Date: 26th July 2021

A BEAUTY salon interviewed for the Humans of the High Street video says series resurfaced tearful emotions on a tumultuous year of lockdowns

A BEAUTY salon owner has spoken about how being interviewed for the Humans of the High Street video series ‘resurfaced tearful emotions’ as she reflected on a tumultuous year of lockdowns and lost takings during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jolene Rees of Innovations Advanced Skincare & Beauty on West Row, Stockton had taken out a mortgage on her commercial property less than 18 months before the first lockdown and like all businesses was forced to close the doors and was concerned for the future.

Good business practices and a great team behind her- beauty salons were able to reopen in April, Jolene has seen an increase in demand for de stress massage and treatments aimed at relaxation.

But she admits it has been a learning curve and she has learned a lot about herself as a leader, having realised that staff on furlough were not just enjoying themselves in the garden as their social media posts suggested, but were also struggling with the uncertainty posed by life in a pandemic.

In response, she made sure she checked in regularly with her staff and supported them with things like pamper packages by post they could use at home.

Jolene, who is one of a number of businesses to have been supported by Stockton BID (Business Improvement District) throughout the pandemic, said: “Taking part in the Humans of the High Street video took me back to the initial feelings of uncertainty and stress, which was quite emotional.

“The interview was quite intense, the camera is right in your face and at the end of one of the questions took me back to that time where we were waiting for furlough news and I had this building I had invested my life savings in.

“It has been tough – although we have a reasonable online presence, our money is made in treatments and services, so I had to think on my feet and fast.”

Jolene admitted the first lockdown was “very stressful” worrying about the pandemic itself and whether she and her loved ones would be affected, as well as the impact on the business.

Her husband got “stuck offshore” for seven weeks and she was left alone with home-schooling her little boy and worries over his safety.

“At the same time, I was dealing with all the enquiries related to the salon and all the worry,” she said. As well as going out delivering products and juggling online skin consultations around my son.

In subsequent lockdowns, she was more relaxed, with processes to safeguard the business such as furlough and grants in place.

She focused on social media posts and communicating with the clients so people would have us in mind when things opened up again.

Jolene also praised the support she got from Stockton BID and Jason Maxwell, Stockton Bid Manager.

She said: “He has been there with grants advice and is always helpful – I could bug him to share my social media posts and he would always find out the answer if you had a query about anything.

“We’ve had quite a few emails and have been offered help with marketing and posters and I feel there has definitely been a presence from Stockton Bid - they have been checking up on people.”

Jason added Stockton BID was about “building a community” of business and “pulling people together as a collective” as “we always do better this way than we do on our own”.

He said: “The idea of Humans of The High Street is that people really want to see real people and that’s what we are trying to achieve.

“We have felt a real need to put our businesses front and centre of what we do and we are here to bring the businesses together and show a community spirit for the businesses.

“If we can do that in whatever way we can and show real passion, that what we are all about and if people see the collective passion and emotion of our high street business owners, they will come and support them.

“That’s what we need people to do now – come and support the businesses.”

Other Stockton businesses that have been interviewed in the Humans of the High Street series include Michael Poole, Darlington Building Society, Contemporary and Dovecot Tea Room.

To watch the videos visit YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

Sam Withers