A beauty salon owner says being interviewed for a video series “resurfaced tearful emotions” as she reflected on a tumultuous year of lockdowns and lost takings during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jolene Rees, of Innovations Advanced Skincare & Beauty on West Row, Stockton, had taken out a mortgage on her commercial property less than 18 months before the first lockdown and, like all businesses, was forced to close the doors, leaving her concerned for the future.
Thankfully, with good business practices and a great team behind her – and with beauty salons having been able to reopen in April – Jolene has seen an increase in demand for de-stress massage and treatments aimed at relaxation.
But she admits she has learned a lot about herself as a leader, having realised that staff on furlough were not just enjoying themselves in the garden as social media posts may have suggested, but were also struggling with the uncertainty posed by life in a pandemic.
In response, she made sure she checked in regularly with her staff and supported them with things like pamper packages by post they could use at home.
Jolene, whose business is one of a number to have been supported by Stockton BID (Business Improvement District) throughout the pandemic, said: “Taking part in the Humans of the High Street video took me back to the initial feelings of uncertainty and stress, which was quite emotional.
“The interview was quite intense. The camera is right in your face and at the end of one of the questions, it took me back to that time where we were waiting for furlough news and I had this building I had invested my life savings in.
“It has been tough. Although we have a reasonable online presence, our money is made in treatments and services, so I had to think on my feet – and fast.”
Jolene admitted the first lockdown was “very stressful”, worrying about the pandemic itself and whether she and her loved ones would be affected, as well as the impact on the business.
Her husband got “stuck offshore” for seven weeks and she was left alone with home-schooling her little boy.
“At the same time, I was dealing with all the enquiries related to the salon and all the worry, as well as going out delivering products and juggling online skin consultations around my son.”
In subsequent lockdowns, she was more relaxed, with processes to safeguard the business in place such as furlough and grants.
She also focused on social media posts and communicating with clients so people would have her in mind when things opened up again.
Jolene also praised the support she got from Stockton BID and its manager, Jason Maxwell.
She said: “He has been there with grants advice and is always helpful. I could bug him to share my social media posts and he would always find out the answer if you had a query about anything.
“We’ve had quite a few emails and have been offered help with marketing and posters and I feel there has definitely been a presence from Stockton BID – they have been checking up on people.”
Jason said Stockton BID was about “building a community” of businesses and “pulling people together as a collective.”
He said: “The idea of Humans of The High Street is that people really want to see real people and that’s what we are trying to achieve.
“We have felt a real need to put our businesses front and centre of what we do and we are here to bring the businesses together and show a community spirit.
“If we can do that in whatever way we can and show real passion, that’s what we are all about. If people see the collective passion and emotion of our high street business owners, they will come and support them. That’s what we need people to do now – come and support the businesses.”
Other Stockton businesses that have been interviewed in the Humans of the High Street series include Michael Poole, Darlington Building Society, Contemporary and Dovecot Tea Room.
For more information on Stockton BID, visit https://www.stocktonbid.co.uk/