I started my career as a beauty therapist some 20 years ago. Once I joined beauty school, I became convinced that I would learn so much more working on the salon floor than sitting on the school bench. So I made a deal with the school director that I would work half the time in a beauty salon and spend the other half attending school. And that’s how my career started.
What I learned there has been invaluable. I had the first-hand experience of how a boss develops an individual to become stronger, both professionally and personally. She had so much belief in me that I had no choice but to believe in myself. She trained me, motivated me, and before I knew it, she let me work on clients independently. One day, she announced she was going on holiday and she would let me handle the salon all on my own. Apart from being a little nervous, I was extremely proud of myself and very grateful. It gave me so much confidence! From then on, I knew I had it in me to succeed in what I was (and still am) so passionate about! I do realize that I am extremely blessed to have had such an incredible boss (who is still a dear friend of mine) upon starting my career. Because of her support and belief in me, I was able to build strong foundations that helped me get where I am today.
In 2003, I unexpectedly moved to Dubai. At that time, I had no idea what to expect from Dubai, let alone know what the beauty industry looked like. Being young and full of passion, I was on a mission to find a job. I went through the Yellow Pages, searching for beauty salons who would need a beauty therapist. I began cold calling and then I found a salon.
A gentleman told me that they were in urgent need of a beauty therapist and invited me over for an interview that very day. I was thrilled! I put on my best clothes, and with butterflies in my stomach I drove over there. I was convinced I would walk out of there with a job. But the disappointment couldn’t have hit me any harder. He did offer me the job, but he also offered me AED 1500 to work 6 days a week, 12 hours a day. So, with great disappointment I went home and thought ‘’What am I going to do?” I’ve never been one to sulk for long, so I went through my options. I went back to the Yellow Pages in search of beauty suppliers. I wrote my introductory letter, added my CV and posted them, in the hope that someone would call me. And did they call! I was invited for an interview for the position of beauty trainer at one of the leading distributors in the Middle East. What an opportunity! So, I accepted the job and my career started in the region.
Working for one of the leading distributors gave me the opportunity to understand the ins and outs of the hair and beauty salon industry. It gave me such great insight! I couldn’t have started in a better way, as this strengthened my foundations for the growth in my career.
I spent several years with this company. After a time, I could no longer see any potential for growth and decided I was ready to take the next step. Luck was at my side because I was approached to run a chain of hair and beauty salons. In fact, the initial agreement was to develop a male grooming concept, but on my first day, I was asked to take care of the chain of ladies’ salons. I learned that they struggled managing some of the employees and my new boss was convinced that I would be perfectly capable of handling them. And so I became the General Manager of a chain of hair and beauty salons. It was a wonderful opportunity which I grabbed with both hands, but I had put myself on a never-ending roller-coaster. From running one chain to running multiple chains to setting up an exclusive distribution company; what a journey! That job taught me so much. Unfortunately, it also taught me how not to run a business, which turned out to be beneficial as I moved through the rest of my career. The company culture was so far removed from my own values that I no longer understood what I was doing there. Mentally, I couldn’t allow myself to continue being a part of it. So, after 4 years of trying to fix this culture and exponentially growing the business, it was time to leave.
Once again, luck was on my side! I had been approached by two different companies that wanted me to join them. Both were great opportunities, but I ended up choosing the job that would bring me the most challenges (and the most growth), as it was a type of business that was new to me.
Stepping into something new required hard work and dedication, as I had a lot to learn, but at the same time expectations to deliver results remained high. But that is what I’ve always been looking for: challenges! I thrive and perform best when I’m challenged. If the job isn’t challenging, then it isn’t worth my time. I would be bored.
Running a hair and make-up academy brought me exactly the change I’d been looking for. During that period, I had the opportunity to work with and build a team of creative and wonderful people. I was able to build lasting relationships, not only with some of the team members but also with the students. I was also blessed to work for a boss whose leadership style was built on trust. That was new to me and it’s something I have embraced in my own leadership style going forward.
While running the academy, I enrolled at Middlesex University to do a Masters in Marketing. I decided to do this because I wanted to improve my knowledge and as well have a Masters degree added to my CV. I was at university four nights a week, and once we started our dissertation, it became five nights a week. It was an intense time and it required great time management and dedication, but I was so proud when I was handed my diploma.
After the amazing experience of managing the academy, I made the leap into the corporate world. It was a tough decision at the time as I loved the team and environment at the academy and I knew I could still make so much difference, but the opportunity that came along isn’t one that comes along often. I realized that this was my chance to take my career to the next level. To date, I know it was the right move. An entire new world opened up for me. There was so much structure and so much support. It was so different from everywhere else I had worked before.
As strong as I was when it came to running salon businesses, I was that weak when it came to numbers. One of the many things this company did for me was push my boundaries and make me excel when it came to numbers. I’ll be forever grateful to the CFO and Deputy CEO for the patience and energy they had with me getting there. I never imagined I would ever enjoy numbers, but did they manage to make me love them! What a difference it has made to my ability to run a business more successfully.
I can honestly say that the time I spent with this company will remain the best part of my career working for someone else. It wasn’t all sunny days—it was challenging and tough at times—but the values of this business were so in line with mine.
For many years, I had a boss that I still call my best mentor (and friend), and the entire time I was there, I never stopped learning. Most importantly, I was able to build an amazing team, based on empathy, trust, and respect. I am still in touch with many of them. They reach out when they need advice or support, or they just check in on me to see if all is well. That alone I call a great achievement, because at the end of the day, our industry thrives best on happy people; I still believe that one of the major reasons I was able to turn around this business from millions of losses into millions of profits was the strong relationships I had built with the team. As I always say, “When you are good to your people, they will be good to you. And that will reflect in their performance and in your bottom line.”
However, as with all large enterprises, structures change and I found myself reporting to a new person who entered the business. She couldn’t have been more different from the boss she replaced. Unfortunately, each day saw her sucking the energy out of me and my passion for the company was slowly disappearing. It was heartbreaking, because I loved the brand that I had put so much of my heart and soul into and I really cared for the team. But deep down, I knew it was time to go. I couldn’t allow myself to lose the passion and love I’ve always had for this industry. It is so true that people don’t quit jobs, they quit their bosses! And so did I.
A year before I made that decision, I’d been approached by the business I would be joining next. I was strongly advised against this by people who have my best interests at heart. One of their reasons was that it wouldn’t be an environment that would align with my values. I was told I would enter a world where empathy was non-existent, a world where people didn’t matter. The bottom line was numbers, nothing else. In hindsight, I should have listened, because they all ended up being right. But at that time, I thought it was going to be the next big step in my career. I would be setting up the franchise department of the biggest group of beauty businesses in the region. How could I turn down that new challenge? My excitement was short-lived; it wasn’t long before I realized I’d made the biggest mistake of my professional life. I have never seen so many people working in one company who were so unhappy. The energy was dreadful. It’s hard to describe, but it was terrifying. I entered the job full of energy, but it was soon depleted. The day I realized I didn’t have an ounce of energy left inside me to lift the team’s spirits was the day I decided to leave. It was an environment I wasn’t able to perform in, but most of all, it was an environment I didn’t want to be part of. I was beyond exhausted; I had reached a point where I was the unhappiest I’d ever been.
At that point I knew it was time to figure out what I wanted to do most in life. One thing was clear: I did not want to look for another job where people would be able to take away my passion and energy. I wanted to find a way to do what I love most, to inspire those who want it so badly but are held back because they lack the know-how. I realized I wanted to share my experience with women as passionate as me and for whom I could make the difference they had been looking for or help them realize their dreams. I also wanted to reach out to so many to inspire them to be good to their people and show them how it will positively impact not only their business, but their life and the lives of so many others as well.
After taking 9 months off, after conquering my burn-out, I came back stronger and better than ever.
VR Beauty Consulting was born!