Beauty In Bloom by Charlotte Hawkins

As we come to the end of March and almost a year since we went into the first lockdown I felt it was a good opportunity to use this post as an insight into ‘running’ or should I say surviving a business through the past 12 months.

I’m sure many of us could summarise this into three words and we’d most likely all agree that ‘challenging’ sums things up quite nicely, but I want to explain further how the pandemic has changed our business, how we’ve adapted and how we’ve used all this time out of the salon.

So rolling back to the evening of 23rd March 2020; the announcement that we all suddenly had been anticipating is delivered by Boris Johnson and for the first time in my lifetime, the Government is forcing us to close our business, stay at home and not go to work! My first thought….panic! There was so much uncertainty and all I kept thinking; how will we survive being closed for three weeks?! Little did we know that it would actually be three months.

Initially all our time was spent contacting every single client and Bride then adding them to our never-ending cancellation list. A task it turns out would be repeated numerous times and although time consuming has now become second nature. Following that; getting on top of all the usual admin and emails that so regularly get neglected due to busy, long hours in the salon. But once it became apparent that this situation was going to continue for longer, that’s when some long-term adaptations had to kick in.

With the prospect of zero income for weeks, maybe months we immediately reduced all our expenses down to the bare minimum and surprisingly at this point it felt that being a small business went in our favour. We could limit all our outgoings to essential only and with the lifesaving help of the Government grants and financial support we could just about cover our costs. Budgeting was key here; we would try forecasting the months ahead. Planning what expenses were due and how long the small income we had would last until the possibility of reopening returned. Being prepared and acting with caution served us well, and a valuable lifelong lesson.

We then wanted to find a way of offering as much to our clients as possible, within the restrictions. That’s when we decided to provide our ‘regular root only’ clients with doorstep delivery colour pots. We sourced sustainable containers with lids to hold the colour, provided a brush, gloves and a digital set of instructions. This was a great way of staying connected with our clients and ensuring that if they were to recolour their hair during lockdown it was a safe, professional colour. Along with the colour pots we’ve been able to deliver varying hair care and beauty products to the doorstep, giving our clients an opportunity to recreate an ‘at home’ salon experience. As times gone on we’ve ventured into the occasional video tutorial (cringe worthy and much harder than they look!) and over the past few months the very successful online sessions. These have been the next level in offering clients interactive ‘at home’ treatments; from facials, to manicures and most recently a hair curling tutorial. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these sessions; carrying out treatments virtually and at the same time interacting and socialising with clients.

As I’ve mentioned previously it became quickly clear; possibly even just prior to the first lockdown, that staying connected and in touch with our clients was crucial during this time. Ensuring they knew we were still here, providing whatever services we were allowed and that we’d be back and taking bookings as soon as we got the go ahead! This though, as easy as it sounds was more challenging than it may seem. With little social media experience and on a personal level generally try to avoid it; all of a sudden it became one of the only means of connection for our business. And although as a business we had a Facebook and Instagram presence it was admittedly somewhat limited, but with all this extra time available I was determined to make it a focus. But for anyone who has ever used social media for their business I’m sure they will agree it can be a love/hate relationship. The management strategies behind each platform are practically a mind field and it’s understandable why this is considered someone’s full time job. That aside, throughout all the lockdown’s I have done my best to remain present, active and connected through social media; but believe me when I say this was not without it’s pressures.

So along with all the business related tasks, I wanted to try and use some of the lockdown time as an opportunity for some self-development, downtime and personal goals. My main focus from the beginning of the first lockdown was to make the most out of this (hopefully) ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity. And yes, I use the word opportunity….I came to realise that by approaching each lockdown with this positive mindset, it would make the whole experience a little easier, that was the plan anyway. As many of you already know in Lockdown 1.0 I took on a life long ambition of running a marathon, a distance to this day I can’t quite believe I actually ran! It’s not all been physical activity though: I completed a nutrition course, became Pescatarian, joined online workshops and master classes, set long & short term goals (both personal and business), read/listened to multiple books, took up yoga; to name just a few.

Like I said I wanted to use this time as efficiently as I could, squeezing as much out of this ‘work free’ period as I could.

In between deliveries, online sessions, social media demands and a little personal development we have of course had to plan, schedule and ensure our salon was COVID secure and ready to open whenever the Government would allow. We decided early on that we wanted to try keep the salon looking as normal as possible and use social distancing as oppose to screens to create a more ‘normal’ salon experience for our clients, an escape periodically from this ‘new normal’ we are being forced to live. This meant we had to work alone most of this time, alternating our days at the salon; which for any other hairdressers, will understand is not in our professional nature. In fact being the hugely social humans that we are as hairdressers and beauty therapists, this whole pandemic has been extremely tough. The lack of physical social interaction was one of the immediate challenges I found I faced and yearned so badly for general conversation with anyone I found myself making friends with checkout staff, shopkeepers and sometimes the postman. Our job is to socialise and chat all day, everyday then overnight it stopped. So when we were able to get back to doing what we love most, despite all the COVID changes it was a pleasure.

Our working environment has changed a great deal from this time last year, as has most peoples. But here’s a few ways how life in the salon, behind the scenes has had to adapt; we no longer offer refreshments or magazines, every chair, surface and tool a client touches is wiped immediately afterwards, clients and staff are social distant, every towel/gown is washed every night and in busy periods single use recycled/recyclable gowns are used and extra time is added per clients appointment for cleaning and to avoid needing to use waiting areas.

The social distancing in salon has been difficult at times to manage and with high demand for appointments in the first weeks back, extra hours and days have to be made available for us to accommodate everyone. I think it’s important to add, that although we are desperate to start rebuilding our business and lives again, it can be daunting getting back to work. During lockdown everything slows down, our pace of life in particular so there is always a little apprehension just before you dive back into those 12/13 hour days, 6/7 days a week, you certainly don’t save up all the energy you need to muster for those long, busy days. But knowing we have a business to return to and after a week we’ll be back into the swing of it is incredibly reassuring. And I can’t express how grateful we are for the amazing, continued support and loyalty from our clients, friends and family throughout this time.

I can’t wait for us to bounce back and get back to living our lives with the freedom we all crave and will never take for granted again. And with some careful planning during these past three lockdowns we anticipate the rest of 2021 has a bright future with some exciting new ventures and challenges ahead.

“by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin