating real estate on the only residential ship on the planet – The World. I have loved my career choices as they have taken me to so many places. Hospitality is a lifestyle, not just a job – you have to work hard but it has been a very satisfying career choice!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not consciously, but there must have been something subliminal going on.  My first opportunity abroad was Disney World in Orlando (when I was 18) and that was definitely planned as I bugged them for 3 years to even give me an interview!  I saw working for Disney as a great opportunity to do something different and get this incredible experience under my belt; the training they gave me was exceptional and has been a big contributor to what I’ve gone on to do.

I feel very lucky that working in the hospitality industry has provided such great opportunities that have enabled me to live in incredible locations and meet people that I would otherwise never have had the chance to talk to – specifically in an informal environment when they are at their most relaxed!  I did plan Salon Studios and researched several (approx. 10) competitors in USA whilst refining it, to work in the UK.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Who doesn’t?! Seriously, I once read a feature in a magazine (at a low point in my career) that says we all have a career rollercoaster and that to enjoy the highs you need the lows etc.  It put things into perspective for me and helped me to accept that the job I was not enjoying at the time was not forever, but only a stepping-stone to move on from. It’s not the challenges, it’s how you respond to them, that matters.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Without a doubt achieving my Masters – MBA.  I studied whilst working (abroad) so there was a lot of unsociable hours with on-line classes which was tough. Also, studying when you are ‘ahem.. a bit older’… is twice as hard, things did not stick as easily as when I was younger!

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

This is a funny question – I don’t see myself as successful.  I believe that success is defined in the eyes of others.  I see myself as an enthusiastic hard worker who takes advantage of new opportunities; I am always multi-tasking and have a lot of energy. I also think it is important not to compare yourself to other people – comparison is the thief of joy and in the world of social media it’s easy to get caught up in what everybody else is doing – the race is only with yourself.

I have a lot of grit and determination – I don’t accept the status quo and challenge things that I do not believe are right, or that can be done more efficiently/effectively or both!  I just like to make things happen and if I can see a better way, then all the better! I am very principled and if I see something that is not right then I will fix it. I am obsessed with detail; every business is made up of the sum of all parts, so no detail is too small for me!

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I really feel strongly about this – I truly believe everybody should have a mentor!  Years ago, while working at Malmaison, I was lucky enough to be offered a mentorship program and I hit the jackpot!  My mentor was a fierce and successful business owner who warned me that the outcome of her mentorship may result in me leaving my job (which it did!). A good mentor is somebody that can see your potential, believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself and give you honest advice and guidance on how to get there.  She was all of these things and even now, 12 years later I still consider her my mentor and call on her when I need advice. I still feel her ‘on my shoulder’ when I’m in a situation I need help with!

I have also been a mentor and would love to do this again.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

I think this starts at a very early age. There is an expression ‘women have the competence but not the confidence and men have the confidence but not the competence’, so building confidence and the unnecessary discrimination should start in the very early years. There is too much gender discrimination from an early age and gender equality will only happen when unnecessary comparison is stopped and the rhetoric that children have to listen to changes.

Are the conversations (parents/grandparents/teachers/relatives) talking about girls fitting into glass slippers or breaking through glass ceilings?  These conversations are setting expectations for young girls – who they think they are and what they think they can achieve.  These conversations create either a fixed or a growth mindset.  The focus should be on a growth mindset and that everybody, regardless of your gender and background is important.  We all make a difference, can achieve what we put our minds to and should be listened to. It’s so important not put a limit on children’s dreams or expectations of themselves! My parents are quite exceptional – mum constantly told me I could do anything I set my mind to and my Dad encouraged me to achieve financial independence to live the life I wanted – they constantly reminded me the only limiting factor was my expectations of myself.

Pay equality is a different subject and should not even be a conversation anymore – it should be a salary for the job, not the gender; this is improving but, again, with the confidence more women would feel comfortable asking for more.

The hair and beauty industry is 84% female, 16% male and the reason I set up Salon Studios is to help more people (which will be mainly women due to these stats) start their own business in a safe, predictable environment with a strong focus on encouragement and support.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Do it for yourself, not for others. I did listen to this but probably not as much as I should have  – you will not be everybody’s cup of tea so you need to be ok with that, that’s life. As they say, what other people think of you is none of your business!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Over the coming 12 – 18 months I am looking at opening 2-3 more Salon Studios and growing the brand nationwide so we can start franchising.  I will also move the Salonpreneur to a revenue membership model and take that to the next level with podcasts, a magazine and more bespoke training programs.


WeAreTheCity has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Cherie Blair, Paula Radcliffe MBE, Caprice Bourret, Anna Williamson and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.

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