An Entrepreneurial Journey!
by Nicolette Henderson
“Why are you studying beauty?
I mean you got 5A’s in Matric!”
“You? Studying beauty??”
I remember all the confused faces looking at me when I told them what I had decided to study. I could feel their thoughts of “what a waste of a good brain”. And it stung.
When I completed Matric, I listened to the words of my father and studied something I enjoyed and was good at – massage was the first thing that came to mind, and the “beauty” aspect was just a bonus.
My life at Beauty College was more different than I expected. Some of the ladies seemed to have no real passion and dropped out within the first year of study. Beauty school isn’t as easy as one may think. It was during my college years that I noticed my ambition and drive. I decided that being average wasn’t enough and I wanted to stand out, and that I did. This thought-pattern had the result that I was top overall student for all 3 years of study and won several awards.
Work-experience as a student was not an enjoyable experience, and no matter where I worked, be it 5-star spas or budget salons, the experience was the same: low pay, terrible hours, horrible bosses and a noticeable lack of understanding of the concept of quality amongst within the workforce. I watched my bosses in action in utter amazement and knew I could offer a much better service, so I decided to give it a go.
My business had humble beginnings. I started with a single room at home with a massage bed and the products that I received with my college kit. In this way I spent half my college career in a grind, working from home and saving every cent I made through my small salon.
However, soon I started buying more equipment and expanding. While others were partying, I spent my days reading and learning, and this extensive study is what made me stand out. When the time came to make a decision to either dive into my business or get a job, I decided that working for a boss was not what I wanted to do and my dream of starting an empire began.
I found a room to rent attached to a dance studio, and at that stage, had no idea if I would even make the rent, but I did. The business expanded and my clientele tripled within the space of a few months. But, of course, with the good there is always the bad, and, due to circumstances beyond my control, I lost this spot and with it, all my clientele, and ended up back at home with my tail between my legs.
I eventually found another room near the dance studio and rebuilt my business from scratch. Once again, I had no idea if I would make it. It was then that I developed a passion for marketing and networking, as the premises I was now renting was completely hidden from the road, and this left me with no choice but to get out there and draw the clients in myself.
I started meeting the right people, giving talks, reading great books on motivation and marketing, and my skill as a therapist developed quickly, and I started becoming a well-known name in the area. I knew the day would come when I needed to expand, and that day came sooner than expected. I found ideal premises down the road that was in desperate need of renovation, and against the advice of those close to me, I invested every cent I had made over the past two years into renovating it and turned it into a beautiful 5 roomed spa.
I hired my first member of staff, then my second, and even had two tenants. It was then that the true challenges started, as I had always worked alone without others to concern me. I found myself thrown in the deep end and had to learn very quickly to deal with staff and tenant issues. Some of my biggest setbacks have been theft, personal attacks and sabotage from staff, tenants not paying, threats from competitors that have caused major problems, cattiness in the beauty industry and incorrect advice from mentors. At one stage I lost all my employees and had to rebuild the business and client base a number of times. It feels as if I have had a nervous breakdown, and have suffered from burnout twice in the past year. These are issues that no one talks about during training, and for which I certainly wasn’t prepared.
I was 20 when I started Tranquility and it has been the biggest rollercoaster ride emotionally. What makes it worthwhile, is knowing that I have inspired others, and that my business is developing a strong and loyal following. It has taken 4 years for my business to get to the point where it is now and I’m nowhere near done. I am currently working on my own product range and looking at further growing the business in new directions. What I want people to know is that, if starting your own business were easy, everyone would do it. I want to help young ladies, and having walked down this path myself, am prepared to help them through the many lessons I am learning along the way.
Tranquility Health and Beauty Spa,
15 Neville Road, Westville, Durban Kwa-Zulu Natal