Frustrated that many spas are cold, clinical and lack a fun atmosphere, Sam Pearce decided to start her own: The Potting Shed Spa. A few years later and Sam was the proud recipient of the Best Start-Up Award at the 2012 Mumpreneur ceremony. She has watched her business go from strength to strength. This week, Sam kindly offered to tell us a little about her journey.

1. Can you explain to me what your business does? What sector does it fit into? What makes it stand out from your competitors.

We are a multi-award winning Salon. It won the best in the country after only 8 months of opening, and again 12 months later. The Potting Shed Spa has also just been voted as one of the UK’s most Inspiring salons. We have created a completely new approach to salon based treatments. This includes a tongue in cheek, themed treatment menu. We provide a five-star service in an unsurpassed environment, providing an extensive treatment menu that caters to both men and women.

2. How did you go about setting up The Potting Shed Spa? What was it that kicked off your desire to create your own business?

Having previously run Eastthorpe Hall The Health & Beauty Spa as a partner with my parents for 12 years, I felt I had the experience and knowledge to do it myself. As an ambassador for the industry, I wanted to shake up the salon sector in terms of service and design in particular. I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to create and nothing was going to stop me!

3. Was there anything you struggled with when you started? What do you consider to have been the major hurdles in those initial 12 months?

Like any business you are reliant on staff, never more so than in our industry. Finding/training/recruiting suitable staff has without question been the biggest hurdle. It has highlighted the sheer sliding scale of standards and qualifications within the industry. Finding driven, hungry and passionate staff has been the biggest hurdle.

4. How did you manage to deal with those hurdles?

With investment and training, we have created an in-house academy that allows for maximum training prior to commencing a full-time role. The biggest area is customer service. The industry is known for a high turn-over of staff. Thankfully, my staff have been with me since conception. Also, since our expansion, we have recruited some fantastic new starters too.

5. What do you think was your best decision? And what do you think your worst decision was?

Our best decision was to take the risk of adding humour to our treatment menu. I think the industry can take itself far too seriously and we don’t. We have included a ‘near the knuckle’ treatment menu, which was a risk, but it paid off. I can’t say I have made a worst decision, as even those it seemed bad at the time, it has led to greater experience and knowledge. Through mistakes you can only grow.

6. Who would you look to for inspiration when those moments are tough?

I have a hugely supportive family. Even though we are all in this together their unconditional support is palpable. I have never compared myself to anyone. I keep focused and admire many peers within the industry. I would say in terms of inspirational women, Hilary Devey is an outstanding businesswoman. I have tremendous faith in my brand/product and thrive on the challenges it brings. No one ever said it would be easy, but I live and breathe it. It is an extension of me.

7. Do you have any advice for someone who might be looking at setting up their own business?

Do your research! Have a very clear business plan. Research your competition. Have a budget and stick to it. Believe in what you are doing and be prepared to invest your time and energy 24/7. Location is a key factor. If there are already established businesses within your catchment, why would another succeed? Unless of course, your approach is unique and competitively priced. Be realistic. Undoubtedly you have to make sacrifices. Any risk has to be calculated.

8. You won the Mumpreneur award for Best Business Start-up in 2012, what did that mean to you as a mother and business owner?

Without question, my job as a mother is my biggest achievement and everything I do is for her future. I believe as a role model, she sees me working so hard, I am setting up the foundations for her future. Winning the award was emotional, to say the least. I was hugely honoured to be recognised that my dream had become a reality and something that I love so much to call it a job! As a mother, there are times when you can feel ‘torn’ in terms of priority. On occasion I have had to put the business first, this is a battle I will never be able to win.

9. Did winning the award help anything with your business?

Winning the award generated a lot of local and national coverage, which was fantastic. Personally, winning a non-industry award meant so much as it cemented the business model out of the restraints of an industry category.

10. Almost a year on from the awards now, how are things going with the Spa?

I am so excited about our future. We are currently expanding and looking to franchise the Potting Shed in the UK and overseas. We are also looking at creating our own product range and continuing to shock with our unique approach to pampering!

11. What are the next steps for the Potting Shed Spa?

One of my personal goals is to deal with the – excuse the pun – ‘grass roots’ of training within colleges. Long term, I’d like provide a ‘finishing school’ to teach future beauty therapists the essential skills to be able to competently fulfil a role. This would allow any future employer to have the confidence in their ability.

MumpreneurUK will be holding the 5th Annual Mumpreneur Conference & Awards on 28 September 2013. The Formations Company is very proud to support and sponsor The Inspirational Business Mum Award and the winner will be announced during the Gala Dinner in Holiday Inn, Birmingham.