Debbie Thomas, owner of Debbie Thomas Advanced Skin Treatments, chats to us about celebrity clients, the pros and cons of owning your own business, plus the power of hard work.
Describe your typical working day.
My alarm goes off at 7:30 and my first job of the day is taking my dogs out and feeding them. Once I have made coffee I sit down in our home office with Richard (my boyfriend and business partner) and we discuss the day ahead. We have seven employees and have lots of working relationships with industry professionals, suppliers and the press to manage on a daily basis. The website is also undergoing a revamp with a lot more functionality and extra information being uploaded (including my blog), so we have plenty to talk about.
My first client is usually at 9:30 so I like to get to the clinic just after 9:00 to give me time to plan my day, prepare my room and have a juice – normally green with ginger. The clients I see are a combination of new clients for 30-minute consultations to work out exactly how we are going to tackle their skin concerns amd regular clients for treatments which can be anything from a 15-minute broken vein treatment using laser to my signature 75min DNA skin treatments. I normally see 8-12 clients a day, so I don’t normally get a lunch break and tend to have another vegetable juice or smoothie for lunch to keep me going. I finish work around 7:30-8:00pm. Luckily I only have a five-minute walk to get home.
What’s the best thing about having your own business?
Almost everything! My biggest frustration when being employed was the restrictions of working within other peoples ideas of what was right, now I have the freedom to do the treatments the best way for my clients. I have big plans for the Debbie Thomas brand so every day is challenging and rewarding in a way I’ve never experienced before. It’s not all a bed of roses though, the hours are long and at times I get very frustrated, wanting everything to happen sooner and with less complications, but I think that’s just life!
How would your colleagues describe you?
I think they would say I am very driven.
Have you dealt with many celebrity clients?
I do get quite a few celebrity clients in but for me it’s all about the skin not the person, so the treatment is the same. Every client I have gets a bespoke treatment based on skin problems, skin condition, lifestyle and even social engagements. So if a celebrity client has a red carpet event the treatment is tailored for that, the same way as I would tailor a pre-party or wedding treatment for anyone else.
Who’s your role model?
I think for me it is more a general respect for anyone who works hard and follows his or her dream. When I meet someone who is passionate about what they do I can’t help but get excited for them, even if it’s not something I’m personally interested in. I wholly respect Vivienne Westwood and Coco Chanel, who both came from humble beginnings, yet worked hard and became a phenomenal success.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
I think the first thing I heard that inspired me was in a Disney film and it was the quote “if you don’t have a dream, how are you going to have a dream come true”. It made me realise when I was quite young that having aspiration, a real goal, no matter how big or small, was the first step to achieving it.
How did you get to where you are today?
I gained a National Diploma in applied science and beauty therapy and a BTEC in both aromatherapy and reflexology. When I started I didn’t know skin would become my speciality. I simply loved learning and enjoyed making people feel good. Then at 21 I started suffering for the first time with acne. I started reading everything I could about acne and subsequently also learnt more and more about other problematic skin conditions, which sometimes cross referenced with acne. My thirst for knowledge wouldn’t simply let me stop at basic knowledge. I quickly realised that most facials were simply not equipped to deal with real problem skin, they were so standardised that unless you had standard skin, results were going to be substantial. I then trained and worked with Ole Henriksen before deciding I wanted to learn more about IPL and laser treatments at a Harley Street Clinic. This got me thinking about how to blend Harley St treatments with extensive skin care experience, while incorporating some holistic practises and a little TLC. I knew that I needed to go it alone to give me freedom to work this way. Today, 4.5 years later, in my three-room clinic, my team and I offer my very own DNA signature range of facials.
Was it easy to set up your own business?
When you set up your own business it doesn’t matter how much planning you do, you are never ready for the sheer volume of work that you suddenly face. Also your financial obligations are very different. I had to pay VAT, tax, suppliers, business rent, servicing equipment etc – my own wages were at the bottom of a long list of other more important things that needed paying. I started on day one without a single client, no one knew who I was, I was sat in a room on my own with lots of lovely products and equipment but no one to treat. It suddenly hit me that I had left my very secure, well paid job, borrowed money from a (not hugely rich) friend and set up my own business in the middle of the recession!
What advice would you give someone trying to start up their own company?
Firstly, do your research and make sure that your plan has real potential. For me it was finding a niche in an already saturated market. When you are happy that you have something great to offer, you need to do the not so fun financial and logistical planning. Get advice and do a proper business plan, even if you don’t need help financing your business, having a well-drafted plan will help you keep focused, the plan can change over time but keep it as a reference.
What have you learnt along the way?
Nothing in life is easy. I’m not lucky, I’m a hard worker. It amazes me that people think that you can be successful without working hard.
For more career advice and inspiration, visit our MC@Work section.
Looking for more career inspo? It’s not too late to book tickets for Marie Claire’s @ Work Live, in association with Cointreau and Next. A one-day event on 23 April 2016, featuring advice, tips and inspiration from incredible speakers.