I won't lie; it's not been easy being a female entrepreneur. I wasn't expecting an easy time but running a startup is even harder than one imagines. Whilst I 've been an entrepreneur my entire life - anyone who went to primary school will remember my foray into selling sweets which undercut the tuck shop on both price and taste, this was the first time I'd opened an actual brick and mortar business. As the business moves towards its third year of trading, I thought it was time to reflect on what entrepreneurship has meant for me as a woman. I also want to discuss the challenges of building a brand that can empower women as well as serve their desires as consumers.
Why I co-founded City Skin Clinic
City Skin Clinic was born out of a strong desire to tip the power imbalance in the beauty industry in favour of women and address the obvious gap in the market for affordable, bespoke professional aesthetic treatments. Our vision was to create a space where women can feel free to enjoy beauty concepts and treatments in the absence of the male gaze. We also wanted to create a platform whereby we use beauty as a proxy to explore wider social, political and economic issues relevant to women. Through this, we ended up creating an aesthetic clinic which offered a fresh take on these treatments. We aimed to achieve this by treating our clients as the intelligent autonomous people that they are.
From the beginning, we were clear that we would establish a business built on the principle of respecting our clients by delivering excellent results that we would always be proud of. This was clearly best achieved by affording our visitors a completely bespoke service that was at the same time affordable. Our guiding principle in the clinic was to always ensure that clients were fully included at every stage of planning treatments. This meant providing honest and clear information and being open about when treatments might be effective and when they may not be the best answer. Underpinning this was an absolute respect for every client's choice or preference and a complete absence of paternalism, judgement or pushiness.
We also extended our repertoire by simultaneously developing an online presence on our website and social media. We used our website to educate about our treatments and offer clear as well as honest information regarding everything from complications to products or fees. Through our blog, we sought to provide more detailed content on skincare, makeup and all things beauty related as well as explore wider themes relevant to women.
The challenges facing a female entrepreneur
In my experience, there are a number of challenges unique to being a female entrepreneur. The main one is being taken seriously. People, both well-meaning or otherwise, tend to underestimate my credentials and business ambitions. Beauty is generally considered quite superficial and of interest only to shallow women. As a result, many traditional businesses related to beauty (everything from makeup, skincare to aesthetics) tend to provide products or services with a degree of contempt for their customers. This can range from advertising which tells women they're only worthy of a man/job/happiness if they look good to a judgemental attitude towards anyone who doesn't fulfil a very narrow definition of beauty.
Thankfully, with the rise in beauty tech startups (most with young ambitious female entrepreneurs at the helm) we're beginning to see a challenge against this dogma. Hence, we have businesses like Glossier, Fenty beauty and Huda Beauty that are directly engaged with a customer base who love their products, engage with their business goals and very important encompass a diverse following. Other issues with being a female entrepreneur that I've come across is, unfortunately, a small subset of people who think they can exploit you. This has ranged from attempts at defrauding the business (by other business and clients) as well as attempts at extortion. My way has always been to challenge this head-on by being ultra vigilant and never conceding to this sort of thing. Integrity matters a lot to me as a person and professional. I place this at the forefront when dealing with conflict.
Despite this, there are definite advantages to being a female entrepreneur in this sort of business. For one, I understand my target market as I am that demographic. Hence, I can provide a hub for intelligent and driven women who are interested in beauty to varying degrees who are not defined one way or another by their approach or interests in beauty. As a woman of colour, I'm also always very keen to promote diversity and celebrate a much wider and richer definition of beauty. This is clearly reflected in our models and our subject matters which range from practical posts explaining hair type to discussing the role of social media in promoting diversity.
Is Work-Life Balance A Thing?
For me, I don't tend to place a hard distinction between work and life. I've always blurred the lines between the two and being an entrepreneur definitely potentiates this. It's not that I'm saying I don't have a personal life but very often I will be taking work calls, emails or working on stuff whilst I'm socialising. I ensure that this, however, doesn't affect my family and friends too badly (you never want to be that person) by limiting this to when someone leaves to go to the bathroom or when I'm en route to an event for instance. There are times when I may have to break this rule but it is for emergencies which are thankfully rare. Of course, there are also advantages, as an entrepreneur, you're always at work but you also set your own schedule. I can for example plan work around my social life to ensure that I don't miss important events and am there when any of my loved ones are sick or need me.
The future for City Skin Clinic
This has been an exciting year so far for the business. We've hired two members of staff (Abi and Natasha). Natasha is our super talented aesthetic Doctor who brings a very holistic approach to beauty and aesthetics. Abi, s our clinic manager as well as content editor. She will be blogging on matters that are of deep interest to her (look out for fitness, healthy eating and social commentary pieces) as well as handling our Instagram and Facebook profiles. This year we're looking to keep building our client list but also increasing our readership as well as engagement from our audiences across all our channels. We will also be building up our Youtube channel as well as launching a weekly newsletter. All in all, despite the challenges and hard work, I am never happier than when I think of the moment we decided to dive in and open this business. Its developed into something quite unique and special which we're very proud of. I look forward to stepping up our efforts and being the voice of inclusivity in beauty as a female entrepreneur.