What did you study at university?
I didn’t go to university. I went straight from High School into hairdressing school, moving to London when I was 18 and spending time training at prestigious hair academies, namely Vidal Sassoon, Toni & Guy, L’Oreal Technical Academy, Nicky Clarke, Morris masterclass international and Complections International. My first year I completed a basic course and then I spent a second year doing an advanced course before undertaking various other courses on different aspects of the hair industry.
What was your first job?
My first role was as an intern gaining work experience at a small salon in Pimlico in London. This was invaluable as I gained a real insight into the day-to-day workings of a salon, in terms of what happens both on the salon floor and also behind the scenes. I learned so much that by the time I finished working at this salon, I knew exactly how I wanted to run my salon when I would eventually open one. Following this, I moved back to India and I worked for four months in a salon in a hotel before I set up my own.
Where did the idea for Pastels come from?
Having worked in India for myself for seven years, I relocated to Dubai with my husband and small children. I knew that running a salon took time and energy and at that point in my life I wanted to devote time to my young family, so I initially worked part-time and was managed by Steven Chan. Once my children were settled in school, however, I worked for him full time. After working for seven years alongside Steven, I got itchy feet and was desperate to start my own salon. I wanted to establish a salon where every hair, beauty and grooming need could be met under one roof, and given that I had enjoyed working with Steven so much, I asked him to partner me in this venture and together we launched the Pastels’ brand.
What are the key elements of your role?
Everything really! I go from being a stylist to managing behind the scenes to ensure the salon continues to be a real success.
On the business side, I regularly review Pastels’ market positioning and the company’s growth, as well as undertaking studies to ensure Pastels remains a market leader. I also spearhead the development of the salon’s Standard Operating Procedures and ensure quality control across all branches to ensure consistency as a brand so that clients who visit any branch will receive the same Michelin Star-like experience each and every time.
I have a great team of managers and Steven is a terrific partner, so I have a brilliant support system. Each branch has its own unique way of working, led by its manager and so I trust them and do not micro manage. I like to think that I draw the big picture and my management team help me put it into action and achieve the goals I set. I trust my management team (which includes my PR and Marketing agency who has worked with me for almost a decade) implicitly and so take a lot of advice on board from them to make sure whatever we do is a success.
I also spend a lot of time training and educating myself, not just on the latest trends and techniques in the hair industry but on the business side of running a salon too. I have undertaken courses such as the EIDEAL-Santi Business Leadership Programme to learn how to be a more effective business woman.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have a friend who acts like my life coach and is full of wisdom. Although Pastels is a business, I engender a family-like atmosphere and so in the past when someone left, I used to get very emotional and take it quite personally. This particular friend of mine told me that I should try to be more detached, and to remember that in life it is normal for people to move on and that just because they were not present in our daily life any longer this did not mean they were lost to me as I could still be in touch with them if I wanted.
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
By nature, I am an easy going and soft person. I am easy to sway and my heart rules my mind. But as a business owner, I have had to take control and view Pastels as a business rather than a family situation. This means I have had to become tougher with my staff on occasion so that the business is professional and thrives.
What advice would you give to those hoping to do the same?
One of the most important things is to have an in-depth understanding of the business you wish to run. I believe that being a practicing hairstylist has been a real strength when it comes to running a salon, as I have professional knowledge and understand my stylists’ work.
If possible, try to learn the business side of running a business before you embark on establishing one. This is something that I did not do and I wish I had because since I undertook business-oriented courses, Pastels has flourished. With the prevalence of digital marketing, social media and fierce competition, there is so much more to running a successful salon than just having a team of strong stylists and beauticians.
Finally, make sure you take time out for yourself. Establish a clear routine of what you want your day to look like and try to stick to it so you have a good work-life balance.
Originally written by Diana Bellheather for Emirates Woman