The 4th of April marked Neroli turning 18!
I feel I should take my business out for a coming of age drink or buy it a special present!
Part of me can’t quite believe it’s been 18 years since I opened that door for the first time and part of me feels like it’s always been there.
Anyone who knows me well will know that starting a business at 20 years of age was not in my plan.
I knew I wanted to do it, but imagined I would be 35.
First, I wanted to have a full time job, get more experience under my belt and save some money to buy a house with Bruce. (My long suffering husband!)
However, the full time job I had at the time was pulled from beneath my feet going from 40 hours per week to just 13.
Nowadays, beauty is such a huge part of people's lives, but back then, there was a distinct lack of good salon's in the area and finding full time work was very difficult. I had already spent 3 years travelling to Edinburgh for my studies, and I had also built up a good reputation with local clients, so it was important for me not to stray too far.
I soon found I was doing more and more work from home, much to my Dad's chagrin... imagine him coming home from a long day at work and being told to be quiet; "I have just finished a massage" or "I have someone in the spare room with a face mask on."
The poor man wasn’t allowed to relax until my last client had left. He even took to disappearing outside until it was 'safe' to come back in. He quickly got fed up with this situation and sat me down for a chat.
It’s a conversation that sticks in my head to this day.
He told me I couldn't continue working from home. I remember my heart dropping, and although I understood the reasons why, I was truly gutted as I loved what I was doing. He then asked me to give him a list to show I could make my own business work, and if I could, he would give me a loan to start up.
I couldn’t believe it. I have to admit I was excited and scared all rolled into one. I have to say, both Mum and Dad always instilled into me that I could do anything I put my mind to if I worked hard enough (and hopefully it’s something that I will pass on to my kids) So off I went to my room where I promptly made a list of the clients I had and what treatments they did. I trotted back down with said list. It was mulled over, thought about, and provided I could find a location, we would make this happen!
I knew it had to be in Dunblane. I had one client in particular who told me she would happily stay with me as long as I didn’t go too far from home. She is still a client to this day!
I knew some others would feel the same. So I started looking at a few properties in the high street, but nothing seemed right. Then one day, Bruce had to go to the post office as he had lost his driving licence (he can be quite good at losing things!) I went with him for something to do and I saw it... Dunallan was a lovely looking place, so I took down the phone number and excitedly got in touch. I will never forget speaking to the Chinese land lady who told me it was a front shop, back shop and basement. In my head a basement was a room with a lightbulb that went on with a chain!
I loved the building and its old curving staircase at first sight and knew it was perfect. Was I bothered it was painted bright green and yellow inside? Not a bit! Paint is easily covered. When we went downstairs and saw the size of the basement, it didn’t phase me one bit, (even though it was completely black with soot from a fire that had happened with the previous tenant)
I can only describe my dad as horrified and I don’t think Bruce was much better. They tried to talk me out of it there and then, but I was determined. (I know it’s surprising, but I’m really very stubborn!)
So the lease was put in place. I continued with my existing part-time job and every bit of spare time, I would go down, don my overalls and get some painting done - no point being idle!
My loan of £5000 wasn’t much to do all the work. We had walls to put in and we had to try and make the hall downstairs presentable for anyone who wanted the loo (don’t even get me started on that, it looked like someone had sprayed fake cobwebs everywhere but believe me, they were NOT fake!) and by the time I'd purchased an electric bed, the money was spent but the salon was done!
READY TO OPEN
So I was ready, well, almost!
I can actually look back and feel quite sorry for Dad. He kept trying to save me money. Conversations went something like this;
Dad "You could just have one treatment room then it won’t be as much getting walls put in."
Me "No I need 2."
Dad "Do you really need a shower room?"
Me "Of course I do - how will I do body treatments without one!"
And then it came to the products. I wanted to bring in Dermalogica. I loved it (I still do) but my poor Dad could not get his head around spending £3500 on "lotions and potions" as he put it. I was adamant I needed them and he was equally adamant I didn’t. (scuse me, which one of us is the beauty therapist?!)
Anyway, long story short, I ended up going to the Prince's Trust which is an amazing charity designed to help young people set up in business by giving them an easy affordable loan.
I can only think of one other time in my life I have ever felt so nervous, but taking a deep breath - in I went and answered all their questions. Low and behold, they gave me money with a bit of praise thrown in. (Bloody hell! I thought I must be better than I thought at talking a good talk, as I fully expected them to take my Dad's side and say; "are you kidding you want £3500 of lotions and potions!")
I was well and truly set, and on the 4th of April 2000 I opened the doors. I don’t think I will ever forget sitting in reception with my Mum on that day. I remember her asking if I was really excited and me saying, "Yes!" while in my head, I was saying, "No I’m absolutely shitting myself - what the hell am I thinking, can I actually do this?!"
18 YEARS LATER
Did I think I would get this far? To be honest it didn’t cross my mind when I opened.
My biggest achievement in my eyes was paying back my Dad in the first year. I never thought I would need more than 2 treatment rooms.
I never really expected to have staff either. I figured if I was lucky, I would maybe employ someone to help me out and give me a day off.
A lot of people say I must feel really proud at what I have achieved, but to be honest, I recon there was a bit of luck involved. There was no other salons in the high street when I opened, so really, it was a captive audience.
I can hold my hands up and tell you that 18 years later I still love my job as much as I did then.
However, having a business is like the world's largest rollercoaster - you can’t get off.
The highs are high and the lows make your stomach drop... in fact, there are times it makes your stomach knot like a loop the loop!
It’s been a steep learning curve managing people and sometimes it’s not gone well. There were times the frustration was not hidden well enough. And times I have felt so low I could hardly get myself off the sofa to leave the house.
But there have been some amazing people in my life that have helped me through it and very deservedly need a mention. Lillian was one of my first bosses who showed me you can be tough and fair. Her management style really stuck in my head because she took no shit but you knew she would always have your back and try to help you. (I will never forget her running full pelt out of the shop to chase a shoplifter leaving me to phone for security. That woman had balls of steel!) And I hope that’s how my staff find me.
My husband Bruce who is there for me when I need to rant or when I can’t say anything at all. The help and hard work he has and still puts into the salon.
My first clients including Margaret, Maureen, Jennifer and many others who believed in me.
Sharon who has worked with me for 12 years now (God only knows how she puts up with me) And has had my back more times than I care to mention.
My friends, and of course my Mum and Dad who gave me the "can do" attitude that’s seen me this far, and the belief in me to lend me the money. Without them, there probably wouldn’t be a Neroli at all.
So thank you to each member of staff I have had past and present, because each one has helped me to learn more. Thank you to each client who has come in and used the salon, whether you're a regular, a once in a while or a one off. Perhaps you are the 'I will never go there again' client... if you are, you are probably the most important of all, because without mistakes and upsets, you can’t grow and learn. You can’t find the faults and fix them!