After eight years working in events and corporate development in the City, Samantha Blake left to retrain and become a hair and makeup artist. That was six years ago. Today, her company SJB Hair & Makeup has a team of ten other hair and makeup artists that support her and her clients. She’s also using her business to support causes she is passionate about and to follow another of her dreams: to become a philanthropist.

Making a difference

“I’ve always wanted to run my own business,” she says. “I’m rubbish at being told what to do - I just had to work out what that business would be.” Growing up in Coventry, she was always the one to help her friends with their hair or makeup for dance shows or birthday parties. But she never imagined that this passion for beauty could become a business. “I’d never considered it as a career but when I got married, the artist who did my hair and makeup really inspired me,” she says.

Samantha uses the highest quality hair and makeup products in her kit

She took voluntary redundancy from CASS Business School in 2012. “It was quite scary,” she says. Samantha, 39, retrained as a hair and makeup artist and started her own business, founded on all the knowledge and experience she had gained from her eight years working at the business school.

She is now helping to train others, taking on assistants and exploring how she can support other women in business through work and charity endeavours. “I’d love to become a philanthropist,” she says. “When my mum passed away, it made me think about things differently. I want to support charities through my business.”

She is currently developing a new offering with a local photographer created to support charities tackling animal cruelty. Of the price of a pet and/or family portrait, 20% will go to charity. “I plan to give my clients three options for which charity to support and they’ll chose the final one,” she says.

Finding your style

What makes Samantha’s approach different is not only the way she seeks to give back, but the way that she works with every client to draw out their unique style and make it feel effortless and a part of them. “It’s about getting to know the client, their look, personality and designing it to fit who they are,” she says. She took the same approach when she worked as a Stylist for TopShop, her first job after qualifying as a Fashion Buyer.

Samantha retrained as a hair and makeup artist in 2012

“I want to be an artist who is accessible and who appeals to a market that I don’t think gets much attention or guidance on hair and makeup,” she says. “In the time that I’ve been working as an artist, there has been a huge expansion in the hair and makeup sector driven by the rise of social media but it’s mainly ‘youth oriented.’ Instagram is full of teens and 20-somethings. The women in their 30s, 40s and beyond are often missed, and we can’t and don’t want to wear the same makeup that we did in our twenties.”

Samantha works with many women who may find themselves in a ‘makeup rut’ and are completely overwhelmed by all the makeup brands that now exist. “You only have to walk into most of your hight street shops or department stores and you’ll be greeted by some sort of makeup product. This is off-putting for many women and makeup becomes a rare purchase, which is a shame because makeup gives you such a feel good factor,” she says. “I want my clients to feel amazing after a hair and makeup session with me and realise that its not limited to young people.

“I also want people to be a participant in the consultation - who knows their face better than they do? I’m not there to tell them what to do, I’m there to bring the best out in them,” she says.

Running a business

A challenge for many small businesses is managing your time and to-do list. “Being self-employed means you have to be everyone - finance, marketing, and of course going out to do the work. It can burn you out and if that happens my customers will be affected and that ultimately affects the business,” she says. “I want to work smarter not harder.”

Samantha’s advice is to bring in expertise for areas that you aren’t so strong in. “Recognise your weaknesses, value your strengths and draft in expert support where needed,” she says. “I’ve made lots of mistakes and lots of great decisions - set targets and goals and remember to enjoy it.” For Samantha, being open, friendly and passionate about what she does is what brings clients back, not just her skills as a stylist.

This summer, she came to Starling HQ in London to do hair and makeup for members of our Exec Team and we have since invited her back for more photographs of the team. Between visits, she opened a personal account with Starling and is now using Starling for her business banking as well. The photographs were taken by Lee Garland, who is also a Starling for business customer and helped us test the process for opening multiple business accounts.

For Samantha, Starling has simplified her banking. With her high street bank, she had to spend time checking her account online and ask clients whether they had paid. “It’s embarrassing when you don’t know,” she says. With Starling, she knows straight away from the real-time notifications if a client has paid and what her updated balance is.

“The process to sign up was so quick and easy - I’m really impressed,” she says. “I also love that you are reinvesting in your business customers and have a female CEO. Women in business are so important,” she says.

For more about SJB Hair & Makeup, have a look at Samantha’s website and Instagram.

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