Launch business takes off
Carole Guilmard had always struggled growing up trying to find the right products for her curly hair. Living in a small town in France, where there was not a lot of black people in her community, Carole found shops weren’t selling suitable products for her hair type.
“It was an access issue,” she said. “I had to go to different parts of the city just to find products which could be frustrating at times and I knew I wasn’t the only person who had these struggles.”
In 2018 after moving to the UK, Carole graduated with a MSc in Marketing from the University of Salford. During her studies, Carole conducted a study for her dissertation where she found people sharing the same issues and struggles she had faced.
“At this point I had found lots of very small independent brands which I used and really liked so I thought if there’s a demand then why not have a platform for them all?” she said. “I wanted to give customers access to products made by people who understand the specific needs of curly hair.”
Carole then applied to be part of the incubator at Launch @SalfordUni after hearing about it online and attending some workshops.
Launch @SalfordUni is a business incubator which was set up in 2018 to offer support to help students’ and alumni start up their own business. Launch provides a 6-month programme that offers training from the Careers & Enterprise Team, academic colleagues at Salford Business School, GC Business Growth Hub and funding from Santander Universities.
It gives students the facilities to grow their ideas into a business venture with expert support and mentoring, spaces to hot desk and generate ideas, subject specific Q&A sessions facilitated by academic staff from Salford Business School, workshops, and networking showcase events. Launch also gives students access to funding made available through the University and partners Santander and is available to graduates of the University of Salford for life.
“I had my first pitch in February and that’s when things properly started,” she said. “I created the online store by myself and then I contacted different brands and said I would like to offer their products because I believe they deserve to be recognised and I knew I could help with that.”
After securing a successful pitch with Launch, Carole’s business, ‘Black Venus Beauty’ was born in June 2019.
Carole said: “Running the business on my own was hard at first. I didn’t have anyone telling me if my ideas were great or not or if they should be changed but being part of Launch really opened the door to my creativity. It gave me my own business advisor which was so helpful, whether it was part of the business or the different activities at Launch, she has watched and helped me to progress and improve over the last year.”
She added: “Although I started the business a year ago, I couldn’t imagine it would have grown without the support from Launch. It has given me such a big boost.”
“Having talks from external people, support from Launch and advice from business advisors is really great. We had training sessions on pitching from an external person which was so helpful because you don’t realise how much there actually is to it. You learn so much.”
At the end of April 2020, Carole was awarded funding of £1750 from Launch to help support the growth of Black Venus Beauty.
“The funding alongside the experience Launch has given me with pitching will help me start up a crowdfunding campaign. I’m also getting more brands onboard and working on getting a campaign together for September,” she said.
Carole also hopes to expand Black Venus Beauty into more than a beauty products platform as she plans to make it a space for expert advice and raising awareness on issues within her community. “For example, Alopecia is something that I would love to raise awareness around as my sister suffers from it. I know in the black community it’s hard to speak about it too, but I want to show people that it’s okay to talk about it and they shouldn’t be ashamed. I hope to offer them the access to help from my website,” she said.
“I’d 100% recommend getting involved with Launch. You have nothing to lose and can only gain experience and knowledge while being supported. It’s reassuring to work with people who actually know what it’s about and have been through the ups and downs of running a business. It really adds value and to know that you’re not alone and you can speak to them if you have any doubts is truly amazing.”
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