Inspirational Woman: Sarah McKenna | Founder, Vixen & Blush

Sarah McKennaMy background is in science, as I graduated with a BSc (Hons) in biochemistry in 2005 and worked for 6 years in the pharmacenutical industry before opening Vixen & Blush in 2011. 

I started Vixen & Blush as a one seat small boutique salon in Wandsworth and grew it without any investment or borrowing.  I am now sole director of 2 limited companies and employ 15 people.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

When I found the hair source in 2011 I knew I had a special and unique product to offer the market, but at the time I did not have the resources to stock the 500 items we now sell. I had to grow the service side of the business first, before being able to self-fund the wholesale/product side and set up The London Hair Lab which now supplies hair to salons across the UK and USA.  But other than the loose idea, I never planned my career or business, I just took opportunities when they arose.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes, absolutely.  The largest challenges I have faced are a hyper-competitive and unregulated marketplace and the unique challenge of running a service based business in Central London.  Staff members face a very high cost of living especially in terms of housing costs and travel costs.  We invest a lot in training and upskilling staff and have excellent staff retention despite this challenge.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I feel that choosing to be brave and expand into a large new premises during the pandemic is my biggest achievement.  I was also pregnant with my second child and my husband was working through the pandemic as a frontline Intensive care worker so it was a stretch of my mental and physical resilience.

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

I feel I have trusted the people around me, no matter what bumps occur on the journey.  The past is the past and I am able to move on quickly and leave any negative experiences behind me and remain positive and motivated.  I suppose this is a learned behaviour and would be a form of resilience that is necessary to achieving success as a small business owner.

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

I feel I would like to become a mentor in the future and help a young person who is starting out in the business world.  In both my business we employ school leavers and and apprentices and I find it very rewarding to watch their growth and development.  However I have never formally been someone’s direct mentor.

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

As a business owner, who has 2 children, I have not been able to take long maternity leaves.  However, my husband was able to take shared parental leave instead and stay at home for the first vital months for both of our children.  For our first child however my husband was not paid the same as his female colleagues.  Three years later and for our second child, he was paid the same and this made a huge difference.  To be truly equal I feel both genders need to be paid the same for shared parental leave and I also feel that there should be government enforced leave for new fathers.  If the government mandated that new fathers took 12 weeks leave to share the care of their children it would go a long way to companies treating both genders on an equal footing.  In our modern society there are the resources to achieve this and its longtail impact would be huge.

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

Believe in yourself more.  Fear is a huge motivational tool.  But it is toxic too.  Finding another emotion that also garners energy but has less fallout is a more mature person’s existence.

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

My next challenge is to stop bootstrapping across both businesses and move to a more mature phase and to value my time more.  Where to spend my time now is my biggest challenge for the next few years.

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