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Sam Marshall – The Beauty Guru and Founder of Be Trans Aware

“A salon for everyone to feel safe in their own skin should be the norm, not the exception”

Sam Marshall, Skin Guru and owner of The Beauty Guru specialises in skin therapies, waxing and other beauty treatments.  When considering her future at school, she remembers her careers advisor asking what was the first page she turned to in a magazine.

“It was always the beauty page.  This is what prompted me to train in beauty therapy, despite the expectations and objections from my parents.  At 16 I totally rebelled.  I was set to be a barrister or scientist. I now believe what I do now is an essential therapy – COVID actually proved that our profession isn’t just about beautifying people, it can massively boost mental health too.

As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, Sam has naturally found her niche in providing a safe salon for people who are trans and/or gender diverse.

“To think that some people have to risk assess a situation before they go into it, even everyday places like a hair or beauty salon, isn’t right.  It is a reality for some that is completely overlooked by many cis or het people.

Sam decided during lockdown to develop a course on trans awareness and gender inclusivity to help other organisations be more inclusive. Now her training is very much in demand within the beauty industry and beyond and is currently working with the IHG Hotel Group to educate their teams.

“Investment in staff should include education about trans and gender diversity, as it is with race and disability. Often it is left to  the trans employee to educate the rest of the team, which is no OK.   My goal is to train as many companies and brands to reflect our colourful and diverse society, it’s so encouraging to see some of the mainstream brands like M&S doing it, I’d like to enable many more.

Sam is now a recognised a leader in her field of beauty and inclusiveness and is regularly featured in the media as an ambassador.  Sam has also been invited onto the DEI committees for The British Beauty Council, The Federation of Nail Professionals and the Hair and Beauty Industry Authority (HABIA).  She is columnist for Salon EVO and is nominated for the “Visionary” award for Scratch Magazine, whom she also holds a column with.

I love being a voice in the industry, it’s very humbling. I’ve worked my way up -my first job was working on the cosmetics counter at Boots after I left college in 1998.

At the start of Sam’s beauty journey, she travelled a lot and worked both in the UK and Australia.  She built up lots of experience with brands like Clarins, Aveda, and managed Urban Retreat at Harvey Nichols in Manchester until she was made redundant in 2013.

“I was even head-hunted at one point towards the end but I knew didn’t want to take another management role and this was a turning point for me, instead I decided to go freelance.  I started educating for Leighton Denny and the next thing I know he’s sent me off to do the spray tanning for X-Factor, which was very cool, not the most lucrative, but definitely the best experience and great for networking.”

“Having my own salon was my dream though, I had a taste of this covering my friend’s salon for a month when she was off work after an operation.  This inspired me to open my own salon in the Greenhouse at MediaCity in 2017. I could see no one else was offering beauty services in the local community and we are quite isolated in MediaCity.  It was the ideal place, people could nip out during lunch to get a treatment and be back at their desk with a fresh set of nails or a stress-busting massage.”

“It expanded quickly and I even opened a hair salon (I say this lightly as it was literally the world’s smallest salon!), which was a great concept but difficult to staff, so I decided not to pursue this and just concentrate on my core business which was doing beauty, and doing it really well.”

Sam has since moved to the Blue Tower where she has two rooms with two self-employed therapists and an apprentice working every day except Sunday.

“The business model I have now works really well for all of us because it gives us the greatest flexibility.  This also applies to our space too, the ability to scale up or down to match our business growth is really important to me.  The best thing about being at MediaCity though is The atmosphere, being close to the water, it is lovely to be able to nip out on a break and grab lunch from a local eatery. The other element is feeling safe – this is especially important for my clients.  I also love that they let dogs in most buildings, although we don’t have them in the treatment rooms often!”

As for the future, Sam has her sights set on making her salon more sustainable and getting a Pride MediaCity festival off the ground.  Her words of advice to anyone else looking to start their own business:

“Grow organically, rather than having the stress of leasing a big space, start small, it’s important to not feel overwhelmed and look after your mental health.”

@beautygurusam (insta)

@betransaware (insta)

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