The Skye's the limit: Bamber Bridge beautician on the booming business of giving people new hair
Allan Antonio has been a barber for over 25 years.
The owner of Allan's Barbers on Station Road in Bamber Bridge, he has also always been interested in the more clinical services offered by the top-end beauticians and, having been mulling over the idea of opening his own beautician's for a few years, he took the plunge in January 2020. Skye Aesthetics was born.
Little did he know, just a few months later, the Covid-19 pandemic shut the world down.
"Opening a new business in lockdown has been as tough as it gets because it's a contact service and the restrictions are very hard on our industry," says Allan, 42. "Even now, it's still not quite where I'd like it to be, but my motivation has remained the same and, in general, I think the future will be bright. We just have to fight through Covid and come out the other side.
"I've spent a lot of money on the business so we have to make it work, I just don't know how long it will take," he adds. "It's not as busy as I'd like it to be, but there are still rules and restrictions in place, which has a massive impact on a new business. I'm convinced we can succeed because we're ambitious.
"None of us could've predicted the pandemic, we've had to deal with it."
About as high-spec as it gets, Skye Aesthetics offers everything from laser hair removal, natural-look eyebrow tattooing, a steam-based exfoliating Hollywood facial, and hair tattooing to platelet-rich plasma treatment (PRP) to promote hair growth and soft tissue-healing, photodynamic therapy (PDT) to treat skin conditions, and hair transplant consultations.
"It's exciting when you give someone new hair or a new facial hair tattoo, both of which are big things at the moment what with men being more open to new things nowadays," explains Allan, who lives in Bamber Bridge. "People's reaction to the business and our service so far has been amazing - we've yet to have a single bad review from a client."
Unable to access government support during the first lockdown as it was too new a business, Skye - which has two employees - has since qualified for some financial assistance and has started to welcome customers through the doors as restrictions have been eased. And, for Allan, it's always been about the customers.
"I didn't go into barbering by choice," he says. "I was a young kid and we had a family barbering business, so I'd go into work and train, sweep up, and make cups of tea and, before you knew it, I was qualified by the age of 15. I've always loved talking to people and so I knew I wanted to be a barber because you see so many different people.
"As a local barber, you know everybody from the young kids to the 100-year-olds and everybody offers different conversation," Allan adds. "That's what I love about the industry. Walking through the streets in the first lockdown, my brain was going 100mph because life had just switched off. We usually see our customers more than our own families.
"We've missed that."
Ambitious about the potential for Skye Aesthetics to grow and take the North West by storm once the tumult of Covid has passed, Allan - who currently sends clients for hair transplant procedures at his other clinic in Romford, London - also hopes to offer the same service in Bamber Bridge in the not-too-distant future. Onwards and upwards is the mantra.
"Lockdown was tough on everyone mentally and, now that things are starting to return, it's made me appreciate people more. I always loved my customers, but I personally never knew how much I needed them. We give them a service, but the love, the life, and the friendship they give you is unbelievable. Seeing their smiles is great.
"We're human, we're not solitary creatures. It's not just about making a living, you need other people emotionally, so we appreciate everyone."