Our last student success story with Katya was such a huge success, we’ve had a lot of our alumni reach out to ask if they could take part and share their experiences with you! We’re so grateful and are excited to post more of these regularly.
In today’s post, we’ve caught up with our graduate Katherine Alvaro who completed our Level 3 Nail Technology course. Katherine has since graduating opened up her beauty salon,’ Skip the Filter‘ based in Fulham, South West London, SW6 1QR. We’ve given Kat the opportunity through this blog to talk about her motivations for opening her salon, advice she wishes she’d received and her business essentials to encourage those of you looking to start your own beauty business.
It’s Never too Late for A Change of Career
Before starting my course at Ray Cochrane, I managed the operations of a busy private physio practise as Clinic Manager. This role gave me the experience and maturity to grow in the direction of becoming an entrepreneur.
Alongside my full-time role, I wanted to do something more creative and I loved nails, so I decided to sign up with Ray Cochrane as a part-time student.
Choosing Ray Cochrane was an easy choice! I wanted a school with a great reputation, good facilities, and comprehensive education. I also knew that I wanted a beauty school in London so it was local. Ray Cochrane ticked all my boxes and offered part-time options and payment flexibility. The payments plans made it more affordable to attend a private establishment for my training, as I felt there were more benefits. I found the course duration to be a good length. The course was full of useful information, and we had the time to digest and absorb it without it stringing along for over a year or not learning enough in a 1-2 day course.
The tutors are industry-experienced teachers, willing to share everything they knew outside the curriculum. We were able to ask all our questions and gained the confidence we needed.
Finally, it was great to study among mature and like-minded people. It made the course much more enjoyable and less daunting, knowing that I wasn’t the only newbie.
Initially, I had just completed the course to learn something creative. However, I’d enjoyed it so much I realised I wanted to work in the nail industry full time.
Katherine during her time at Ray Cochrane with classmates and one of our expert industry trained nail tutors
Kickstarting a Career in the Nail & Beauty Industry
After completing the course, I was confident that I wanted to become a professional nail technician. I had no doubt that I could make this a full-time career, so I started to pick up new clients (through social media and word of mouth), that I would work on alongside my full-time job. This was the initial phase and gave me the opportunity to gauge how quickly I could build my own client loyalty base. The final push was the first lockdown, as it made me think about my own personal circumstances and happiness. No risk, no reward played in my mind, and so I made the leap and began planning my dream to become a business owner in a profession I love and am passionate about.
Choosing to open a physical shop rather than working as a freelancer was a no-brainer for me. I’ve always been a go big or go home kind of person. It helps that I have experience in business development, which gave me the foundations to start. But more importantly, I wanted to work with a team of like-minded individuals who are also passionate about their beauty trade. Nothing is more satisfying than being surrounded by other people that inspire you. It’s very empowering, and we now help each other to grow. I chose Fulham as I’ve always had an affinity for the area since moving here in 2011. It’s an area I feel good in and felt confident enough to establish my own business.
Opening a salon was not an easy accomplishment for many reasons. I always felt I had good business insight from a very young age. However, I had some beliefs and fears that held me back, but I overcame them after doing the course and during the first lockdown. I also knew that working for myself and running my salon would go beyond a 9-5. A lot of my day is spent surrounding the business, which allows me to control the direction of my business although it’s time-consuming. I will say that having an outlet to focus on anything else other than business and having a day off to recover is crucial for me.
About Our Skip The Filter Salon
Would you like to book an appointment with Skip the Filter? Book here
Take a look inside the salon: https://goo.gl/maps/NFBef3kEwgAQLmeo9
When I was opening my salon, I knew what I wanted to offer customers, and it’s never changed since. I want to encourage body confidence and empower individuals to own their raw and authentic beauty without judgment.
At Skip the Filter, we are able to offer clients various treatments:
- Brow and Lashes
- Semi-Permanent Makeup
- Manicures & Pedicures
- Aesthetic Treatments such as fillers and botox.
Despite the common treatments found across most salons, our brand is unique for several reasons. One reason that sets us apart is our incorporation of beauty and nature. The decor is unusual and not a typical beauty salon style. It has a warm, bohemian feel complimented with dozens of natural indoor plants to give a positive vibe. To reflect our interior, we use only vegan and cruelty-free brands, to ensure we provide the highest quality of products and results. These brands allow us to give our customers the best experience. Our mission is to Skip the Filter because inner beauty starts from within.
Skip the Filter has created a loyal client base over the last 6 months. Whilst we haven’t reached the stage of turning a profit we have been able to break even since we first opened, which is a massive success. Our timeline for turning a profit is anywhere between 12-18 months, which we are working hard towards achieving.
Advice for Future Beauty & Salon Entrepreneurs
I opened my business without external investment, and I’m grateful that I could achieve that. But I wasn’t born into wealth, I took the initiative to save. I would say, save your money as early as you can, because you never know where life will take you. I recommend getting an ISA and setting up a direct debit with a fixed amount that you’re willing to put aside consistently over a long period. This fund can be accessed easily but the goal is to leave the money to grow for future opportunities.
Marketing is the most critical part of my business. Having social media allows us to speak to a larger audience that engages with our content. It’s good to have a strategy so that you can focus on key things. But be prepared to be flexible with your marketing plan, things can change as you gauge your local customers and online audience.
Social media allows us to showcase the quality of our work. We use reels on Instagram to set us apart and focus on before and after results. These reels allow new and existing clients to see the true results of our before and after treatment. Additionally, we encourage our clients to share their results through stories and google reviews, to hear first-hand testimonials about their treatment.
Finally, we educate potential clients about the kind of treatments we offer, methods we incorporate into our service and brands we use. Our content is truthful and honest, which we hope allows us to stand out from our competitors.
As a salon owner, here are 5 things I can’t live without:
1. Social Media
Social media is my business portfolio. It allows us to share our work, updates and engage directly with our audience. With so much competition, it’s important to stay relevant by staying active on social media and showing off the quality of our work.
Diary management is important and Fresha is simple and easy to work with. It allows me to streamline multiple parts of my business including marketing, with its ready-made campaigns and social media as it has the book now links on Instagram, Google and Facebook. It also has a marketplace, so you can pick up new clients!
I’ve lived and breathed Canva since 2016 and I can hand-on-heart tell you, it’s a game-changer for businesses. I use Canva for all of my marketing, so it is critical for my business and I couldn’t live without it.
I’ve used Wix multiple times and it’s reliable, user-friendly and has beautiful website templates that you can edit or create your own. My website is important, to give all the information needed to customers, looking to visit our business. It also makes us look legitimate ad professional, instead of using Facebook or Instagram as the website.
Last but not least, nothing is a business without excel. It helps me keep on track with my commission reports and employee hours, as well as other miscellaneous, number-crunching subjects.
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Thank you for taking the time to read about my journey in opening a salon, I hope you find this post helpful if you are looking to kickstart a career in beauty! Whilst you’re here, feel free to check out Skip the Filters’ socials: Instagram and Facebook.