How I Made It Work

How A Hairdresser From Botley Is Making It Work After Turning A Van Into A Salon

“When the outbreak happened, I was worried about the implications of working in a salon environment. Being asthmatic, I didn’t want to be around hundreds of others each day.”

Bustle UK has switched up its regular money series How I Made It Work, to better reflect the uncertain financial times caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of women who've achieved financial stability discussing the lessons they've learnt, each piece focuses on a woman who has had her working life transformed by the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. They'll share what their new normal looks like and how (if at all) they're making it work.

This time, HIMIW hears from Laura Snellgrove, proud owner of Tiny Salon. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Snellgrove was working as a hairdresser in Winchester. However, worries about her asthma inspired her to set up her own salon where she could have more control over her working environment. She purchased a second-hand van and transformed it into a mobile hairdressing space, sourcing pre-loved items to restore and upcycle online. Now brings a unique salon experience to her clients doorstep and has managed to triple her profits in the process. Here’s how she’s making it work.

Name: Laura Snellgrove

Age: 30

Location: Botley, Hampshire

Occupation: Hairdresser and mobile salon owner

What was your working life like before the coronavirus outbreak?

Before the coronavirus outbreak, I worked as an associate hairdresser at a busy salon in Winchester. I had been working there full time for almost two years, travelling (at least) 45 minutes each way Monday to Friday to see my clients for cuts, colours, and blow-dry galore. As with any salon, you experience slow days and extremely busy days, but overall, my job was very secure and sociable.

How has the outbreak changed your working life?

When the outbreak happened, I was worried about the implications of working in a salon environment. Being asthmatic, I didn’t want to be around hundreds of others each day and needed to ensure that everything was 100% safe. When salons closed, I had some time to think. That, coupled with the fact I am a proud owner of a Tiny House inspired me to create a private, mobile service that gives me full control – and so the Tiny Salon was born! I bought a second-hand van and furniture from Gumtree and used downtime throughout the pandemic to kit it out on a budget. I took a leap of faith in setting up on my own but am now working in a bespoke set up that suits my working style and personality, not to mention I have a much better work life balance.

How has the outbreak changed your financial situation?

Long-term, the pandemic has changed my financial situation for the better. When working in the salon, 60% of my wages went to the owners which meant I only received 40% of my earnings — and that was before tax. The outbreak gave me the time and perspective to start my own business. All the money I now earn is mine, I don’t have to split it with anyone else and can decide how much I charge for my one-on-one services. In total I’ve increased my overall income by 300%. Also, because my services are mobile but still “salon based,” I can give the customers the relaxing salon experience right on their own doorstep while charging high-end salon prices.

Laura’s van before its transformation

Has the government made financial support available to people in your industry or situation? If yes, are you able to access it?

Throughout the pandemic I was eligible for the self-employment income support scheme which is aimed at self-employed individuals who received little or no work. The scheme was in the form of a grant, specific to my wages earned in 2018/2019. I met the criteria to qualify for the scheme and was able to claim 80% wages for three months of that year throughout each lockdown.

Do you feel government measures have been sufficient for people in your industry or situation?

I feel that the government are doing their best in a really bad situation. The measures were adequate, but the timing made things tricky financially. The grants come through in form of backdated payments rather than money to see you through each lockdown, so if it wasn’t for my partner (who was able to work in construction throughout) I would really be struggling.

How are you managing any changes in your financial or professional circumstances?

When building the Tiny Salon, I used Gumtree as my first port of call to source local, unwanted items to upcycle — it allowed me to find hidden gems that would otherwise be going to waste and get the look I wanted for a fraction of the price. My most central salon features are the second-hand sink and chest of drawers I restored and flipped to suit my needs. We also sold things on Gumtree to add to our income. We had to rely solely on my partner’s wages to pay for us both in lockdown, so this helped us be more considered with the things we needed at home.

Laura’s Tiny Salon

What would help you feel more secure financially during the outbreak?

Having the grant before or during the lockdown, rather than after it.

How do you feel the outbreak will affect your working life more long term?

The pandemic has allowed me to create my dream work-life set up. Working and owning the Tiny Salon is much more lucrative than working for a salon business, my clients are preferring the private and slightly novelty set-up and I still get to meet lots of lovely new people every day. I love what I’ve been able to achieve so far and won’t ever be going back to a regular salon.

Do you think your experiences during the outbreak will change your approach to your business or working life?

Yes. I have become a lot more business-minded and savvy. The whole process from doing up the Tiny Salon second hand to running it day to day has taught me that anything is possible if you work hard at it. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d own my own salon, but we’re now thinking ahead and considering how we can franchise the brand to expand it even further.

Do you think your experiences during the outbreak will have an impact on your relationship with money?

It has most certainly made me more careful with money as you never know what is around the corner. Buying second hand is even more on my agenda, and as a couple we make sure to consider every purchase we make (whether that’s food, clothes, or appliances) rather than buying things on a whim.