What’s it like to manage a beauty start-up in a global pandemic

The owner of a small start-up in London told me how her team overcame the challenging times during the lockdown and how she and her partner are now managing their business in a global pandemic and a recession. Passion comes from deep inside, and Jana and Zita have the power to look forward because there is still hope.

We are living tough times. Covid-19 has caused a global pandemic and now a worldwide recession. Nations all over the world are affected, even countries with a strong economy like the UK. Companies in England are cutting costs, others are making redundancies, other businesses will stay close indefinitely, and unemployment is expected to rise until the end of 2020, a year like no other in our lifetime. Some businesses started just before the pandemic.

Jana and Zita opened their dream beauty salon in London. After the official opening everything seemed to get better and better, until everything stopped.

When did you start your business?

House of Beauty London was launched on 24th December 2019.

How did you come with the idea and how difficult it was to invest in it?

Since I came to the UK nine years ago, at my first job interview, my employer asked me where do I see myself in the next ten years. With confidence, I answered that I would own my beauty clinic. Employer loved that self-esteem and motivation in my voice.

We imagined our salon with our eyes closed and we worked hard to save every penny towards our goal.

I remember Zita and I imagined our salon décor in our thoughts. We even meditated with our eyes closed, walked through each room and we described every little detail in our heads, then we shared the projection. We realized our dream. Always believe in yourself! Dreams do come true!

The investment was pretty straight forward as we planned every little detail and we worked hard to save every penny towards our goal.

Zita is an experienced facialist and nails expert. She is also the one who came with the interior design concept in the salon.

How would you describe the first few months?

Since we opened in December 2019 until the lockdown on 21st March 2020, we earned a good reputation in our local community. We got to know excellent clientele, which was growing every day. An amazing feeling!

How did you feel when the UK Government decided to close all businesses due to Covid-19 pandemic?

When the Government decided to close all businesses, we felt a panic and an uncertainty in the future of our start-up and of our personal lives.

When we received a grant from the UK Government, it gave us hope and a breath of fresh air.

How did you both overcome the anxiety and fear about your health or due to financial reasons during the months when the business was closed?

In the beginning, it was tough to make a plan on how to save the business as there was no support. When we received a grant from the Government, it gave us hope and a breath of fresh air. We are very, very grateful.

To fight anxiety and fear during the lockdown, we both deeply sank into studies and personal development as well as gardening, which I personally find it therapeutic.

Jana is an experienced facialist, and as a managing partner, she is also in charge of the business management and development.

How did you support your team during the lockdown?

During the lockdown, we connected with the team on zoom and we sent messages to support each other.

How difficult was it to restart after four months? Did the Government help you? How about your friends?

It was quite challenging to restart after such a long break, but we were all looking forward so much to welcome back our clients and to meet again with our lovely team.

The new normal has affected us massively. We are running our business on 50% capacity.

We are living a new reality. There is a difference in how was the business before lockdown and now. What did you have to change according to Government’s new regulations and comply with the safety measures? 

The new normal has affected us massively. We are running our business on 50% capacity due to social distancing, preventing overcrowding in the salon. We are also limited in the services we can provide, which incredibly affects our cash flow, as myself and Zita are facialists, and we unable to perform these treatments. Friday, on 31st July 2020, we had such a short notice from the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson which postponed close contact services, which were devastating and upsetting. It seems we are living in a man’s world. It is unfair that barbers can trim a beard, but we cannot do a close contact in full PPE. We have invested a lot in safety measures, but it seems is not enough.

We are living in a man’s world. It is unfair that barbers can trim a beard, but we cannot do a close contact in full PPE.

We have implemented staff to wear full PPE, including visors, face masks, disposable aprons, and usual gloves. Staff have to change PPE regularly, including footwear before and after starting work. We do temperature checks daily; we measure client’s temperature, use sanitizer upon arrival and also everyone is filling a COVID 19 questionnaire. We are now only serving water from a water dispenser in disposable cups. Protective screens are in place. We have removed all magazines and there is a waiting chair to allow social distancing. We have a waiting area outside with chairs and a table. We are sterilizing tools more than in normal conditions, wiping down door handles chairs and all of the hard and soft furnishings between clients.

How did the customer’s behaviour change?

Some customers are anxious at first when they walk in, but when they see all our safety measures it seems they feel more comfortable.

What is your competitive advantage?

Our competitive advantage is that we take our health and safety measures very seriously, we always aim for the best customer service. Also, we are up to date with the latest technologies as well as experience in the industry.

What is the split of roles and responsibilities between the two of you? 

We both try to split our roles equally. I will mainly do the financial side, management and development. Zita always comes up with great ideas in design, HR and marketing. By the way, it was completely Zita’s talent to create all the design and accessories.

We are looking for talented people to expand and grow with us.

How many members of staff are on the team now and how many were before lockdown?

We are a small team of six. Our newest member of the team joined us only last week. We have one female and one male masseuse three beauty therapists and front of the house. We are looking for talented people to expand and grow with us.

Every day starts with happiness and hope.

What keeps you awake at night, and what makes you wake up in the morning?

Thoughts about a second wave and a second lockdown keep me awake at night as it is a big worry and uncertainty, as we may not be able financially to survive this. However, I try to go to bed feeling grateful for health, family, friends, business and peace. In the morning, positive thoughts about a second chance and gratitude overtake my lack of sleep, and the day starts with happiness and hope.

We believe in positive energy and how it reflects on other people.

From the first minutes I entered your salon, I felt a positive energy. Is this something people tell you often?

Thank you for your lovely feedback, that means a lot to us. Yes, people do comment on our positive energy and great atmosphere in the salon. We all believe in positive energy and how it reflects on other people. We have the whole families coming for treatments, starting from kids to mum and dad to their parents and friends. This is what makes us happy in what we do and what we have achieved.

How do you see the future of your business?

I am sure in years we will look back and smile on how we have managed to overcome these tough times. In our plans, we would like to expand and grow our brand. As I said before, dreams do come true, and we will work hard to achieve our goals.

House of Beauty London is located in Clapham Junction, South West London.

Photo credentials: Corina Stoicescu, House of Beauty London Instagram profile.

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