Welcome to EW’s weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week we chat with the co-founders of Dubai-based beauty salon Browns & Co. – Fiona Brown (FB) and Chloe Walsh (CW). The pair recently opened their salon in Jumeirah on Al Wasl Road, specialising in beauty treatments from brows and lashes to facials, hair removal and semi-permanent makeup.
Having both had a passion for beauty since they were young and forming a firm friendship after meeting here in the UAE, the pair decided to go into business together, with the aim of opening a salon from a therapist’s point of view.
EW sat down with both Fiona and Chloe to find out more about what initially brought them to Dubai and the inspiration behind opening Browns & Co.
Co-Founders of Browns & Co.
Fiona Brown (L) & Chloe Walsh (R)
What was your favourite subject at school?
FB: I absolutely loved art, I loved the way the colours blended to create endless possibilities. I loved how creative and inventive art can be. It’s wonderful how it’s transcended into my current job.
CW: Art was always my favourite subject at school, I love being able to creatively express myself and I guess that has transpired into my semi-permanent make-up work. It really is a form of art.
What was your first job?
FB: I don’t have a very glamorous answer for this but I was an Office assistant; I appreciate every job that I had leading up to my career, I felt like I took a little part of everything is prior to where I am now. The office job helped with organisation.
CW: I was a part-time waitress at my dad’s golf club during college. I loved saving my money to buy clothes, I’ve always been into fashion…. and I still am!
What inspired you to go into the beauty space.
FB: As a young girl aged around six or seven I would spend hours and hours building “beauty salons” in my parents’ back garden, using my mum’s cake mixing bowl filled with water for a foot spa rounding my friends up to come and enjoy my beauty salons. As life went on and I left school I became detached from my calling as life took me in a different direction in the teaching sector. I always felt a little incomplete and I never really knew what it was I was meant to do, until one day when I was feeling a conscious time was ticking on, I confided in a friend about my career uncertainties. She simply said, “What did you want to be when you were a little girl?” Then it hit me. Beauty, I want to make people feel beautiful. I went back to college to retrain 12 years after leaving college. I’d found my calling.
CW: I knew from an early age that university wasn’t for me. I wanted to do something creative, I always knew I would do something with my hands, at first I thought I wanted to go into hairdressing, but seeing how diverse and evolving the beauty industry was and how I would be able to constantly grow and learn new skills was a huge pull for me.
What eventually brought you to Dubai?
FB: A desire to travel and use my skills to help build the semi-permanent makeup industry in Dubai.
CW: I set up my first salon in the UK when I was just 18. I quickly had to learn the responsibilities of managing and running a business from a very young age. By the time I was 23, I felt I needed a change and I was eager to explore the world and work somewhere other than the UK. I had vacationed in Dubai a few times and I loved the fast pace of the city and how dynamic it was. To me, it was a land full of opportunity and although it took me a year to convince my partner to move, we eventually took the leap and landed on Dubai’s shores. I just knew it was where I needed to be.
You launched your new salon Browns & Co. a few months ago. What’s the story about launching your own brand and beauty space here in UAE.
FB: Browns & Co. The Villa in Dubai was born from a common desire shared between Chloe and I. We wanted to blend high-end service and skill with sustainable and environmentally friendly values. We knew from not only a business owners perspective (Chloe and I both owned beauty salons in the UK) but from a therapist’s perspective, this is really important when understanding the client. We had to get that formula right.
Having already built a name for ourselves and becoming firm friends. Chloe and I recognised a need to create this space for women to come and relax, indulge in luxury treatments while having the peace of mind that we have integrated sustainability. Chloe and I have a shared love for the free-spirited hedonism and ambience of the Balearic islands which played a key role in the identity of our brand and the overall feel of the villa. We wanted our clientele to walk through the doors and feel a sense of escapism, to slow down and re-set. To steer away from the notions of the fast-paced eyebrow bars you usually find. Timing was key for this project and it felt incredibly natural to come together with a close friend who shared the same core values and vision.
CW: After being in Dubai for seven years and building a rapport under two of Dubai’s most renowned salons, Sister’s and Browz, I knew that I wanted to do something for myself again. Just as the COVID-19 lockdown in Dubai hit, we made a decision to relocate back home to Yorkshire in the UK. Eight months in and I quickly realised that I was walking away from everything I had built in Dubai for the past seven years. Although the slow-paced and much-needed free time spent with family in Yorkshire during the lockdown was much welcomed, it just wasn’t for me. I love Dubai’s buzz and its multi-cultural spirit. After many conversations with Fiona, we decided to open a salon together, and there I was husband and baby in tow relocating back to Dubai in less than a year of leaving to embark on this next exciting journey. I sometimes pinch myself to think I’m actually living back here with my own salon.
Fiona and I have been on similar journeys, slowly building our own personal brand in Dubai, we’ve both owned salons in the UK and we both wanted to have our own business in Dubai. Myself and Fiona had a firm friendship and always kept in touch, and I knew we would always work together at some point. When I was in the UK it made me realise that I was potentially not following a dream of setting up my own place, so the timing just fit perfectly for us to join forces and create the beautiful Browns & Co villa. We decided to keep the name Browns & Co because Fiona had a discerning and loyal clientele from her Abu Dhabi salon. We then completely rebranded with my input and put our new visions to life.
View this post on Instagram
What are the key elements of your role?
FB: It’s Important for me to have a presence in the space. For me customer care is key to the Browns & Co experience, since opening our new space I really have enjoyed welcoming clients old and new. I am also a creative so I love to work on developing new services and products.
CW: Key elements of my role is to mentor our employees and ensure they are executing the highest standards of treatments and ensuring that beautiful natural brows remain synonymous with the Browns & Co name which is what myself and Fiona are famed for. Ambience and escapism are two buzz words that came into the vision when designing the salon. Browns & Co. is not just a salon for brow treatments and facials it’s a destination to escape. Which is echoed through our interiors inspired by the laid-back Balearics. My primary role is to build Browns & Co. into the go-to destination for semi-permanent make-up and facial treatments while transporting our clients into a world of relaxation and tranquillity.
Talk us through your daily routine.
FB: I wake up at 6am, take my detox Lemon water and go for a light run along the beach to help clear my mind. I then practice my gratitude exercises and make a black coffee teamed with salmon and smashed avocado. I then check-in for the day with our operations manager. I usually arrive at the salon at around 10am and chat with the guest services team, reception and manager. I have lunch and typically spend the day in meetings and zoom calls, focusing on product and business development.
CW: I have a toddler and a seven-week-old baby who was born the same week as opening the salon. My routine is very much around them as it’s so important for me to have that mummy/work-life balance. I also try to find some me-time to ensure I am the best version of myself. I wake up, spend time with the girls and we have breakfast together. I then do a workout which is either the gym or yoga and listen to an inspiring podcast while walking my baby to sleep. I will then either pop to the salon, attend supplier meetings or do some work on the laptop. I always make sure I’m back for dinner as a family and put my daughters to bed. It’s important to keep this bedtime routine as it’s a special bonding time for me.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
FB: Someone once said to me, “No one ever said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.” That always stayed with me. You have to be prepared for the highs and the lows. Surround yourself with people who will continually fight in your corner. I am lucky to have the biggest fan in my husband, he would tell me when I was feeling the strain, “It’s not meant to be easy otherwise everyone would be doing it.” Have faith in your choices, if they’re the right ones, amazing, if they’re the wrong ones, you’ve learnt a lesson and grown that little bit more towards being that strong businesswoman you’re meant to be. I don’t want to use the cliche ‘everything happens for a reason’ but it does. Wherever possible be prepared and equipped for every eventuality – and when it all comes together, you’ll feel like you just conquered Everest.
CW: My advice would be to research Dubai’s laws and regulations. It’s a forever changing industry – new licenses and regulations are being brought out every few months and rightly so to ensure a certain level of qualification are required to carry out certain procedures, so make sure you are aware beforehand exactly what you need to open. There is also a lot of “hidden charges” with licensing and getting the correct documents you need to open- so keep this in mind with your budget and I would also say whatever your budget is, be prepared to go over with charges that you might not expect.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
FB: Don’t worry about what other people are doing – they are on their journey and you are on yours. concentrate on yourself and you’ll reach your destination much quicker.
View this post on Instagram
And what is the worst?
FB: “Take the emotion out of being a boss” being able to connect with your team even on an emotional level is key to running a happy workspace.
CW: My worst advice was, “You can use your wings, but we have to keep you in a cage to protect those wings.” When someone told me this, I was straight out of the door and never looked back.
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
FB: Opening a new business during a pandemic, and the starting and stopping that comes with it. We opened three months behind schedule and it wasn’t something we had forecast into our plan. We’re so happy to now be open!
CW: My biggest challenge to date, would be opening a new salon mid-covid, whilst being heavily pregnant and re-locating countries twice in a year. I don’t think I realised the emotional stress this would take on me at the time, but thankfully I had my sister at hand to mentally guide me.
What are your goals for 2021?
FB: To build a household name in the brow and aesthetics industry.
CW: I want Browns & Co to be recognised as the luxury destination for semi-permanent make-up and facial treatments. We have some really exciting plans for the brand and the salon in Dubai. I also want to get away with the family. Of course, travel is limited at the moment but I have a new niece in the UK and my sister who lives in Perth recently got engaged so I would love to properly catch up with them.
– For more on luxury lifestyle, news, fashion and beauty follow Emirates Woman on Facebook and Instagram