Life in Spain
By Beth Underhill
Etticut Salon of Excellence and Academy of Hair
I moved to Spain 6 years ago with the intention of living my dream, opening a hairdressing salon and hopefully one day teaching hairdressing in Spain. I had a barber shop and hairdressing salon with my mother in Scotland for over 18 years. I was also a trainer and assessor in hairdressing in a local college in Banffshire, North Scotland.
I realised that moving to a new country meant i had to get myself noticed, and where better than in one of the busiest salons at the time in the area. I obtained employment there and stayed for nine months learning new things all the time. After which I went mobile for a year until I found premises to open my salon, the premises were a year old and had never been used before so with bear brick walls, no electricity, no water, no licenses, nothing; i would have to start from scratch. I had never undertaken such a venture but I had a good feel about the area, good parking facilities, big super market within 2 minutes walk, a large community of ex patriots’ and it was an up and coming area, I could put my own ideas into creating my salon.
Firstly I approached my solicitor and asked what was required as far as legalities were concerned. Licenses for just about everything were needed, an outline drawing of what i was going to be doing, an architects’ approval from the town hall, an opening license and documents to show i was self employed. Secondly, the finances. Could I finance the project? I knew I would need a business plan before I could make any decisions. I made enquiries to both Spanish and British tradesmen. Eventually I put my business plan together and had it translated into Spanish. I approached my bank manager for a business loan with my business plan in hand. The work I had put into my plan had paid off. My bank manager could see the potential and agreed to approve the loan.
I went on recommendation for the tradesmen. I chose to use Spanish electricians and plumbers, window fitters, suppliers of hairdressing equipment with British builders, joiners, tillers and plasterers, decorators and sign maker. I also employed a translator. Not long after signing for the 5 year lease on the premises, I started to realise it was not going to be as straight forward as I had envisaged.
I was given 3 months’ rent free in order to get the salon open. I waited 4 weeks for the electricians to appear. Appointments were made between us to discuss the wiring needed but nobody would turn up. Eventually two men appeared, looked over the plans with me, spray-painted onto the walls where the sockets etc were going and confirmed that we both understood each other. Another 3 weeks passed and I hadn’t heard from them. They wouldn’t answer their mobile phone. Eventually I telephoned my translator and asked her to find out what the problem was. Before I knew it the two men were working away installing the wiring needed, apparently they were very busy elsewhere.
I waited six months for my licenses to be approved by the town hall. I was told that I could not start any of the work until I had the licenses in my hand. I asked my plumbers and electricians to do as much as they could until the plans came through. This was a gamble as the plans could have been rejected and a lot of money wasted but none of the other workmen could start until the wiring and plumbing had been installed. The town hall architect came and asked one or two questions about my dividing wall for my beauty room. They informed me that I would need to apply for a separate licence if it was going to be a brick built wall but as it was a stud-partitioned wall, so nothing more was said.
I had planned on air conditioning, I was informed by the installer it must be a vented duct system due to aerosols being used; a vented duct system costs a lot more than an ordinary system but it was necessary as the front of the shop had two very big windows and a glass door. My builder worked on the outside rendering and making new a step into the salon. The step was not passed by the town hall on two separate occasions. The step was too high on the first visit, so it was made lower. On the second visit. I was told it must not be a step – it must be a slope. Due to this the door did not fit, it was too short so costing extra to have the frame and door adjusted.
Owing to the length of time that it was taking for my licences being approved I was now paying rent but no clients were coming into the salon. The amount I spent on renovating the salon and paying rent had doubled to what I had accounted for. I had staff waiting to start and one of them found employment elsewhere as she needed to work. Finally the salon was passed and I opened in May 2007. Two months later I received my opening licence.
The salon thrived with new business every day. All the planning had paid off, I took on extra staff and 2 juniors. After 18 months I opened my salon as an academy as I wanted to get back into training students. I chose to use the one day that the salon was closed to the public as the day my students would do their training. Also each student worked one half day per week to gain practical experience within a salon environment. We offered non-surgical face lifts from Dr. Linda Eve, holistic therapies and an extended list of beauty treatments all by experienced professional people.
If asked would i do the same again, definitely not. With the recession two years ago many ex pats went back to the UK, the large supermarket closed down as did many of the surrounding businesses. The Etticut Salon has now moved to larger premises in Turre and is thriving in Turre Square. Many ex pats that live in the surrounding areas visit regularly and the market every Friday brings lots of passing trade.
We still offer all the same fabulous treatments that we did in Vera and the business is going from strength to strength. The academy has started up again and the students are loving the new premises.
Away from the salon, Etticut made front page of the Mojacar Calendar for 2011 and also for the month of November. The staff and myself have also modeled in several fashion shows for charity events (all in the name of Etticut, of course). We have also raised 1600 for the Vera Orphanage. In 2009 we were able to buy them an industrial tumble dryer with a five year service contract as well as dressing gowns for 20 of the children. I presented these on Christmas Eve 2009 to the orphanage.
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