Starting a business is not easy, in fact it can be quite the opposite at times, however, if you do something that you truly love, then it can be extremely rewarding.
Unfortunately, as with most things, you have to work from the bottom up, which is exactly what I had to do in order to achieve my dreams, in fact I’ve been doing it for nearly 30 years.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I knew that hair and beauty was the industry I wanted to get into, but ever since I was a young girl I had dyslexia, and thus paid close attention to my appearance at school, finding it a great place to focus my energy. I have always loved bringing out inner confidence in others, so much so that at 16 I started working as a junior hairdresser in my hometown of Portsmouth. It was there where I fell in love with the buzz of the salon lifestyle, this was the path for me and I knew that it was something I wanted to pursue. It wasn’t easy, but with a lot of hard work and dedication, by 25 I was heading a team of over 70 stylists over seven salons.
However, it wasn’t enough for me, I wanted more. I believed then (and still do) that salons are stuck in the past and I wanted to change this, I knew that this would be something I needed to plan out and think about carefully, so in a moment of clarity I left behind my old life to travel the world for a year, hoping to gain the insight and inspiration that I needed to help grow my idea. I realised that the happiest and most relaxed moments on my trips were in the places where I received great hospitality and service, and it was that lightbulb moment which would later be the foundations for how I ran my own salons.
When I got back from my travelling, I took up a job in a brasserie in Tunbridge Wells, which was great and it was here that my business idea truly unfolded and took shape. I realised that almost every evening without fail I was having up to 10 chats with women about their hair over a glass of wine. One evening, a lovely woman came in and started talking about bad hair experiences and how detrimental they can be to someone’s confidence. In a moment of madness, I invited her upstairs for an impromptu haircut, and that’s when I realised the experience of getting your haircut should be something you feel comfortable with doing, there shouldn’t be awkward consultations where you feel swayed into getting your hair done a certain way. It needed to be about how you want to feel more than how you want to look.
That was what I look back on as being my ‘eureka’ moment if you will, I then had direction and a dream for my business. It took a further year from this moment until I was able to open my first Salon, Number 9. People thought I was mad when I opened up, as I was going against all traditional hair salon conventions. I was offering something new and I knew it. Here, guests were offered conversations as opposed to consultations, they had a boutique experience where they could relax, let go and open up about exactly how they wanted to feel.
From there it grew and grew, and I realised four years later that I wanted something bigger and better, I wanted a brand. Thus, The Chapel was born, which I co-founded with my husband Toby. We now have four salons under The Chapel brand; two in Kent, one in London and one in Verbier and we keep expanding.
It wasn’t a walk in the park to get to where I am today, but I learnt the most valuable lesson I could have done: “sometimes you just have to put yourself first”. It’s an ethos I apply now to my business life as well as my personal life, every client who visits The Chapel is there because they are taking time out of their busy lives to put themselves first. Only by doing this, can you really understand who you are as a person, and through that what you actually want. And spoiler: it may be completely different from what you think.
“I have one life-long golden rule which I always follow: be inventive, be trusted and be different”.