Help The High Street – Carolyne Cross – Omni Academy of Beauty & Omni The Salon
Help The High Street
Carolyne Cross – Omni Academy of Beauty & Omni The Salon
Hi, I’m Carolyne Cross, owner of Omni Academy of Beauty & Omni The Salon.
I’m originally from North London, although my family moved south to Putney.
At school I struggled with dyslexia (I was officially diagnosed as an adult) and was told I wouldn’t achieve much.
As I’d always had an interest in makeup, after I left school at 16 I landed my first job on the makeup counter of Almay Cosmetics in a pharmacy in London’s Earls Court.
A work colleague told me about a beauty therapy course, which appealed to me so I worked for a year saving up £1,000 to attend a full-time nine month course, from Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.
In 1979, this was the only option – there were no part-time or evening courses. Today there’s much more flexibility and people can study for beauty therapy to fit in with other commitments as many of our students do at Omni Academy of Beauty.
After qualifying, I worked for Alan International hairdressing salon in Wimbledon, running the beauty room. It was owned by Kenneth Morris, who was secretary of BABTAC, the leading beauty organisation and CIBTAC, a leading exam board for the industry.
I suppose you could call him my mentor.
I went on to work for several other salons and on cruise ships.
This was very exciting – you work hard, see the world and get paid!
I loved the Far East and China. I’d recommend this to other beauty therapists as it really prepares you for the industry.
Kenneth headhunted me to be a tutor at his school – I was honoured to be asked. I owe him a lot – he gave me confidence and helped me develop my career.
As a teacher, I was also an examiner for CIBTAC which entailed travelling round the world visiting different colleges, private and further education, to see how they were delivering course materials.
When I toured round colleges in the UK, there didn’t seem to be a flexible structure in place for people to learn part-time.
I thought I could do better than this so that’s when I had my ‘lightbulb’ moment and considered opening my own training academy.
The turning point came when my father died in 2008. I decided to go for it.
Walton-on-Thames wasn’t far from where we lived, so I took a five year lease for one training room and an office above an employment agency in the high street.
I was full of nerves as I knew I had to make enough to support me and my family, although my husband Richard was very supportive. In my first class, I taught massage techniques to a group of friends.
It was a fee-paying academy when we started, but I wanted to provide courses for people who couldn’t afford it, so I quickly introduced apprenticeships and learner loans.
We offer courses which are funded, but are delivered in a private fashion, not in a sterile environment.
Opening my own beauty salon has always been in the back of my mind since I started. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, so when the unit next door became vacant a year ago, I grabbed it with both hands. The unit was totally refurbished and the salon is open to men and women.
One of the salon’s strong points is high level client care, achieved by qualified therapists from the Academy.
Since I opened the Academy nine years ago, there have been major changes in the industry. It used to be about traditional treatments such as manicures and facials, but as time has gone by more aesthetics have been introduced.
By that I mean treatments such as semi-permanent makeup and laser treatments for skin rejuvenation. I’m constantly researching new innovations which I can introduce in the salon, so watch this space.
Across both businesses there are 14 staff as well as students on work experience and Novatherapists, who are newly qualified students. Clients can book treatments with them at a discounted price and the therapists get invaluable experience.
The salon celebrated its first birthday in October with actor Julie Dawn Cole and the Mayor of Elmbridge, Councillor Rachael Lake.
Like most new businesses, the first year had its ups and downs.
I am very fortunate with a fantastic team headed by Jenny Phillips, manager. Finding the right staff is key to a successful business and they all trained at Omni Academy of Beauty.
The high street in Walton on Thames is having a hard time.
There are too many empty shops – I don’t think enough is being done to help high street traders.
It’s important to fill the shops, but I think the rents are too high. It would help high street businesses if there were periods of free parking as this would draw more people into the town.
Business rates is another area that needs to be addressed.
Generally the Council could engage more with local businesses. Having said that, Elmbridge Borough Council has some excellent schemes to help small businesses – for example, we applied for grants for outside signage and marketing.
So it’s worth approaching the Council to see what help they can offer.
Please do come and visit us – either at the Academy if you’re interested in courses or Omni The Salon next door in Church Street.
We look forward to welcoming you.
Owner, Omni Academy of Beauty & Omni The Salon, Church Road, Walton-on-Thames
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