BeCalmed Wellbeing and Medispa definitely has the feelgood factor! Tom Stroud finds out how the Cowes business continues to grow, now employing 9 people.
Caroline Hurley and her team of sports, holistic and beauty therapists have been providing “an oasis of calm, just off the busy Cowes High Street” for more than 10 years. It’s been a real tale of growth, that began more than twenty years ago. In that time Caroline has gone from part time working mum to managing director.
“We’re a family run business and we help our customers to look and feel great,” Caroline says. “I started working in the healthcare industry because I care and want to help people to feel better.”
Caroline had worked as a chiropodist at the NHS and left to bring up her son and daughter. She started a clinic at home, booking in appointments around the family as they grew up. Caroline also got some key start-up advice on her next step by attending the Chamber’s start up course. In 2003 a beauty salon at Gurnard Pines became available and Caroline took it on.
“I liked the challenge and I thought it was something I could do and a way of broadening my personal skills,” Caroline says. “The time seemed right and it was definitely something completely new for me. I was a healthcare professional but didn’t know the beauty industry very well. Having a premises and employing people was a massive change.”
Caroline took the business from one treatment room to three. Her goal had always been to move into Cowes High Street and when the right premises became available she opened BeCalmed on Birmingham Road in 2006. It was another step up and another new start.
“It really felt like I’d gone back to the beginning because I had this massive premises and overheads. There were some sleepless nights and I did wonder what I’d done. It’s like having another home to look after and my husband and I were always here working on the premises. It’s very hard to take time out when you’re running a new business. You can’t walk away. The great thing is that if you have an idea you have the power to make it happen. I did have a solid starting point with my core of regular clients and I’d also got to know lots of people in the town.”
BeCalmed offers a holistic approach with unisex appeal. Growth was steady and although the recession of 2007 slowed progress initially it didn’t stop the business from flourishing. In 2009 BeCalmed notched up a first and became the only Island stockists of skincare brand ESPA, found in many 5 star hotels. It was a big investment by Caroline.
“They were top of my list. They’re naturally organic and they matched everything that I liked. I persuaded them in the end! It was the best move that I made and it really helped me to work out where I was going and what I wanted to do, reinforcing my own business values. My staff benefited from ESPA training too, so the whole team grew.
“Getting the right team is essential. We support each other and work in a relaxed manner, socialising after work. The team take pride in what they do and want to be part of a business with a good reputation. Employees feel safer because of this as they belong to a strong quality led business. They support each other to continue to develop professionally in the treatments they provide through training and mentoring. Employees feel that they matter and that they have a voice.”
Caroline’s first customer from 1997 is still with her today, along with many clients from her home salon days. There’s been growth in massages and facials, as well as pampering. The salon now has five treatment rooms, a manicure and pedicure lounge, an infrared sauna and a relaxation lounge. In 2010 Caroline’s daughter Laura finished her training in Sports Massage, Holistic and Beauty Therapy becoming an invaluable part of the business. Laura has since extended her skills and now offers aesthetic treatments for red vein, tattoo and skin tag removal as well as a wide range of other treatments using the latest medical grade equipment in specialist treatment rooms. She also took on Finishing Touches in Cowes, a sister salon, established 3 years ago.
“I couldn’t have predicted this,” Caroline says. “When I started I didn’t have a business plan. I wanted to earn money so that we could go on holiday! BeCalmed is a destination on the high street now. We have our client’s wellbeing at heart and develop a close and trusting relationship with them many of which have become friends. I feel like we’re really a part of the community now and I think clients have enjoyed watching us grow and they’re quite proud of us. Our company culture is based on helping employees and clients feel safe, that they belong and that they matter.”
CAROLINE’S TOP TIPS
I’m very proud of the Isle of Wight and I love living in Cowes but from the moment I first went into business I always wanted to offer the standard of service that you would get in London.
Learn your business thoroughly
Train in every aspect of your business. If someone goes sick, there’s often no one else to fall back on.
Getting the right team is so important. You’re looking for someone with the same company ethics as yourself and who will fit in with the rest of the team. It’s not just about qualifications – you can always add skills later.
Listen to people with experience and an objective view. You can get too close to your own business. Making a realistic business plan helps you to judge your achievements and also plot the way forward.
Your business will evolve and the industry will evolve too. You’re always learning.
Stick to your guns
In business you need to have a good balance. I was still doing the school run when I started because things like that were important at the time and I made the business fit around my lifestyle as much as possible.
Join the Chamber!
When I first joined I wanted the employment law support and legal protection. My membership was invaluable. As BeCalmed grew I saw the benefits of networking. Now I’ve enrolled on the Chamber’s Mini MBA. My membership has grown with me and it establishes us as a credible Island business.