After the coronavirus lockdown came into force, beauty businesses across the county suffered.
For many workers, who were newly self-employed, it was a huge blow as they felt they got little support from the government.
But now, one Stoke-on-Trent salon owner has set up a Facebook group to help self-employed workers in beauty businesses through Staffordshire.
Jemma Ball, who owns the Jemma Elizabeth Beauty Salon in Hartshill, was concerned her employees weren’t getting the support they needed and created the Staffs Self Employed Hair & Beauty Coronavirus Support Group.
The group, which began as small group on Instagram before moving to Facebook, now boasts more than 200 members.
Twenty-nine-year-old Jemma said: “We were just getting nice and steady, we had a brilliant client base coming in and then we had to make the decision to close. Shortly after that the government put the lockdown in place.
“It was a difficult time but Stoke-on-Trent City Council were really good with getting the grants out in time which helped massively with rent. My landlord was really helpful too.
“On the flipside I know quite a lot of people locally who have really struggled.
“We have two employees who are apprentices and then we have got five self-employed girls as well. Most of them didn’t get any kind of funding so they struggled.
“That’s kind of when I got a lot of local businesses together and we started this Facebook group. We realised that everyone had questions.
“People who maybe worked on their own did not have anyone to ask these questions to. We decided to make it bigger and open a Facebook group.”
The group is now a platform for people in the industry to ask questions and seek any help in terms of advice should they need it.
Jemma received the £10,000 small business grant as well as self-employed income support too.
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After five months of closure the business was given the green light to reopen for nail treatments only on July 14.
She said: “We should have opened in line with hair dressers. We were more than ready to open, we had the PPE, we had everything in place ready to go.
“When we got the go ahead for face treatments we were let down and it was cancelled at the last minute, quite a lot of people lost hope.
“You would see barbershops being able to do eyebrow treatments and beauty treatments on men which is no different regardless of sex. It was very frustrating for the industry and we did feel for some time that we were not being taken seriously and there was sexism that came with it.
“People were starting to struggle and they had to take out loans and debts they knew they couldn’t repay. That is where the group came in handy because we got together to help each other in the industry.
“We were able to come together as an industry to prove how serious we are. It’s been great since we have been able to be open for nail treatments and lash treatments. Our clients have been brilliant.”
All staff at the salon are wearing masks and visors in the bid to keep it free from Covid-19. Clients are also asked to wear face coverings which are also mandatory as per the government guidelines.
There is only one client allowed in the salon per therapist and 15 minutes have been added to every treatment so staff can disinfect tools and workstations.
Jemma added: “We screen clients before every appointment. We email out a Covid form the day before with some general questions about symptoms. That is done before every treatment.
“I would say that salons are one of the safest places you can visit whether that is hair or beauty. There are going to be people who are a little bit more weary especially those who have had to shield.
“I would say if you are not sure, every salon would be happy to go through their cleaning and sterilising routine so don’t be afraid to ask salons how they make their environment Covid safe.
“Safety is the most important thing because the last thing we want to do is spread the virus and have it in the salon so if we could make it as safe as possible not only for clients but staff as well, we have achieved that and hopefully we continue to do it.
“We show our cleaning routines on social media of how we sanitise and disinfect our tools and workstation.”
Jemma Elizabeth Beauty Salon is open on Tuesdays and Wednesday from 10am to 5pm, Thursdays and Fridays from 10am to 8pm and Saturdays from 9am to 4pm – appointments must be booked in advance and can be done online.