Woman of the Week 13th February 2012
“After losing all my hair to Alopecia at 12 years old, I spent the next 8 years falling in and out of depression and struggling as a young woman and single mum to find wigs that were comfortable and natural. I left school at 13 with no qualifications and gave birth to my son at 18 years old. My son (now 9) was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 6 and I remember looking at him sleeping one night and thinking ‘I have got to do something to improve our lives and give him the best possible chance in life!’ I had been letting my lack of confidence get in the way of my dream of starting a small business from home for too long and decided that it was now or never! With around £100, virtually no computer knowledge and the encouragement of my boyfriend, I began researching wigs and hair replacement systems online and gathering information on website building. I began building my own website and after a lot of research (and hard work!) I finally launched my website in June 2010.” Read Emma Marie Hirst’s story below.
Tell us about your business…
My business Aspire hair, Offers wigs and hair replacement systems to alopecia and cancer sufferers at an affordable price. I wanted to be different from the average ‘wig store’ and offer unlimited support, free advice and be of real help to customers who needed me. Even if it is just for a chat / cry / rant about how they are feeling that day. I understand all too well how devastating hair loss can be.
What is a day in the life of you like?
My day starts at around 7.15am when I wake with my 2 kids and start the school madness routine! Then it’s off to school to drop the kids off and back home to get started on some work. Email enquiries, telephone enquiries and text messages need responding to. The website is now running steadily with a steady stream of orders so there is always something to be done in the way of order processing and paperwork. I meet with a lot of clients for one to one consultations which is something I never thought I would do as being, initially, an online store. Im glad I do though! I meet the most amazing people in my job and it’s very rewarding seeing their confidence soar with ‘new hair’ , a new look and a brand new outlook on life! 3pm rolls around very quickly and the school run is upon me again! My evenings are spent either with clients, family or sometimes both as I have made quite a few close friends with clients over the past years! In fact, I am actually taking things up a step and moving into a salon in Jan 2012! All the same values and morals will apply to aspire hair as before, and the website remains. I am really looking forward to meeting with many more strong and amazing clients in the salon too.
What have been your biggest challenges so far with running your business?
Money has always been an challange from the day I launched the website to right now as we are moving into the salon! I have never once seriously considered quitting though.
Working from home has been a constant struggle, especially trying to keep to a routine for my son who is autistic, but between myself and my hubby we find a solution and continue to move forward. I would say that my own self – confidence was a major issue at first. I had a lot of self doubt and wondered who would take an ‘uneducated’ young woman seriously in this day and age! I have realised now though that even though I may not have a long list of official qualification, I do have the life experience and skills it takes to do this, and to do it well.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Financially i just continued to keep putting every penny back into the business until we had enough money to move onto our next goal and take the business to the next level. We received no financial support from banks / loans etc for the business. Overcoming the challenges of working from home and raising my autistic son …. I have to put this down to the support of my hubby, friends and family who have helped out in every way I could have dreamed of. To over come my own self doubt I really had to push myself, and tell myself that every little mistake I may make should be taken as a lesson learned.
What advice would you give to other business owners?
Dont give up if you really believe you can make a difference or do it better! There will come a time when you find yourself surrounded by paperwork, deadlines to meet, kids screaming that they are bored, hubby looking puppy dog eyed as you have been slightly neglecting him lately when you think ‘this is it, im going to crack, I cant do this anymore!!’ My advice for situations like this? Grab yourself a cuppa, take a break to clear you head and keep smiling :)
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I look at my children and beam at how proud they say they are of me. My friends, hubby and family keep me inspired and motivated. My clients keep me motivated by their moving stories and braveness. My memories of how bad I felt when I was younger as an alopecia sufferer motivate me to always be there to help, talk, advice and offer support and a cuddle to whoever needs me.
What’s your favourite quote?
When they start thinking that they can do things, when they believe in themselves. They have the first secret to success.
Who inspires you?
My children , family and step family. and my lovely clients of course :)
Do you have a business philosophy?
Treat others how I would like to be treated myself. Offer an honest, affordable and professionally service. Be supportive, always.
Country: United kingdom
Company Name: Aspire Hair
Industry: Hair Replacement / Beauty
Twitter Name: AspireHair
Facebook Fanpage: http://www.facebook.com/advanced.wigs.uk