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Julie Allen has come a long way since she stumbled into the beauty industry after leaving school.
She had intended to be an aerobics instructor, but had a car accident so she started working in a beauty salon. Twenty-two years later Julie, who was born with her left arm missing below the elbow, has set up her own beauty college and is a sought-after speaker at national beauty shows.
It has not been the most straightforward of career paths, as is the case for many women and along the way she has had to contend with breaks in her career for two children, both born prematurely, but it shows where a bit of creativity and a passion for one’s work can lead.
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Julie applied to train at a local beauty school in Towcester, Northants, after leaving secondary school. They had never had a disabled student before and nor had the hairdressing examining body, but Julie proved that she was more than up to the job despite having extra scrutiny on her during the exam.
She says her disability has not held her back even though people have asked her how she can do the job. “I’ve got the diploma to prove it and in our industry it’s your personality that really sells,” she says.
She adapts how she does her treatments according to her disability and laughs that her students have subconsciously copied what she does even though they have the use of two arms. She also taught her brother to tie his shoelaces with one hand and now he has passed on the method to his son.
Julie started working at a small salon with a nail bar and worked her way up. When she was pregnant with her first child she was working in an advanced skin care centre, providing treatments for things like acute acne. She also set up a body management programme to improve muscle tone for people who had lost a lot of weight. Because she was pregnant, however, she was not allowed to touch any of the machines and was told her job had effectively ended. Rather than take legal action, she decided to set up on her own. She had a lot of clients and many had asked for treatments not offered by the salon which she had been providing in her spare time.
She converted her garage and worked from home. In fact, she was working one hour before her waters broke while a friend was in a bridal shop trying on a wedding dress. Her daughter Francesca arrived two months early and was in the neonatal unit for three weeks.
Julie says that she was so worried about her clients when she went into labour – she had been working more hours in the run-up to her due date – that she was asking the hospital staff if she could contact them.
She had to go back to work three weeks after her daughter was born and says that because she was a premature baby she was used to feeding and sleep routines so Julie was able to plan her work around the baby’s timetable. Her mum also provided a lot of support.
Working from home suited her at the time, but she says she much prefers working in a salon or office. She decided to try temping after realising that the hours were more standard and she could earn more. She got a job as an office administrator, but was soon hankering after the beauty industry, even though it involved working at the weekends.
She got a job at a salon where she got the training bug and also got pregnant again. Her son was very premature and was born at just 25 weeks. Julie had to take more than six months off work since he had bleeding on the brain and suffered from chronic lung disease for which he had to be treated with steroids. That carried a risk of damaging his IQ levels, but so far he seems to be fine despite also having problems with his eyes due to the amount of oxygen he was exposed to. Having taken so much time out to be with him, Julie subsequently lost her job again.
She is philosophical about this since she says it gave her the time to focus on her baby. She also had to cope with the logistics of visiting him in Wolverhampton when he was very little before he could be transferred back to her local hospital in Northampton. Her parents helped look after Francesca, who was three at the time.
Julie knew she wanted to get back into the beauty industry, but she wanted to do hours which fit with her children. “I knew I wanted to go back to work and that I was a better mum when I was working,” she says. She started doing freelance training in tanning. She says the companies that train people tend to also sell the spray tan and she felt the training provided was too superficial.
Her background in advanced skin care meant she had a keen interest in what happened to different types of skin exposed to spray tan chemicals. “I felt the trainers needed to understand what happened to the skin and how the ingredients of the spray tan might affect, for instance, diabetics,” she says.
She was told her approach was too much like a nurse, which annoyed her and she decided to look at how she could go it alone. That meant she had to come up with her own tanning product. She approached a chemist who was surprised by her knowledge of the effects of different chemicals on the skin. Together they devised Glotanz, a more organic tanning product and it went on the market in 2011.
Julie travelled around the country selling the product and doing training sessions. As her workload grew and the product became better know, she took on other trainers and started writing training courses.
Glotanz had an office in Northampton, but Julie found new premises which she thought would be ideal for a beauty school. The Globeauty Training Academy was born and opened last July.
Julie approached a local college to ask for apprentices she could train up and ended up being asked if the Academy could act as a satellite centre for them, providing beauty training. She had to get accreditation through an examining body and realised that she was qualified enough to apply for college status. In the last month the Globeauty Training Academy has been incorporated under the Northampton College of Beauty banner.
The College offers a wide range of beauty therapy training with all courses developed by Julie and accredited through the Guild of Beauty Therapists. It has recently received official notification that it is now an NVQ provider and a CIBTAC International accredited centre, one of just 15 CIBTAC centres in the whole of the UK. CIBTAC is an internationally recognised beauty industry qualification.
Julie describes the last few months as “a whirlwind” and has been invited to talk at various events, including the beauty show at Olympia.
She says it has been hard work. She works seven days a week and long hours, but she feels it is worth it. Her husband now works with her and she has two childminders, but is looking for a nanny.
“I am building a future for my family,” she says.