Mother and daughter business team

As Mother's Day approaches, talks to mother and daughter team Dr Ros and Katie Debenham who have set up a beauty business together which is growing fast.

Some daughters ring their mothers weekly to keep in touch, but Dr Ros and Katie Debenham [pictured sitting on the sofa] don’t have to do that. They work together, running Radiance Mediaspa, a beauty and cosmetics business in Exeter.

Six years ago, Dr Ros was working as a GP and was looking to have some Botox done. She went to a practitioner and was not very impressed. A friend suggested she train to do it herself so she did. She started injecting friends, relatives and colleagues and got more and more business through word of mouth. She combined this with her part-time GP work and family life – Katie is the eldest of four children, the youngest of whom is 17.

Three years later her daughter Katie was working in a beauty salon, but wanted to run her own business using the latest medical-based treatments such as laser rejuvenation. Dr Ros’s work was building and she realised she couldn’t do both her GP job and her therapy job to the level she wanted to. Something had to give and Katie wanted to join forces with her so she took a “leap of faith” and decided to invest in a business with her daughter. “It was the best thing I ever did,” she says now. “I love it with a passion. I consider 99% of my clients to be good friends since I get to know a lot about them.”

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At the time she was able to use her barn conversion for treatments, but soon after she divorced and had to move. Since last Spring the business has been housed in a bigger property, allowing Radiance Mediaspa to offer 11 treatment rooms instead of three.

Dr Ros says she has faced all sorts of questions about the beauty business since she started. “As a GP I wanted people to feel happy. People think the beauty business is quite shallow, but that makes me cross. They have no idea what benefits there are when people feel confident,” she says.

Her daughter adds that she also encounters negative views about her line of work. One lady, when she told her her parents were GPs, asked if they were disappointed in her for being a beauty therapist. “People do unfortunately think beauty therapy is an easy thing to do, but there are lots of different things you can do and you can take it quite far,” she says.

Katie adds that she loves working with her mother and that they complement each other perfectly. “We both place a high priority on helping people to feel happy. We are hard workers and both have the same motivation. We are also very honest with each other,” she says.

Dr Ros says that joining forces with her mother has not meant that Katie has had an easy ride. She was only paid a basic wage until she was bringing in enough business to warrant an increase. “I made her work to build up her lists,” says Dr Ros.

Uphill struggle

Neither has building the business been easy. Dr Ros says working in a private clinic is completely different from working in the NHS and she has had to acclimatise. There have been some rocky moments. She almost lost the new premises after selling her investments to fund and develop the new workplace. She needed to get a mortgage and was turned down several times until a bank said they would be no problems because she was a GP. However, at the last minute they threatened to pull out, saying that because she had not worked as a GP for two years they would need another year’s projections. “If there was an Olympic gold medal for jumping through hoops I would have won it,” she says. “I had many sleepless nights. I was also going through a divorce at the time, but my view is that if you know what you want and are sure that your vision is right you will find a way.” Dr Ros added a few more zeroes to the previous business projections and the mortgage got the go ahead.

In the past year the business has grown fast, tripling its turnover and six to eight new clients are being added every week. Katie now specialises in laser work and another therapist does the everyday beauty treatments. Dr Ros does Botox and takes care of financial issues. Another therapist will be hired soon. The business also has three hairdressers and an apprentice, a part-time receptionist and a full-time receptionist who is training in marketing and PR.  Dr Ros does the hiring as she did a lot of interviewing for her GP practice. She says she looks for ‘people people’. The business has also had invaluable advice on HR through GrowthAccelerator, a government-backed business coaching initiative which pairs businesses up with coaches who have years of experience in areas where they need support. They have had to pay for this expertise, but Dr Ros says it has been worth it as they have had to let some staff go who were not right for the business and they wanted to ensure they did it correctly, without incurring legal costs. “We need everyone to be working as a team. We are like a little family,” says Dr Ros.

GrowthAccelerator has also helped the business with its financial projections, providing expert advice. The business still has monthly meetings with the expert GrowthAccelerator put them in touch with, even though the GrowthAccelerator course has finished.

Plans for the future include reducing Katie and Dr Ros’ hours. Dr Ros works 7.30am-9pm and until Christmas was doing six days a week and a couple of hours on Sundays. Katie also does long hours. They say they are getting smarter at how they work and have given over a large part of Wednesdays to doing administrative work rather than doing it as they go along and this has helped reduce their stress.

Katie and Dr Ros also want to focus on consolidating the rapid growth they have seen in the last year rather than taking off in new directions. Dr Ros says she goes to beauty conferences and it’s “like going into a sweetie shop of new treatments”, but it is one that she will resist for the moment. “We want to do things properly,” she says.

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