Beginning a career in a hairdressing salon in her home town of Tullamore; to Steiner spa management (the largest global provider of spa services for international cruise liners); and now owning her own beauty school and clinic – Sharon Leavy’s ferocity and dedication to her industry is unmistakable.
“I started out in the hairdressing industry, working with my aunt in her hair salon. Following that, I went to train in the beauty industry. When I graduated in 2005, I went to work for Steiner. I started out as a beauty therapist and progressed to spa manager on the cruise liners. I always say that those years really stood to me,” Sharon says.
“I came home on holiday in 2010 and saw the school I had trained at was being sold, so I bought it. The recession had hit when I took over, so I started building a whole new business brand, as the Sharon Leavy Beauty School & Salon. We added extra classes and build on it bit by bit, we now offer about 30 courses.”
As the saying goes: “A boss manages, but a leader inspires.”
“I feel a lot of students don’t have guidance after they qualify from college, to start their career, to get on the employment ladder. When I look at my students I want them to be successful; I want to push them beyond their comfort zone.
“Years ago, the job prospects and earnings weren’t great within the beauty industry. There are so many options now, with some of our past students running their own salons and others managing high end businesses.
“For me, education is not just about the piece of paper, or academic ability. It is about time keeping, manner and general etiquette. It is looking upon how you speak; how you listen and how you perform as part of a team. Those elements are what make you an asset to yourself, as well as your future employer.”
Continually finding new opportunities to develop her brand, Sharon launched Nakid Skin and Beauty Clinic, in Tullamore, in 2018. Sharon credits her agricultural roots for her fearless attitude and business success.
“Even though you won’t find me out with the cows, I am very much a farmer at heart. My dad started out in beef and now he is gone to dairy. In farming, you have to be willing to adapt and change. He taught us not to wait for the opportunity to come to you, to go look for it.
“I feel that farming kept us grounded growing up – a little bit more connected with the reality of work and savings. In farming you have to be strong, tough and keep going. That’s what I took from dad, into my own career.
“I remember going away at 21 to work for Steiner. I was petrified. At that stage I had a target of €10,000 per seven-day cruise to reach. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my god, how am I going to do this?’, but Dad always pushed us on and even if we didn’t believe in ourselves, he did; and that got us where we needed to be.”
Identifying a business opportunity amidst a global pandemic is no easy task. Sharon, however, has managed the time wisely and recently launched new online services for both the clinic and beauty school,
“When COVID hit, the first priority was to get our students through their training. We couldn’t just put their lives on pause. So any courses that we felt could be done online, we have put online. We also launched our online salon shop and skin consultations.
“We are in a positive place. We have two new avenues to make money.
“I know I am very fortunate that I could adapt, to keep things ticking along, but it’s like anything in life; you will be under a little bit of pressure, when you’re working on something worthwhile.” CL
For more see sharonleavy.ie and nakid.ie
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