How I turned my psychology degree into a beauty empire

Who says you can't change lanes?

06 Feb 2019

If you ever find yourself wishing you'd chosen a different career path in life, take it from Elena Lavagni – it's never too late.

With nothing but a psychology degree and experience as a sales assistant at Harrods, Elena built a product business from the ground up, raking in a profit of £12,000 per week. She then turned her attention to a then small salon, which is now the booming beauty business: .

Here, she chats to GLAMOUR about her hustle to the top and how she runs a business from a psychology perspective.

From reception to respected business woman

After a marriage, first child, and separation, Elena began her first job in beauty at the reception of a London salon. But with a sick child at home, requiring a lot of medical attention, Elena couldn't count on this as her sole income.

"I had to come up with something that would help me cover the medical bills", she says. "In 1998, while working for the hair salon, I created a product business that earnt the salon I was working for £12,000 a week. I sourced a heat tool (straightening irons) from Italy for £11 a unit and sold it £85."

It was this successful money-maker that gave Elena the confidence to tackle a new challenge: Neville. At the time, it was an already open salon with only seven hairstylists, including colourists.

"I was determined to make it bigger and better. 20 years down the line and we now run two full-time salons and have 85 members of staff."

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Happy team, happy business, happy life

When asked what the most rewarding thing about being a successful salon owner is, surprisingly Elena doesn't cite unlimited free blow-outs.

Instead, she says it's 'creating a happy team, which creates happy clients'. Ummm world's best boss?

"Our team play a pivotal role in the successful running of our business and I try my best to keep a straight and open relationship with them", she says. "I try to relieve as much as possible the pressure and stress of their workload."

We guess that psychology degree DID come in handy...

Staying ahead of the salon game

Being a part of such a competitive industry isn't easy, and it's safe to say Elena works her a** off to stay ahead of the game.

"Mornings are busy as I generally meet with journalists. I try to organise the day to day running of the salon and spend some time on the shop floor greeting the clients", she says.

"We are involved with a lot of projects, so we often have to organise hair and makeup teams for fashion shows and presentations around the world."

Elena and her husband don't run Neville like a conventional hair salon, keeping the client as a priority rather than trying to keep up with what other salons are doing.

"A lot of my time is spent research of the next best thing, to ensure we deliver unique, fast and effective treatments."

"We were the first to create a one-stop shop and making “time” the essence of our services. Other salons were, at the time creating spa.
But I could tell clients wanted to receive the most possible services in an hour and that’s what we aim to deliver."

The need for speed

Most of us struggle to fit lunch into our schedules, let alone a blow-dry or a facial. And if you do have the time, money is usually the next obstacle.

It's for this reason Elena pioneered 'The Facial Bar' – where medical facial services are available starting from just £60 per treatment.

"We wanted to create the blow dry bar of facials. Your skin being the largest organ in your body, means it requires constant attention. As you get older the frequency of treatments comes closer, meaning that one radio frequency tightening treatment every six weeks will not offer the results that you are looking for."

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"It is, therefore, my aim to offer our clients the possibility to get more regular treatments which are effective at a reasonable price. Part of our journey with Facial Bar is ensuring we educate clients on the importance of consistency in beauty. We created this concept with our clients in mind, hence why the price is reasonable, it also gives people an idea of how inflated some prices really are."

Advice for budding entrepreneurs

Considering a career in beauty or perhaps heading out on your own?

"The person that gets into beauty today, has to be motivated and hungry to succeed. To be successful you mustn’t be scared of hard work", says Elena.

"Like in everything, practice, education and research in innovation are paramount for a successful career. Think of money as a bonus for hard work – so study, work, dedicate and practice. The rest will come."