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, 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 triangle jewellery is the perfect accessory to these confident, go get ‘em ladies...all power to you!
Tabitha James-Kraan, Founder of TJK High Performance Hair Organics & Organic Hair Salon
If you cannot tell from the way it shines out of her image, Tabitha has the most beautiful aura, the kind that immediately signals that you are talking to a kind, wise and open soul who is confident that she is living life well. What can I say? Now that I've met her, I will be staying in touch! If we could all be surrounded by such characters on a permanent basis, we would be forever happy. Hear her incredibly story of tenacity, and take notes!
When and how did your entrepreneurship start?
I started my own salon when I was 23 back in 1993; I was young and frivolous with no credit rating there was a recession going on. The banks just laughed at me when I tried to get a bank loan.
A client of mine suggested The Princes Youth Business Trust and they were truly amazing. They believed in me, they supported my idea and funded it, they also assigned a business manager to mentor me for three years. I paid the loan back in less than a year which was a proud moment. I really wouldn't be doing what I’m doing now without their help, it was the helping hand I needed to get started.
My salon got off to a great start and I was flying, we were fully booked, and I was building my team. We were in the beautiful Cotswolds, but I sent all my staff to London to Toni and Guy and Vidal Sassoon for training. I got onto the training team for Sebastian hair care, a leading brand of the day. Things were going well.
I became pregnant with our first child in 1999 and I had a lightbulb moment during a conversation with my midwife. She advised me that I should stop colouring my hair! I was a strong young woman who thought I knew it all and I remember arguing back with her, displaying my knowledge of how not to damage the hair and skin. She said: “No, it is more than that, the colour will penetrate your skin, enter your blood stream and that of your baby….”. This was a moment from which I could not turn back; I understood and immediately thought of what I was doing to my clients. What about them?
I went back to my salon and changed everything: the colour got chucked and the products all changed and thus started a journey that would become my life’s work.
What were the main steps you took to build your brand?
We have used digital marketing and social media, using these mediums to find our tribe and connect with both consumers and business to business, as well as important industry people. Instagram is our shop window and we have only 5k followers, but they are quality followers that are engaged. Our product company ‘Tabitha James Kraan - High Performance Hair Organics’, launched officially at the ‘Natural and Organic Product show” in 2005. Since then we have formed a base of retailers in 27 countries and have distribution in 6 countries. We have found that the markets that are ready for us have sought us out and social has helped with that. I have travelled to a lot of countries already and been very active in training our stores on the brand. I also do a lot of zoom training as this is the next best thing if you can’t be there in person.
How do you maintain a lifestyle that is healthy and stress free?
We live in the beautiful Cotswolds and mostly I work five days a week, but I often must travel around the world for work and work weekends. Life for us is not a calm and quiet country life, so it is not easy finding balance, but I have learnt what makes me tick and I know that busy is good for me. I have two horses and three dogs as well as our two businesses and being the mother of our two sons (not in that order!) My animals are my solace, I love the peace of being outside in nature and sharing the beauty of the seasons…come rain or shine I am outside in the evenings and at the weekend as much as possible. I love time with my horses as they provide me with good exercise and mindfulness; they challenge me constantly and I have to study to keep ahead. All of this is such a wonderful way to take a break from thinking about work. When you are riding or working with horses you must be in the moment and focussed. I am not very good at quieting my mind but around them I have to, and I love it.
We are a husband and wife team which has its pros and cons but mainly pros. We work hard to have time for us and we still have date nights to preserve our relationship. We take it in turns with a lot of chores and try hard not to be too hard on each other on the days when it doesn't go to plan.
I am up very early in the morning to make sure there is some me time which is with the horses and my dogs. Fresh air and nature are my favourite way to start the day.
You have grown your business while raising two sons. What advice can you give to entrepreneurial mums/would-be mums?
I had my first child in 1999 and my second in 2003, two boys: Felix and Sebastian. I managed three months off with Felix though I was still doing the wages and other jobs as soon as the day after I gave birth and throughout that period. I realised I made the mistake of going back too soon with our first son and the second time around I took six months and put someone else in charge while I was away. The children were my down time during that period, I worked hard to give them good lives. I wasn't prepared to compromise: I wanted to be a hands-on mum and create a home that held them, with home-cooked food every day and lots of fresh air. As the boys grew up I didn't want to be an over bearing mum, so I returned to my hobbies of my teenage years. The horses keep me busy and help me to stay balanced. Our sons have grown to be two very strong independent young men, who are my world and I am immensely proud of them.
How does Strong Yet Feminine resonate with you?
During my time as an Organic hairdresser in the Cotswolds I have had the privilege of spending quality time with many amazing women whilst doing their hair. These women are entrepreneurs, pioneers of life rather than celebrities. High achievers in their field: artists, writers, designers as well as mother and grandmothers. I also have many clients who come and spend time in the Cotswolds but live around the world, my clientele is very diverse and rich with fascinating people. The Cotswolds is full of creative business people, today many people run their global businesses from here.
Over the years I have met very corporate woman who feel they’ve had to be masculine in their work and I have always believed we can be “Strong Yet Feminine” so I have always sought to bring out that side of the women in my chair. As an organic hairdresser I am always interested in finding the strength inside and revealing the true person, not just putting a random hairstyle on to someone. We need to own how we look and I believe it should be authentic to who we are.
What are your top pieces of advice to women starting this journey?
Make sure you recognise it as a journey – sometimes it goes slowly and other times you fly forward…it can feel like a rollercoaster. Achieving success in something is about determination. Those who fail and those who succeed are defined by their level of determination; it will sometimes feel easier to walk away but that is not the right route. You must have the will to never give up and always find a way forward, always seek a solution to the problems, big or small. I love the thrill of this now and have fun finding solutions.
As females we are good at nurturing but be sure to nurture yourself too. Delegation is key. I used to be devastated when people left my team because I took it too personally. It’s important to be okay with people being with your business for a short while as well as for longer. If it is a positive engagement, you can be happy: everyone brings something wonderful to the table, even fleetingly. Encouraging and empowering others to join us on our journey, and for them to be brave on theirs, is all part of the experience.