This Small Business Is Reopening After Its Toughest Year Yet

When it rains, it pours, but this inspiring business owner has made it to the other side of a challenging year.

Last year brought no shortage of inspiring stories from the aesthetics industry. Grit and determination were key factors in surviving what was an unimaginably tough year, in life and business. 

But a story that extends beyond the reaches of the pandemic is that of Melissa Battishall, owner of Glow Beauty Therapy. Located in Taree on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, Melissa and her small beauty business have faced one challenge after another.  

Bushfires ravaged the area, then COVID-19 closures brought business to a halt. Though the time gave the team the chance to revamp the clinic, the punches kept on rolling when torrential rains led to flooding in March earlier this year. 

Melissa and her team haven’t let the challenges get them down. Upon the reopening of her gorgeous new clinic, we chatted with her to bring you a story of determination, self-realisation and community spirit. 

Can you tell us a little about your business, Glow Beauty Therapy? 

MB: We’re a skin and beauty clinic based in my home town of Taree, NSW. This year will mark our 11th year open. Sometimes I wonder where all that time went!

I opened Glow in July 2010 after many years working in various areas of NSW, QLD and Victoria and on cruise liners. I started my beauty industry journey about 18 years ago and I am still learning every day. 

On opening Glow, I wanted to bring the finer touchpoints of the day spa experience to a more personalised clinic in a regional town. Over the years I have also come back to a skin focus, which was actually what had me start in the industry originally.

How did COVID impact your business?

MB: In the same way the whole industry was affected – COVID closures, the unknown, feelings of no control and the need to change plans quickly was highlighted. I found it very hard and stressful. We had only just come out of bushfires devastating our area and COVID felt similar to that unknown situation. 

The bushfires and COVID gave me a chance to look hard at the business and what I wanted to do going forward. These times really highlighted the need to come together in times of adversity for the local community and the beauty industry as a whole.

Can you tell us about the flooding you experienced?

MB: Flooding had not been on my radar at all. It was a Saturday and myself and other staff had travelled to the Hunter about two hours away to do a wedding makeup. We had left Taree at 6am and a bit of flooding started in areas that are known flood spaces. At that point, I was more concerned about getting through to Newcastle for the bride. It was her wedding day after all and she had already had to cancel during COVID!

The clinic was flooded by about 8.30 that morning. It happened very fast and caught everyone very off guard with the speed at which water came up through the town drains into shops. I wasn’t able to get back to Taree until Monday due to the whole town being isolated. So, I wasn’t able to see the damage for a few days.

It was very stressful. One of the most stressful situations of my life and upsetting for myself and staff. You really don’t realise the damage that water does. It was an immediate closure and took an incredible emotional and physical toll on everyone involved.

It became a process of working with insurance, and various others, firstly just clearing out all the damage. In the week after, my team were amazing and we had all partners and family get in and do the strip out. Walls, flooring, doors, vanities and equipment all had to go to get the place drying. 

My staff, Lill, April, Holly and Jess got into it and I think it was surprisingly therapeutic to rip out the walls that week.

What has the rebuilding process been like?

MB: This has been a real process as it was unknown until recently if insurance would cover any damage. Unfortunately, we now know they have deemed this flood and not storm water so we have no insurance cover. There is a very fine line in how this is deemed, and all the businesses I know of in the area have had insurance come back to say that flood isn’t covered.

The whole situation has been a lesson in stress management, which I had not been that successful with. Two and half weeks after the flooding I suffered a miscarriage at 13 weeks that halted things very quickly. I truly believe it is so vital that we begin to look really hard at stress and the toll it takes on our health, sometimes without us even realising it.

Where have you found support during this whole experience?

A new treatment room at Glow Beauty Therapy.

MB: A very varied scope of people and places. I made a very conscious choice that I needed to take on help when it was offered. 

As business owners I think we often get in our own way, trying to do it all. The fact is that it’s not possible or good for us. I have been very open and honest with my team and made sure that I have communicated everything with them throughout the process. I think it has really made the whole team very strong and focused together.

My parents and siblings have taken on a huge amount of the renovation with the skills they have for which I’m eternally grateful. My husband, family and friends have been a huge support, but advice and support have come from such a multitude of areas; other local business owners, my skincare suppliers, various industry social pages, the local recovery centre, business groups and health professionals. 

It really is a situation of small chunks of support coming together to create a whole support network. I have also been gentle with myself and broke down things into stages that I could cope with.

What advice do you have for other small beauty business owners who are facing challenges?

MB: Let people help you. So often we are conditioned to brush off the offers of help. I’m not sure at what stage of modern life this happened but it needs to be something we focus on changing. Accept that if someone offers help they will do whatever they can within their capacity, if only you accept it.

Respect that people have different strengths. For example, my husband’s strengths are not to be able to rebuild a whole clinic. He didn’t grow up in a constant renovation like myself and my siblings did. Peoples’ strengths lay in all manner of areas, and all these are important. My husband’s strengths have been to keep things going on the day to day, and reminding me that work life balance is important for family life and our son, even more so in times of extreme challenges.

Be open and honest with your team and your clients. This isn’t about doing a ‘poor me’ dialogue. It’s about showing others who you truly are and that you are human. I truly believe we are in such a special situation in our industry to help people and showing others our vulnerabilities and how we take on things that go wrong or ‘not to plan’ is only just the start. Our ability to show resilience and empathy will stay with those we have contact with long after they have left our presence or clinic.

Employ your team on who they are as people not necessarily what they know. Surrounding yourself with a team with the same core values will show when the challenges arise. They’ll have your back and be the first to be there to help, not because you ask, but because of who they are.

You WILL be ok and get through this. This is hard to hear and understand when you are going through challenges but I always try to reflect on times where I felt I wasn’t going to get through something. It helps to put things into perspective and reminds yourself that you can get through things because you’ve done it before, even when it doesn’t feel that way at this one moment in time.

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