Inspirational Woman: Valerie Maine | CEO & Founder, Live True London

Valerie MaineValerie Maine is the CEO and Founder of Live True London.

Entrepreneur and former lawyer, Valerie took over a London salon in 2016 and renamed it Live True London. Now a business decision turned passion project, Live True London is a reputable name with salons located in Brixton, Clapham, Vauxhall and most recently, Soho. 

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

I moved to London from Canada in 2006 to study law at the LSE and went on to practice derivates and structured products law in the City. I was born in Ukraine and my parents immigrated to Canada when I was a young child. While at Linklaters, my husband and I started investing in various businesses including a hair salon business and a nursery school. I left Linklaters to work on growing our nursery school business and, together with the CEO, we opened two additional locations.

After a few years, our hair salon business started to fail and we didn’t see a way forward with the existing management team. I made the decision to buy out the other shareholders and take the business on as a turnaround project. I went on to rebrand and reposition the business. Live True London now has four salons in London, with the latest salon opening in Soho in November last year.

I am currently running Live True London full time, I sit on the board of directors for Abacus Ark Nursery Schools (and am helping them open two additional sites this year) and have just completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Businesses Programme. In addition to this, I am working on launching two new brands this year – a hair care business and a nutritionals business.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Since I was a child, I wanted to be a CEO. As a teenager, I found an old Forbes magazine at school which profiled CEOs and realised that most started off as either lawyers or accountants. This made me decide to study law at University. I qualified with a big commercial firm in the City called Linklaters and, after gaining some experience practicing, I decided to leave to set up my own business.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes! Coming from a legal background, I knew nothing about hairdressing when I took over the hair salon business. Learning about the industry at the same time as trying to rescue and rebrand a failing business was certainly a big challenge!

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date was getting the salons to profitability. When I took over the salons they were a completely different business and were failing – I had to rebrand and reposition them and completely change the business model!

Do you have any advice for those looking to start their own business?

Running your own business is not the same experience as being an employee, you hold the ultimate responsibility for the success or failure of your business and managing that level of accountability can be daunting.

Running a business can be all consuming, especially when you’re starting out. It’s incredibly important to have a support network that understands the level of commitment required to make the business a success. It’s also important that your business is something that you are passionate about. If you are going to be working 90 hour plus weeks, you need to find your business interesting and enjoyable.

It’s important to understand that you should not expect success straight away and to be flexible in your thinking and approach to your business. Things often do not work out the way you anticipated when you started out and with so many changes occurring in the business environment at the moment between the effects of Brexit, Covid-19 and the general economic climate, plus ever changing consumer preferences and the impact of trends, it is very important to be able to pivot, adjust and change your business model quickly to be able to respond accordingly. If something goes not as expected, it may simply mean that you need to adjust your business model rather than spell the failure of your venture.

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

This would be to have a minimum representation of women in senior or board level positions. I still find myself as a minority senior level decision maker and am often the only woman in meetings of decision makers.

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

Don’t be so worried about taking risk. When I was younger I was a lot more risk averse, worrying disproportionately about taking even small risks. When you run a business, risk taking becomes part of life and what you learn very quickly is that even though sometimes things don’t go your way, without taking risks you will miss out on a lot of incredible opportunities.

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

I opened my fourth salon in Soho last November and would like to see this continue to grow into 2022.

I am currently working on a range of hair care products due to launch in September 2022. After looking for new products to introduce into my salons and not being able to find products which fit our needs, I decided to create a new brand to deliver what we feel is missing in the hair care market. The new brand is called Ful and is about combining the professional knowhow and expertise of the salons with high performing skin care inspired ingredients.

I am also currently working on a new nutritionals brand, hopefully launching in late 2022.

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