Please Introduce Yourself
Karen: Yes, of course. So I am Karen Peake of Karen Peake Aesthetics, SPMU and Training Limited. I am based in China’s Ford in Southampton. My business was established eight years ago. Since then, I would say I started off with Semi-Permanent makeup. I started teaching that pretty soon after I started, well, I say pretty soon, two years after I started, with a very well-known training company, Finishing Touches. Two years after that, I sort of just literally put any sort of income back into the company. So continue to train, train, train.
And then, I decided to add aesthetics about four years ago. I just think it works hand in hand, especially for the amount of knowledge that I had to have in order to teach. It was a natural progression for me. So now I encompass everything. You’ll notice in the um, sort of way that I explain the business and its training as well. However, what I’ve done more recently is tailor that to bespoke packages. So master classes, one-to-one classes to really bring people on and their knowledge and skill and business mentorship as well. I think that’s missing. A lot of people will train in the given sector, and then they don’t actually know where to start when it comes to running a business. So I sort of incorporate that in with my training.
Dawn: Oh wow. That sounds amazing, and it’s something really great that you’ve seen where there’s kind of gaps as you’ve kind of worked in the industry to help others who are starting out, which is really amazing and nice to hear, actually.
Karen: Definitely. A lot of questions when people are looking to offer masterclasses or to go on a masterclass, they generally will ask, oh, how do I know if I’ll be successful? Can you guarantee that’s not on me? Like I can train a skillset quite easily. I can’t train that sort of drive that it takes to start a business. And I think if you speak to any business owner in any sector of work, it takes commitment, it takes drive, and passion. You have to love what you’re doing, and you have to have patience and strength purely because there’s going to be a lot, a lot of hurdles. I mean, given the last two to three years, that was a rather large hurdle globally.
But you have to keep ploughing on, and you have to keep developing yourself and your company. Just keep going with it. Focus on your own lane and keep going with it.
What is Semi-Permanent Makeup?
Karen: Okay, so Semi-Permanent in itself, it’s quite misleading. It’s quite controversial because our American counterparts basically will argue the fact it’s permanent makeup. And I’ll be honest with you, I agree with them. The reason is anything that breaks the skin and adds pigmentation to the top layer of the skin is a form of tattooing. Semi-permanent makeup, to me, gives the idea that it’s actually not permanent, it’s semi, and it will completely disappear. Now whenever you have semi-permanent makeup, depending on which layer of the skin the technician works on, shall we say. So if you are new, you may not know your skin levels. There will be a degree of pigmentation left in the skin. So I do agree with you, our American counterparts, and I agree it is permanent makeup. However, it is commonly known in the UK as semi-permanent makeup.
And it’s a technique whereby you can implant medical-grade pigment in any area. It could be cosmetic, so you can do eyebrows, eyeliner, lips and for medical reasons as well. So all of these are part of what I have, what I offer and what I teach. So you can have breast reconstruction. So something really close to my heart. I actually have an Ariola Foundation set up after my nan’s name, legacy, or whatever you would like. And that was actually part of my reasoning for coming into semi-permanent makeup in the first place. And obviously vitiligo, so skin conditions you can work on as well. And hair restoration. So all of these things I’ve literally just kept learning and learning and learning, um, and adding to my business and my skillset, which sort of leads me to where we are today. So I’ve had a busy eight years…
What made you go into this type of beauty business?
Karen: Yeah, of course. So I’m quite open about this as well ’cause I’m sort of, I’m proud about the sort of road that I’ve taken on the way in, and everyone has their own reasons for setting up different businesses. So basically, when my son was born, I was like, ‘Right, if I’m going to leave him (to go to work), I need to do something I absolutely love.’ I used to do a lot of high-profile jobs where you commit so, so many hours. So, an Estate agency, I was in that for ten years following that. I was in recruitment. So all of these, you really have to work so, so, so many hours, including the evenings, including the weekends. So it was really important to me that my new vocation career. And I did see it as that complete career change.
It was really important that that was something that I could balance rather than live at work. My son was born, and I was like, right if I leave this special human, it has to be for the right reasons. Now, sadly, before my son was born, my nan passed away, and she was like a second mom to me. She’s a lovely lady. Now, she was always at the forefront of supporting breast cancer charities. And whenever we were out or we’d going around town, she would always like to grab us like the bands that go around your wrist or the slap bands, you know, we’re like kids. It was, it was fun to buy all the pink stuff, pink ribbon. So she always absolutely supported that. She was really sociable lady, so she’d lost a lot of people to that as well.
Karen: Sadly, it was bowel cancer that she got and not breast cancer, but when she died, obviously, I was left some money. And it was something that I really thought, like, I want to do something; I want to give something back. Like, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do something like this unless she’d passed. And that’s really sad. But anyone’s first investment into permanent makeup, it’s a large one. It’s a large risk to take. I think my first course was seven and a half thousand pounds, so you can see how you would need an initial investment in order to start that business. So basically, on her passing, I contacted finishing touches, which I still speak to today. And the amazing lady at the end of the phone. Probably the only person apart from the mentors that I’ve met along the way who said, Karen, I’ve got to tell you, if you just train in breast work, you won’t make a business out of it.
I highly recommend you train in semi-permanent makeup first. Brows, again, weren’t really a thing. Funnily enough, I’d already had mine done at that point, and they were horrendous. I must add that it’s come a long way. You know what, literally when I had mine done, it was literally they were drawn on and tattooed quickly, and they were the horrendous sort of lines. Obviously, they’ve come a long way; they’ve Improved. But basically, that’s what I had already. So I knew about it, and I thought, right, okay, if that’s what you’re saying, we need to do the permanent makeup first. But I would do that always with the mindset I’m going to work in on, in breastwork. I’m going to work with surgeons; I’m going to help these ladies have back what they never asked to retake away, taken away.
Some People misinterpret what the job is sometimes…
Karen: Yeah. And that was really important to me. So within six months of my initial training, which is tough going like, yes, you’re given the skillset. You are not given, you know, it’s impossible to learn until you are on the job, the depths, and you know, what shading technique is best, what needle is best. There’s so much to take in, and I think people really amiss; they misinterpret what the job is sometimes, and they think it’s easy and you’re just drawing on. It’s nothing to do with that. You know, it’s nothing to do with that. This is such a big deal for these ladies that you’re working on, um, whether you are doing a breast reconstruction, brow reconstruction, this is a huge, huge thing. When a client comes to you, and they trust you with their breast or their face, if they’ve got an inkling that they think, oh, you know, does this person really know what they’re doing?
Sadly, I have a lot of reconstruction in my clinic. I have a laser room as well. So sadly, a lot of the time, we have to laser before we continue the work. Um, and I’ve had all sorts of reconstructions from hair to breast to brow. Sadly it’s really, really common. So it’s so important to make sure that you are working with the right training company, if you like, from the off. That’s something that I actually work we’re working on at the moment behind the scenes, is some something whereby you can approach and, and ask, you know, where can we go? Because I offer a masterclass, you need to be trained already in order to come to me, whereas I can give you an idea of where to go for the people who will offer the foundation courses. So you are going along the right path. And that’s something I wish I had, um, all of those years ago as someone to say to me, Karen, this is what you need to do. This is the path to take.
Dawn: That’s fab, especially with everything going on in the industry at the minute; it’s so key to find that right training provider that really kind of goes through things with you and makes you feel confident to go out into the world.
Karen: I would even say on that note, I feel for people getting into the industry now because it’s an absolute minefield. I’ve seen courses out there for 500 pounds. If we bear in mind, when I take a day out of the clinic for a masterclass, I don’t make as much money as I would in the clinic. So it has to be the right person. So I actually interview the person before they come and train with me. Yeah. Because I know I need to know what they want. I need to know if I can help them, which generally I can. ‘Cause all they’re missing sadly is your basic knowledge or like, they’ll be using the wrong needle, or they’ll be going in at the wrong angle. Um, and that’s aesthetics and permanent makeup. It’ll be the little things where they’ve gone to training, and it’s like 10-to-one mentorship.
That’s insane to me. Every training I’ve ever been on bar one has been two to one, one-to-one, pay the extra money, you know, you are going to get a one-to-one service. And I’m proud to say all of my girls still, you know, people I’ve trained five years ago, they still come back to me now. They still get that one-to-one service. They’re still on my WhatsApp. And do you know what? They don’t ask questions every day, but they’ve got access to me if they need to. Yeah. And I think that’s the difference because the, the 500-pound courses, believe me, you won’t get an answer, you won’t get support out of them after. Um, and they probably would’ve gone bust by the time you come back to complain about it.
Karen: Very, very sad. But it’s very, very common. So hopefully, Well, I know, I know. ’cause we’re working on it at the moment. At the moment, we have something whereby this is really going to cut that loose, cut that situation loose because it’s a minefield, and it’s not fair. Especially when people have gone, paid a lot of money for the training and then been given that same sort of level. So a 10 to one where they don’t even know about complications or a massive chunk of their training is missing, and it puts them on the back foot before their career was even started.
Dawn: Yeah, no, I completely agree. You’ve answered almost the rest of my questions very easily. It’s amazing ’cause you, you know, you’re on it, you know what you wanna talk about. And it’s actually really refreshing.
Tell me more about your areola and hair follicle reconstruction treatments.
Karen: I started with breastwork to completely do two different things, both generally for medical reasons, but very, very different paths that the clientele would’ve been down in order to get where they’re coming. So, I started breastwork about six months after I initially trained, so about seven years ago or so ish, give or take a few months. I know we lost a few years with the pandemic. So yeah, seven. Basically, it’s something, as I said, that was at the forefront of what I wanted to do. I wanted to do that for semi-permanent makeup. But I had that bit of structuring from my lovely colleague on the phone saying, no, no, you need to do makeup first. I took it upon myself at that time to decide I didn’t want to charge for this.
The way that I see it, the ladies who need the breast reconstruction, they sadly have been on such a journey, and they’ve had so much taken from them already that actually, you know, by the time they get to have the breast tissue removed that’s caused them all the issues. They’re already as low on their immunity and sort of how they’re feeling in themselves that they just, they just need to get through and, you know, head, head the other side of the journey, if you like. So, I decided very early that I’m not going to charge for the service now. The fact that I have such an incredible business gives me the freedom to do that. So I’m really, really grateful for that. And I always continue to tell all of the ladies that come to me for all of the cosmetic work and the aesthetics.
Karen: Don’t forget you are; you are really giving back by coming to me because you allow me to do that work on those ladies for free. I wouldn’t be able to do it if my business wasn’t successful. I wouldn’t be able to offer my time for free. And I can. And I love it. Um, and now, you know, every GP referral specialist, referral surgeon referral, um, every time I get that referral through the door and I always ask where they’ve come from, it’s just, it’s just a little bit of a blessing to me to give back. And I’m a firm believer as well if you put good out there, you will get good back. And yeah, it’s a nice thing to do breastwork. By the time they come to this, they’ve already been through all of their treatment, they’ve had the breast reconstruction, and you are literally adding, um, excuse the pun, the cherry onto the cake.
That’s what a lot of them say. You’re literally finishing off my look, you know, some of them have nipple reconstruction, some of them don’t. So you really are finishing off, finishing off the beautiful piece of artwork now. There’s been so much, hoo-ha if you like, in social media with us being able to display our work. I myself was actually blocked for 30 days over a Christmas period about three years ago. So our busiest time, I couldn’t even speak to my clients because I’d actually put a video, or it might have been a video clip or a photo on some of my breastwork. And because Facebook had taken it down time and time again, even though we’ve put on there, you know, post-mastectomy, this doesn’t go against your rules and regulations. We are allowed to post these things.
Karen: Sadly, like I said, I was blocked for 30 days, which had a massive impact on my business. And it’s crazy. But what I am happy about is the lady that I chose to teach me this, her name’s Vicki Martin. Most people would’ve heard of her. She’s absolutely incredible. She’s an absolute force. And the mindset that this lady has, I’m very, very proud to say she’s one of my mentors. Her work is incredible. And if you’re looking for training, I would always say go to any area; go to the person that you’ve been watching. You love their work; you love how they are. I had all of that with Vicki, and I couldn’t wait to train with her. And I feel very blessed that I did. She gave me a fantastic skill. It’s the three-D technique that I offer, and I absolutely enjoy doing it.
I really thoroughly enjoy doing it. So, um, there’s not even like a limit to what I do a month if loads. You know, if I’ve got three or four ladies, if I’ve got 10 ladies, I really don’t mind. Um, I literally just get them in, pop them into my day and the reward for me at the end of it, you know, when they see what you’ve done, um, they, they, they don’t have any words. They’re like, I can’t thank you enough. Oh. Um, and it’s a real, it’s a really rewarding job. And let’s not forget that was my whole reason for going into it, . So I will always do that as, as long as I’m, you know, physically able to, I will always do the breastwork. It’s amazing. So we could go on to scalp, um, I’m smiling away ’cause I just know like how many lives I’ve changed in that time.
Karen: Also teaching, you know, I’ve gone into, um, the breast care unit in, um, Glasgow or Edinburgh. Basically, when I was working with finishing touches, they sent me up there to teach two breast nurse nurses that I, I now know that actually those two nurses alone would’ve, you know, worked on so many different ladies, like it’s life-changing. So that was really rewarding as well, just knowing that they’ll be, be able to continue to give, really nice concept as well. So moving on to hair reconstruction. So I was really, really blessed enough to meet the number one and train with the number one SMPUU technician in the world. He is, at the moment, Matt Ulo. He came over, and he taught maybe five or six of us.
And I was lucky enough to be one of them. It was a really, really crazy time. No one had heard of it. Hair reconstruction and scalp hadn’t hit the UK at all, I must say that at all and Matt Uler came over to work with Finishing Touches and work with us, and I was like, this is so an area I want to invest in. When I had my son, I was really affected personally by hair loss. I was breastfeeding, and like a lot of ladies, when you have a new child, your hair’s falling out anyway. When I used to put it up in a ponytail, my sort of side areas would go right back to the point where I started wearing headbands. So that was something that really personally affected me. So I could immediately see why you would have it done.
Karen: And I thought, wow, this, it looks like magic, and it is magic. So this is something I invested in at the time. And it’s great for everyone. So males, females, long hair, short hair, everything in between. Whether it’s just scattering around the front, if you’re a lady who wears your hair up, whether it’s alopecia when you’ve got a small patch, large patch all over if it’s a guy with alopecia and they have any type of hair loss we can work with. And it just went hand in hand with everything else that I was doing. So again, it’s really, really, really rewarding. I do charge for that surface service because it takes so, so, so long and also there was a permanent and semi-permanent option, so they can have it for roundabout two years.
They can have the permanent option; they’ll need a review every ten years. But it is one of the most opening and life-changing training that I’ve done. However, you know, it’s not my main market at all, but it’s again, it’s really, really rewarding. I think anything, um, the vitiligo, skin camouflage, again, it’s life-changing for those who need it. So, I love having the whole medical side to my business and the whole cosmetic side and then the aesthetics on top of that. Everything just works really, really well, and I would guess that is why the business does so, so well.
Dawn: No, that sounds really amazing and the fact that you’re so passionate as well helps really showcase how proud you are of your work, but also the willingness to meet. Sure that it’s absolutely top-notch for your customers as well. Definitely. You know, some people just go, oh yeah, that’s fine and, and everything else. But you know, you, I mean you’re saying you’ve trained with some of the top people as well, which sounds amazing opportunity.
Karen: One thing I would say like a message to any new technicians out there, you know, that have done one course, and they’re like, I dunno why my work doesn’t look quite as I want it. Keep reinvesting in yourself. It’s so, so important. I can honestly say for the first five or six years, probably five or six years, I didn’t go and buy the handbag that I wanted; I didn’t go and buy luxury things because I knew I had to plough it back into my business to give it the level that it needed to get it to the level that it needed to be. And I did that. I kept reinvesting; I kept reinvesting. I’ve actually got in my clinic; I displayed all about 12 of my certificates because when people come in, and they’re in the waiting area, they can then see everything that I’ve done in my time, which at the moment is just totalled over a hundred thousand pounds worth of training.
So I know my stuff, and this again is why some people say you heard of something, you know, reassuringly expensive when you go for a treatment, or you go to buy the best handbag or you know, you can apply that to any part of life, can’t you really? And yes, because my price is reflective of the amount of training that I’ve done, and it can even be down to aftercare. My aftercare is completely different to anyone else in my area, and I know that ’cause I’ve taken four courses and four pieces of information, I’ve rolled it all together, and that’s my aftercare package. So I know that what I’m putting out there is worth what they’re paying me in return. And all I can say to any newbies is keep investing in yourself, and you won’t go far wrong because your clientele will follow what you’re doing, and they’ll be impressed with what you’re doing, and they’ll keep coming back ’cause they keep wanting the new upgraded version of whatever you were doing last year.
do you have any other kind of tips or um, advice for those who are just starting out?
Karen: Yes, it is a massive minefield. Um, and I feel for you guys at the moment ’cause it’s even more of a minefield than it was when I started. I would say go for the people that you’ve been watching for a while. Research, research. Find out their aftercare package. Because if you’ve got someone who’s going to just train skillset and then never answer your phone call again, believe me, this industry is very, very lonely. Once you are trained, once you are in your own clinic, you are alone. There are forums. I don’t find forums helpful. I think they’re toxic. I think you’ve got lots of people that know a lot and lots of people that don’t. And they’re the ones that tend to argue; I don’t get involved, I don’t watch, I don’t look if I’m added, I don’t add myself… I just think there are so many different ways to educate yourself.
Forums aren’t the one, but it’s really nice to see the beautiful work. You know, when things do go right, that’s a really positive thing. So look at different people who you want to train with. Learn about those people. Learn about their businesses. Are they good businesses? Are they successful? Are they successful in themselves? Because if they’re not, then you’re investing the wrong sort. You’re investing in the wrong people because they’re not going to help you get on your feet. It’s very different to learn a skillset and go out and do it yourself than to learn a skillset and start developing a business. And this is probably the toughest market there has ever been in my, you know, certainly in my time. And I’m very, very blessed that I’ve got that eight years behind me, ’cause they’re the people that when it’s slightly quieter, they keep me going.
Karen: If you’re starting out alone, you’ve got, not got a clue where to go to. There are now another hundred people in your area who are doing the same thing, starting out the same as you. So just make sure you’ve got that level of support after. Because I would say actually yes, you pay a lot of money to be at, at a good course, but at the same time, that aftercare and that, oh, you know, could I have done anything different with this set and oh, this lady’s saying this, what do I say back? That’s the bit you’re going to need. And that’s the bit that I’ve had with all my trainees, and I always will have. And with my masterclass trainees now, you know, for me, it was important to cut out the basic foundation training because I love to perfect things.
So when I see someone who’s got great techniques, but I can make them better, that’s exciting to me. And that’s why I drop the foundation training, and now I teach in master classes, and I absolutely love it. And I’ve met some incredible people along that journey and people that I know I’ve helped. And that’s where I get my sort of, um, what’s the word? Gratitude. And I feel blessed to have met these people and to have helped ’em on their journey because I know it’s, it’s it’s both ways. And as much as I love teaching them, they’ve loved what they’ve taken away. And I see that when they review my training and stuff. And that’s really, really another level of job satisfaction for me.
Dawn: That sounds absolutely amazing, and it’s really good advice as well. I don’t really see much in terms of, like, I mean obviously, you said with the forums, you know, there are lots of forums out there, but I think especially if people don’t wanna join them, you know, that’s really good advice, uh, to just to hear from someone else in the industry instead of just, um, you know, oh, you need to do only certain this course and stuff like that when actually it’s just such a refreshing perspective. Yeah. Um, is there anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap up the episode?
Karen: I live with the mindset. You have to take the risk. There’s gonna be some that pull off, there’s gonna be some risks that don’t. I’ve been very lucky. Every risk I’ve always taken has always pulled off, and that’s how I live. I wouldn’t like to not take the risk and never know if it would’ve worked or not. So always take the risk.