A local nutrition student has used her studies and passion for beauty to fulfil her dream of owning her own business with the launch of a new skincare clinic, thanks to help from the Go For It programme in association with Mid & East Antrim Borough Council.
The Go For It Programme is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) programme.
Amy Fry launched her skincare business Bellaviso Skincare from her spare room in Cullybackey in September while she was at university, but soon found herself having to convert the garage to a clinic to cope with demand.
“The Go For It programme played a massive part in helping me know where to start and have everything in place,” she says.
Amy says she learned some of the basics of running a business from working alongside her father, who is managing director of Coleman’s Garden Centre in Templepatrick.
She is studying food and nutrition at university and hopes to pursue a PhD but says she had always longed to run her own business.
“I kind of put two and two together and thought ‘What do I enjoy?’ I love beauty and skincare, and I knew that would link very nicely with nutrition.”
Amy didn’t launch her business until first taking part in the Go For It programme, where she was advised to opt for a ‘soft’ launch and trial period from her spare room at home to see if it was working.
“First I did the training in Belfast and then I registered with Go For It to try and get started. My business advisor met with me to do a business plan and I did that first,” she says.
“They suggested a testing period to see what direction I wanted to go in and what I wanted to change. Then I found I was so incredibly busy straight away that I had to convert the garage into a studio. That was on the business plan for later, but I did it sooner than scheduled because of the demand.
“I was working full time at university and then working an average of three or four nights a week on the skincare, with four or five appointments each evening - it was a lot to take on! It really did take off very fast.
“Go For It is fantastic in that way. There was no unnecessary preparation for opening, but everything was in place and ready to go. It was fantastic that I had something properly in place.”
The Go for It programme is delivered free of charge by a team of experienced business mentors across all 11 council areas of Northern Ireland. It provides expert advice and help with developing a robust business plan to help turn ideas into a commercial enterprise. Amy has many clients who are dealing with problem skin conditions, such as rosacea or psoriasis, as well as those who are keen to maintain a good general skin care routine.
“Skin care is a massive thing for the younger generation where it might previously have been for the 40+ age group. I’ve found I have a huge client base in their late teens and early 20s, both males and females that are interested in skincare - we get a lot of acne cases coming through,” she says. “I’ve trained to expert level with Dermologica and I’ve able to put together what I know with the nutrition aspect.”
However, no sooner had she completed the garage studio than Covid-19 arrived and she was forced to shut her doors for many months.
“I’ve had to shut for nearly the whole year, other than the period at the end of August and a week at Christmas - it’s been very unfortunate,” she says.
“Before Christmas I created a website to promote my products and I sourced lots of nice products, soap from a business in Carnlough, chocolate from Newry and all sorts of different local brands that we used to make up pamper hampers to sell coming up to Christmas.
“It went really well, and it was really lovely to see the amount of customers who wanted to support local brands. People are more interested in buying if it’s locally based.
Amy admits she has been inundated with queries from people asking when she is opening up again and, ironically, Covid has brought a rise in demand for certain types of skincare therapy.
“People are still suffering from acne massively, and a massive thing that has come along is ‘maskne’, people getting acne due to wearing masks so much,” she says.
“So that demand from people who have medical acne is really there and I look forward to helping these customers as soon as we come out of lockdown.”
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Peter Johnston, said: “The Go For It Programme, delivered by Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, provides new entrepreneurs with accessible, free and tailored support in the start-up stage of their business in areas such as financial and business planning, and sales and marketing to help get their business up and running.
“I wish Amy every success in developing and growing her enterprise when lockdown is lifted and encourage anyone thinking about starting their own business to get in touch with the Go For It Programme!”
Melanie Christie Boyle, Chief Executive at Ballymena Enterprise Centre said: “Amy came to us with a clear idea for a business combined both her studies and her passion for beauty and skincare.
“Amy was supported by our Business Advisor Karen Wilson to develop a start up business plan that focused on key aspects of running a business such as health and safety, insurance, pricing, sales and marketing, as well as a two-year financial forecast. This gave her the confidence that she needed to launch her business and from day one she was inundated with appointments. Unfortunately, she has had to close for the majority of the pandemic, but we look forward to seeing her skincare clinic go from strength to strength when it reopens after the lockdown ends.”
If you have a business idea you’d like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business contact the Go For It Programme on 0800 027 0639 or visit: www.goforitni.com.