Beauty entrepreneur Debbie Mulhall talks about starting her company from nothing, the importance of constant learning and following your passion.
“Success didn’t come without its challenges and my greatest lessons were not easily learned,” says Debbie Mulhall, owner of Urba Skin Clinic in Athlone and Dollface Brows in Tullamore. She talks to Think Business about starting a company from nothing, the importance of constant learning, hard work, and following your passion.
You are the owner of two successful beauty salons, what inspired you to get into the industry?
I lived in New York for nine years and opened my first business there when I was 26. Most people are quite surprised to learn that my first venture was an American sports bar and grill and not at all beauty or skincare related. I had my daughter in 2011 and returned home to raise her in Ireland. This was a challenging time in Ireland as we were in the depth of the recession. I was in a financial bind and realised quickly that I needed a plan and the bar and restaurant industry in Ireland didn’t quite have the same sparkle as the New York scene.
I realised it was time to follow my passion for beauty and skincare and I started very small with a very basic skill set and grew from there. I started my career freelancing with a set of brushes and a two-week makeup course certificate under my belt. I worked two bar jobs to support me while I honed my skills and got my name out there. The success came from relentless hunger and passion.
What do you consider as your biggest professional success so far?
My biggest professional success would have to be opening the door to a single treatment room in 2013, without any budget or even signage or new furniture and managing to grow and expand my company to a destination clinic with a team of 12 full-time staff members in a three-year period. This success didn’t come without its challenges and my greatest lessons have been the hardest ones. I was not a natural leader, I found it so challenging to be the head of the team and company. I lacked confidence and skills in that area. It’s an area I constantly educate myself on and check-in to see how I can be a better leader and company director.
“This success didn’t come without its challenges and my greatest lessons have been the hardest ones.”
To what extent have you utilised social media to make your services more widely known?
Social media has been a very big part of the success of my company. I didn’t do any formal training or have any experience in marketing a company so I learnt everything on my feet. I read a lot of books and reached out to peers and mentors for guidance. I now have over 20,000 followers, between my Facebook and Instagram accounts and I connect daily through the use of Instagram stories. The real connection and value I try to add have helped build an amazing rapport with current and potential clients.
How do you stay on top of industry trends?
I stay on top of trends by good old fashioned groundwork. I travel a lot to research other companies and countries. Nights and early mornings are spent sourcing information and asking questions.
“I was not a natural leader, I found it so challenging to be the head of the team and company. I lacked confidence and skills in that area.”
Do men visit your salons for treatments? How much has the industry changed since you first started?
The industry is more results-driven than ever. It’s all about the before and after. Our clients want to see real results for their investment and we are committed to delivering that to men and women alike. We are delighted to say we have become a pioneer for innovative approaches to beauty and skincare and we bring only the latest and best ranges and technology to our clinics. It’s nice to be at the forefront of our industry and my team and I are working hard for that.
Interview by Irene Psychari.