From a family of entrepreneurs and believers in female education and empowerment, I was taught I could achieve anything I wanted…Instilling me with a strong work ethic, my mother and father built a successful construction business from nothing. Helping on-site or at home with the books, I also had a paper round, a Saturday job and worked during school holidays.
If I wanted something my father would say, “you find half, and I’ll find half,” helping me understand the value of money and hard work.
A great inspiration and mentor to me, my father encouraged me to be an independent, free thinker and I learnt so much from him. Forever supportive, he had the best advice and always had time to listen to me – especially when I was starting my first business at the age of 25. A self-made, self-taught honest and straight forward man, he inspired and challenged me every day – helping me become the business woman I am today.
Studying Business Studies in the sixties and becoming a journalist, my career has always been in beauty. Starting as a beauty writer at Vogue before getting married, I then moved to Toronto in 1969 with my husband and our two young sons.
A life-changing experience – switching from the non-stop busyness and vibrancy of London to a much quieter, slower pace of life in Toronto, I decided to open a beauty salon and day spa.
Having not attended beauty school myself, I employed top therapists from Eastern European backgrounds that had also studied medicine before becoming therapists. Through them it quickly became clear it was possible to combine health and beauty, the mind and body, the natural and the scientific. And before long, one treatment floor turned to three and I had a turnover of $3million… A lot considering it was the seventies – and a time long before debit or credit cards.
Ten years on I was back in the UK designing, developing and running a series of health farms – looking for algaes, muds, oils and creams to use in treatments. Unable to find anything sufficiently natural, efficacious or therapeutic enough – and with poor packaging no client could take home – it became clear that, in order to achieve the right results, I had to create my own formulas.
Starting with around 20 formulations (some of which remain today, including Pink Hair and Scalp Mud and Detoxifying Body Oil) – they were so different for their time, much more naturally advanced, plus the packaging was appealing.
Clients loved them, word spread, and the media soon picked them up. Realising I had to take the products to a wider market – to more spas, I took a leap of faith and along with my 20 formulas, established ESPA.