On lessons from a female entrepreneur

Or, how Suman started her beauty salon

Imagine East London. The place busting with cool new and trendy coffee shops. The occasional kebab place to remind us where we were a few years ago. And you just moved in. You look for a good value, trustworthy and most importantly clean beauty shop for emergency therapies. And there it is, Crème Beau-Lè.

The shop is a wholistic experience. And I am not talking about marketing or brand image. My every waxing session included a brief, but very much welcomed relaxation massage. I did not leave the shop with a brute memory of the waxing pain, but a rather calm and ready disposition for my next errand. And that small service element is so simple, yet so invaluable.

You wouldn’t believe me when I tell you that Suman, the owner of Crème Beau-Lè, has quite an academic background. She has almost 15 years of experience, and just the last 4 in beauty therapy. Her sister is a lawyer and her brother is a molecular biologist with a dream of opening a fish&chip shop. No pressure there.

Suman is an absolutely lovely woman, the utter example of a sociable and cheerful personality. You cannot get out of the shop without a smile on your face. Since its launch in 2015, she has been working hard to run the business. And even without so much as a business background, I can tell you that she managed to beautify the Mare Street area. Through all those sleepless nights she learned a few lessons:

1. Nobody’s an entrepreneur, it’s a journey.

When she became more serious about starting her own business, Suman already had the skills for a beauty therapist, but not for an entrepreneur. Over the years, she realised that it is not something you learn in a course. Becoming an entrepreneur is a journey you commit to pursuing. It is about being able to apply the skills you have, as well as ask for help to fill in the gaps.

2. Motivation is key.

When you work very hard for someone else, but you can see no path on the horizon, or no career progression, that is when motivation to start your own business arises. And motivation is key, added Suman. But as you decide to do it, and when it comes down to logistics not adding up, then you need even more motivation to keep you going. Suman confessed she went through phases when she couldn’t try as hard, she had no advice or no idea what to do, she couldn’t find good premises; and all in all, it took her about 3 years before actually launching. At times she was ready to give up. “Family, friends and my own motivation kept me going” suggested Suman.

3. Go beyond the mile by being creative with your customer service.

I’ve already given you a flavour of how creative Suman can be. She really thinks about the customer and what she would ideally appreciate if she was receiving one of the treatments. She is yet to implement her ideas in this space. Spoiler alert: she aims to create a different kind of beauty shop — a wholistic skin care, body and face treatments space. And we are not talking here about your typical retailing of products, so watch this space!

4. Look after yourself.

When Suman opened Crème Beau-Lè in 2015, she had very little sleep, ate irregularly, de-prioritised exercise and reached that point of exhaustion when she had no other option but to look after herself. Most business owners will be in the same position. And this is not out of neglect for their own health, but rather for the deep love and commitment that they have to seeing their baby grow. “You always think you won’t be that person that is obsessed with the business, but it happens”, says Suman, “you have to make the conscious decision to look after yourself every single day”.

5. Life experience counts when you are running your own business.

If there was one advice that Suman would be able to share with all the young people out there, it would be going to university. University gives you the kind of life experience that defines and nurtures your personality. If you have that opportunity and truly take advantage of it, you are sure to make long-lasting friends and create a support network for life. When you are running your own business, it is this network that matters most. Going straight from school into a vocation limits your experience. And although you do hear the random example of star entrepreneur dropping out of school, this is more of an exceptional circumstance. Whilst Suman does acknowledge that she might have achieved more by now if she went straight into her vocation, going back, she would still chose to attend university. She wouldn’t trade it for anything else.