Strong Yet Feminine Profiles are a series of interviews, showcasing ambitious women who are striving to follow their passion. Many are working full time and pursuing their dream on the side, some have already taken the leap, and share their experiences (the good and the bad!).
Any career decision is difficult, but making a leap into a different field, in order to pursue a true passion, has to be one of the most inspiring stories. I know, for me, hearing stories like these were crucial to bolstering my confidence when considering my own change in direction.
Sally Lane Jewellery is designed for exactly such Strong Yet Feminine women…the fierceness of the edgy triangle jewellery is the perfect accessory to these confident, go get ‘em ladies...all power to you!
Pavan Dhanjal, Founder of Pavan Henna, BEM
Talk us through how it all started, what was your journey from leaving school?
Henna is so important in our culture and I picked up a henna cone at a friend’s wedding and really loved it so I decided to take a course. I remember telling my aunt “I’m going to be the best at this” and she was like “okay good, go for it”. I was 16.
I was doing weddings while I was at uni, and one of the brides said to me: “You’re really fast, you should go for the world record” and I did. I went for the Guinness World Record, and I got it!
I did a degree in marketing, so I knew how important it was to have a selling point, so I did Henna or celebrities. I did the Decembers, and did Alesha Dixon and then everyone was saying, “I love Henna but I don’t know where we can get it”.
So that got me thinking: “Right, how can we get so that anyone can get it done whenever?”. We all have an aunt or someone who can do it but English people don’t necessarily know anyone. And that was when I had the idea for a Henna bar.
How did you secure your spot in Selfridges?
I came in all bushy tailed and bright eyed and asked the Beauty buyer at the time, a lady called Wizz Selvey, about setting up a nail bar. It was embarrassing what I showed her; just a henna cone and some glitter and that was it. I was it, I was the brand.
How did you contact the buyer in the first instance?
I was an absolute pest, I just kept ringing and ringing until there was one person who got to know me and then finally I got an interview. She told me the costs to set up a concession and I was like: “Oh my god, I can’t do that”.
I launched in Top Shop in 2013, and with the evidence that it worked in Top Shop, I went back to Selfridges and said: “Look it works”, and finally I eventually got an email saying they would give it a go. She was very much behind me all the way and I gave her a thank you in my book. She took a chance, and she didn’t need to. I feel like she is a mentor now, she continues to help me out.
So, in the end she gave you a free trial?
No no, I had to pay a weekly concession fee. I paid that from what I earnt on the concession, I did my private bridal work on the side to pay my girl’s wages, I earnt nothing. I did that for a year and then finally I started earning.
It’s been a tough ride, but it’s been so fun. I’ve done so many bloody amazing things that I’m so proud of. I’ve got a book out [Part Time Henna], I’ve launched in Milan, I’ve launched in New York, we’re doing Dubai now. We’re in Harvey Nichols, and Top Shop.
Having these big names behind me really works for Henna. Having a bar in Selfridges has shown that this is artistry, and has pegged it has luxury. In our country Henna artists are seen has having a lowly position, but it’s a beautiful art, and so I feel that I am doing more than just making money, it is making a difference for my culture. My aim is to make available our unique and beautiful henna to all, no matter where they are in the world. I hope to see henna treatments become a mainstay of the wider beauty bookings arena. “Blow dry? Manicure? Henna? Sure!” Perception is changing of Henna.
As a result, you have just been awarded a British Empire Medal for Services to Beauty, that is so bloody amazing, congratulations! How did that come about and how does it make you feel?
I was nominated for our services to Beauty, and I had no idea the Honours Team would take it seriously! Henna in our culture is not seen as a respected profession, so to have my journey be honoured by the Queen is something surreal and also ground breaking! I felt so elated, and I see how proud not only my family are but also all that have seen the journey from the beginning, I really felt everyone has been rooting for me, which I am so grateful for. I am that much closer to my dream and I feel like anything is possible!