Rinsing the Competition with Quality and Care.

With 20 years in business, there isn’t much that Josie Devlin – owner of Fake It Hair & Nails- hasn’t seen. From changing trends in the marketplace to dealing with a global pandemic, Josie shares some of the insight she’s gained from running her Buckinghamshire-based business and tells us how she stays a cut above.

Fake It, a hair and nail studio in Chalfont St. Peter, Buckinghamshire, first opened its doors in 2000 and has pampered thousands of ladies and gents ever since. From colouring, styling and human hair extensions to the latest acrylic and gel nail enhancements, Josie and her team offer everything their customers need to look and feel fabulous.

Q: Where did it all begin?

A: I’d had my first salon for 10 years and had actually just sold the business as my husband had been offered a job in Wigan, so we were planning to relocate. The job didn’t materialise and, as my children were quite young, I carried on hairdressing part-time.

Then I was chatting to my friend one day and saying I was a bit bored! And missing the buzz of the salon. She was doing nails, and I was doing hair and we thought it would be a good concept to bring the two together under one roof. That’s when we had the idea for Fake It. Within six weeks, we went from having a coffee and sharing ideas to opening up the doors of the studio.

In the early days, it was just my business partner and myself, and within the first year we had three members of staff doing nails and three more people doing hair. So we really did expand very quickly. After 10 years I eventually bought my business partner out, and a new chapter for Fake It began.

Q: What’s been your biggest challenge over the years?

A: The business has had its ups and downs. When I think back over 20 years, trends have changed a lot. When we first opened up, people would get out their diaries and book appointments months in advance. From a business point of view, you knew exactly what money was coming in which helped us with planning dramatically – it was brilliant.

Then, around eight years ago, the beauty industry seemed to go through a big shift. The high street seemed to suddenly fill with nail bars offering treatments that were very ‘instant’ and very cheap. Overnight, everything changed. We had huge competition.

Q: How did you respond to this challenge?

A: We just carried on doing what we’ve always done. We believe in using the highest quality products. Yes, some of the pop-up salons were cheap but customers couldn’t always rely on the quality and – in the worst cases – were risking actually damaging their nails. I’ve always maintained using a quality product with clients – something that’s sustainable and environmentally friendly. Things slowly came around for us and I’d like to think that all our clients know that we’ll consistently deliver what they want to the highest possible standard.

Q: What would you say is the secret to your success?

A: Fake It isn’t just about getting your hair and nails done. It really is a hub where people come in, it’s good for their sanity, it’s good for their mental health. I think the hardest thing of all is getting the right team in place. I’ve been very lucky – you can only be successful if you’ve got the success of the team behind you. What I’ve tried to do is get the staff in place that care. Unfortunately, being a hairdresser or beautician you don’t get paid an awful lot, and it’s hard physical work so you’ve got to really love what you’re doing. We really care about our clients and this shines through.

Q: Obviously, hairdressers have been among the businesses hardest hit by lockdown. How have you responded to the situation?

A: Lockdown, to begin with, was really scary. You’re shutting your shop, you’ve got no money coming in and I’ve got 14 people who rely on me for their livelihoods which is a huge responsibility. But luckily, the government kicked-in, furlough took over. I’ve been honest with my team from the start, even when things were uncertain. We connect through our Whatsapp group and video calls. It’s really important – especially for my girls who are at home with young families – to stay connected. We’re just getting on with it, and because we’re all in the same boat it somehow makes it easier.

I’ve had so many lovely texts and emails from my clients who are genuinely concerned about what’s been going on. We keep in touch with our newsletters and I’ve posted ‘how to’ videos on social media. The response has been overwhelming.

Q: Have you learnt anything from the lockdown experience?

A: I’ve really enjoyed being at home! Usually, if I take leave from work I’m away on holiday. When we go back to some form of normality, I’m not going to fill my diary up – my social calendar. I’m going to leave some space to just be.

Looking ahead, we’ll keep sharing the tips on facebook but I think we’re going to be really busy. We’ll obviously have social distancing to take into consideration. Because we’re such a big team we’ll be putting a rota in place with the shop opening for longer. We’ll adapt, possibly by having more late nights in the week and we’ll keep talking it through as a team to plan solutions that work for everyone.

Q: How does Meades fit into your incredible business journey so far?

A: I’ve been using Meades for around 15 years. Talking about HMRC is daunting for me, and I would rather Meades just take care of it all. And that’s exactly what you do. Payroll, pensions, VAT, bookkeeping, plus managing furlough. There is no way I could have dealt with all that and Meades have taken all the pressure off me.

Paul is so enthusiastic and positive. He pushes me to think outside the box, almost like a mentor. He makes me look at things differently. If ever I’m feeling a bit stuck he shows me the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s very motivational.

Whilst I steer clear of the accounting software, Paul has recently shown me a brilliant tool to help me with financial forecasting. I’ll definitely be using that.

Sometimes, when you’re running your own business you’re so hands-on with the day-to-day you can lose sight of where you’re going. Paul helps me to re-focus and this has been very beneficial. Using Meades gives me complete peace of mind.

Q: And what does the future hold for Fake It?

A: I’m looking forward to getting back to some normality. I’d like to think that this time next year the business will be stronger. I’d love to throw a big party, but it’s a bit difficult with social distancing. My biggest thing is that I love hugging all my clients, but of course that’s taboo at the moment! But when we do open up the doors at Fake It, I know it’s going to be brilliant and I know that there’ll be a lot of happy clients coming in. I can speak for me and all the team when I say we’ll be really pleased to see everyone.

For more details see: www.fakeithairandnails.co.uk

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