When Elaine Duggan of The Echo newspaper reached out for an interview for WOW ( Women on Wednesday) , it was a great opportunity to tell people about our impending rebrand from Browtique Cork to Browtique Ireland .
Whilst I was later in life going into self employed business ( 15 yrs), my current business of eyebrow Microblading is 10 yrs old now and much to my surprise it grew exponentially as I am the only microblader who is a SRN SCM in Ireland.
This is turn makes Browtique unique from a safety element as the tattoo industry in Ireland is unregulated. When we deal with blood borne pathogens, cross contamination, infection control and sterility daily , with no supervisory governing body it highlights how lax the industry is.
Our client base is 70% cancer clients, usually referrals from Oncology , oncologists, GPs, oncology liaison nurses , and wig clinics .
With oncologist permission and consent we can attend to the Microblading during treatment in a certain window in the three week chemotherapy cycle.
Here’s what she wrote:
Name: Olive O Sullivan Clonakilty
Age: 58 yrs
Lives: Clonakilty on the bay
Salary bracket 60,000+
Job title: Eyebrow restoration service by Microblading / Business owner ( commonly known as eyebrow embroidery or eyebrow microblading )
Registered Nurse , Registered Midwife , Obstetric Theatres scrub nurse , spiritual health development in meditation practitioner x20 yrs
Hobbies: Baking, Calligraphy, Kombucha and food fermentation- yogurt making etc , Card making -anything that helps my creative juices flow… cocktail making even!
Describe your job in five words:
Confidence restorer, Fulfilling, Emotional supporter , Morale booster, good Nurse help to those who had a recent cancer diagnosis .
Describe yourself in five words:
My job is more than just brows- I attend to my treatments in a “holding kind of way”.
Professional, caring , empathetic , understanding in a medical world, mature and knowledgeable (!)
Personality needed for this kind of work?
Caring , empathetic, understanding , kindness, ability to relate and connect with people , practical in “getting the job done”.
How long are you doing this job?
15 yrs Self employed, 10 yrs microblading .
How did you get this job?
Registered nurse training in Barringtons Limerick x 3 yrs.
Registered midwife training in London x3 yrs.
Mentally handicapped nursing x 1 yr Youghal .
Private plastic nursing in Sydney , Australia x 4 yrs , whereby it gave me an insight into how a minor treatment can restore confidence in ( mainly women) where a TWEAKMENT can restore such confidence .We nursed patients who had plastic surgery from car accidents, through to nose jobs/breast jobs/liposuction etc.
Back then ( 1987-1991) , Australia was more advanced than Ireland by plastics , primarily driven by skin cancer treatments ( as a result if this 4 yrs- it brought the awareness of the devastation cancer can have on both the physical health and mental well-being of the patient).
That in turn gave me insight into how a plastic procedure could restore the confidence of an individual after a traumatic cancer surgery and how confidence can be restored following it .
I found the role so fulfilling to have a patient leave hospital with their physical appearance improved, but their mental health and confidence restored.
I loved Australia so much – I took out citizenship there, but a broken romance brought me back to Ireland.
I moved back to Ireland and resumed a role in my first love as a midwife (in Bon Secour hospital) initially on the Postnatal floor and eventually the Labour Ward for 15 yrs before leaving to work as the private practice midwife for Dr John Waterstone ( who was new to Cork in 1999) – so like any working mother I could work and balance my home life , as it did not entail working nights or weekends.
By now I was a mum of 2 boys.
I hated night duty and working 12 hr shifts every second weekend .I was debilitated by migraine at this time and since leaving hospital based nursing it never returned. I hated working for management , and hospital/ward management in particular .
In 2007 – 2010 my own family was visited not once but twice by cancer and I found myself nursing both my mother in law and my father in End of Life care in their own homes .
For my mother in law, her hair loss following chemotherapy was her biggest worry ( surprisingly not that the drug was saving or prolonging her life).
When my Dad was told he needed chemotherapy his first question was “will I lose my hair?” . Losing his hair was not the issue, he just needed to identify the severity of treatment. Confidence loss is huge in any treatment, it makes the patient feel very vulnerable.
In 2009 shortly before my Dad passed away to cancer, a gesture he made changed my career path to now.
He gave me some money to follow a dream that I would have loved to pursue, but couldn’t due to lack of funds- (bear in mind I was a Stay at home mum for a number of years).
Keen to spend more time with my growing family ( I became a mother at 37 and 39 ), I trained up in beauty /nails ( CIBTAC level) which gave me the ability to work from home , do school runs, help with homework, do the reading , after school activities AND run a business.
I went in to do a years training in beauty by night in The College of Commerce to obtain a certificate, and started my own business from home specializing in Nails, pedis , gel nails, threading eyebrows and HD brows ( something that was growing in the early noughties),
Having first come across Threading in the USA, I explored training in it, and trained with the famous Louise Walsh from the UK, and further enhanced this skill with an Indian friend who was threading since she was 7 yrs old in the USA.
On holiday in USA, I enrolled in Brows in High Def and the trainer was waxing lyrical about a treatment that was coming in from the East called eyebrow embroidery ( now called eyebrow microblading ) .
Having done further research on my return I did an introductory training in EIPMU. This was a 2 day short introduction to the treatment, which sparked my fire. It was only when I took on several extra classes with many many masters did I realize that I could develop my own style. Sadly Health and Safety did not feature in any of my classes- something which alarms me as a medical professional. Something thankfully my years as a theatre nurse enables me to carry out my treatments with the ultimate safety and professionalism.
Whilst initially all my clients came for beauty , the first client that contacted me following chemotherapy was the catalyst for me to combine my nursing training with my new skill.
Once more I was catapulted back to Sydney and I wanted to share that ‘ feel good factor’ I had as a young nurse with cancer patients.
I attend 2 masters classes World wide and Europe per year I developed a treatment package SPECIFICALLY for clients undergoing chemotherapy or about to undergo a chemotherapy treatment.
Working closely with patients and their Oncology team, with Dr consent I can provide the treatment before , DURING and after their treatment .
I liaise with their team on an ongoing basis to ensure it is safe, and will not jeopardize their ongoing chemotherapy plan.
As far as I am aware and definitely up to recently I am the only and first nurse providing this service in Ireland.
In 2020, my business has moved from 100% beauty to 80% Cancer and 20% beauty.
My cancer patients love there sense of security they get from being treated by a nurse , who not only has a connection with the Oncology teams but has a background in cancer care.
A 7 page assessment both from an eyebrow Microblading suitability view point but more importantly from a medical point of view- a lot could have changed medically from the initial YES from the Dr and when they come to us in BrowtiqueCork.
If it’s not right on the day, my clients know that they are never put into a risky situation and their safety is paramount.
Never in a million years did I think my Nursing career would take me here , tattooing eyebrows!
I always thought nurses /midwives had to work in hospitals , but I am now a nurse 40 yrs, and 30 of those years were spent in hospital life , 10 of those years in theatres, 4 as a private practice nurse and the last 15 yrs owning my own business.
When I was in UK as a midwife, I was on the Flying squad team for emergency baby deliveries in the community. I learned that in the right hands , safe outcomes can occur even outside hospital settings.
Do you need particular qualifications or experience?
I did a basic introductory Microblading course in Navan 10 yrs ago, but it was the 2 masterclasses per year with 2 different masters every time that gave me the knowledge that I hungered for . Some people open a business following a 2 day course, but I didn’t open until 1 yr later following lots of practice, on live models .
It’s an ongoing industry that updates year on year and I needed to know how I could get to improve year on year.
Eyebrows and their treatments increased in demand by 400% 12 yrs ago and it hasn’t stopped since.
Sadly it’s an unregulated industry , and without an governing body anyone can open a business after a 2 day course.
This in turn gives me and my nursing training plus theatre scrub nurse experience credibility in an unregulated industry .
I attend a 3 day Eyebrow festival in Rotterdam annually (not last year) to keep up to date on the latest trends, and discuss in masterclasses some of the problems we encounter on Caucasian skins in our clinical practices .
Originally this work was on Asian skin which has a yellow base to their skin tone, we encountered problems with Caucasian skins in the early days working modifiers too combat graying results, however the industry is improving every year and most pigments are now formulated for Caucasian skins which makes my life much easier.
Describe a day at work
I arrive at my office 90 min before work to clean, Hoover, mop floors, clean bathrooms, ventilate the rooms, prep the treatment bed with laundry plus plastic disposable coverings and pull the charts for the coming day.
I spend 30 min on emails and returning enquiries – (Although my son Adriaan does these , even tho he is in college), he replies to usual queries about availability, patch tests, and more information on our treatments etc.
I change then into my scrubs.
Every week day I do 20 min “coffee talk” on Instagram covering a topic per day or chatting about queries that came up by direct message.
My first client is usually at 10.
I take 2 clients in morning and 2 in afternoon with 40 min turn around time in between to clean the room, change treatment bed covers, and scrub door handles and light switches.
Lunch is usually at 1.
I either change out of scrubs and eat in one of the local cafes or bring left overs from the night before if time is tight.
Over lunch -I return phone calls from the morning at lunch time.
I return phone calls from the afternoon at the end of clinic.
At 6 pm I file away charts and upload clients photos into the cloud ( all photos have to be stored x7 yrs – an insurance requirement).
I walk to my car via the post office to post out the Patch tests for all new enquiries ( a patch test is non negotiable and an insurance requirement too. If a patch test is not done, and a client has an allergic reaction we may as well have no insurance).
I drive home, and have super with my family.
It’s a long day but not stressful like hospital life, I sit a lot in my current role.
All my clients have a direct Line via WhatsApp to me in emergencies, so I check those messages between each client .
I am lucky to have a husband who likes to cook, so dinner is usually ready for me.
I am in bed by 9 but I rise at 0430 to meditate and get in a 50 min walk.
At weekends , I restock and send emails to clients on our Covid care policy and how to prepare for their treatment with us the following week.
One Monday per month I assign to Admin, doing booking keeping , ordering supplies, photocopying and assembling patch tests for posting and assembling aftercare gift packs etc.
On Sundays and annual leave I usually have a quiet mind and that’s when my inspiration comes …
Mediation and mindfulness is a very necessary hour in my day, usually at 0530 with a warm coffee in my hand ( I drink 4 per day!)
How many hours do you work a week?
10-6 , 6 days a week . In an emergency I can open on a Sunday.
This includes 1 hr lunch and 40 min in between each client to prepare the room to a clinical level in preparation for the new treatment.
What do you wear to work?
I wear a Scrubs uniform as even though my consultation rooms are not clinical (it is between beauty rooms and a clinical setting) – so not hospital like at all, however the cleanliness and safety is paramount.
In a world where the tattoo industry in Ireland does not even cover infection control, cross contamination, sterility, blood borne pathogens in its training – THIS in my view is more important than the treatment itself .
Initially I wanted my consulting rooms adjacent to a Dr surgery for the clinical setting , but my chemotherapy clients said they were sick of hospitals, blood labs etc that a less clinical setting would be more welcoming, favoring the fact that as a Registered nurse this element of clinical safety would not be compromised.
Is your industry male or female dominated?
Mostly female, however more and more men are reaching out for treatments following sudden onset Alopecia , I would love to see more men train up.
My son is currently in college studying Medical health science so I hope to get him trained up to give a hand with our male clients .
Does this affect you in any particular way?
No, I am not affected in any way. 99% of my clients are women who prefer to have a female practitioner.
Is your job stressful?
About a 3.
Do you work with others or on your own?
I work alone ,
When I began first I had 8 clinics around Cork and Kerry , spending a specific day in each location. ( I had 3 in Cork city alone ) .
During this time in worked with other Beauticians but what I found was as my business grew I was spending too much time traveling .
In 2018 I relocated to one specific location to my own town in Clonakilty, and now see all my clients in that location.
However, I have recently been invited to bring my expertise to Dublin to cater for cancer clients in the greater Dublin area- this is currently a work in progress.
My brand is growing at an alarming rate and I have enough work for 3 nurses full time.
I have 2 Reg nurses starting their PMU training this summer and should be on board by this time next year to give a helping hand with the work load at Browtique. I am very excited about this, as I want to provide this specialized service to my clients, but want my staff to have a medical background.
This in turn further enhances the confidence of the public, and the relationship we have with the Oncologists is not compromised in any way.
There are many rogue practitioners who have no morals when it comes to cancer chemotherapy patients, who could compromise a patients chemotherapy plan and fracture the Oncologist relationship we currently have with them .
When do you plan to retire or give up working?
I am now 58, but might retire at 63.
I will always be present however, on a supervisory level after that.
My brand is growing, it needs me at the helm.
I am OCD when it comes to my business , a pain in many ways- but ideal when it comes to my work!
1)Helping clients with Brow hair loss for ANY reason, be it Thyroid or any other hormonal changes ( postnatal and menopausal for example) through to Alopecia, Trichotillomania or ladies who simply over plucked no the past.
3)Getting approval from Laya health insurance was a highlight a few years back- they contribute to some of our fees ( depending on your plan) and the Garda Medical Aid contribute also, for their members with cancer.
BrowtiqueCork is the only microblader covered by these 2 insurers to date.
We are still working on VHI HEALTHCARE and Irish Life insurance , and appeal to their members to put in representation ongoingly.
I am only one person , and there is strength in numbers.
Only then will they consider cover if there is a demand , and their product development team won’t know about this demand until you demand it!
3)Once per month we do PAY WITH A SMILE for a deserving client whereby we donate our fees for free. All the client pays for is nominal ( to cover our insurance contribution, supplies and topical).
This person is chosen monthly .
4) When a high profile client avails of our service , pays for our service AND blogs about it without looking for anything in return ( recently Derval O Rourke blogged about her journey to new eyebrows on Instagram), in a Women supporting Women kind of way. We love Derval and love that she keeps her business local , and now she has the BEST brows too!
1) I was looking to open a training academy before the pandemic, however having to close and lose a year I decided to scrap this , in favour of staying with my clients in a hands on way.
2) Being self employed means I wear 20 hats per day- every day!
3) Daily emails from bloggers asking for free treatment for favorable reviews- I never did this, or will I .
My business thrived organically without the fickle world of influencers or bloggers/ it’s just not for me.
4) Never being off duty – it’s 7/7 a week, between work, filing , storing, admin, paying bills, stocking up, liaising with accountant etc.
Advice to those who want your job?
1)Do a Start your own business course.
2) Invest in a mentor – my mentor Kate Hyde ( hen party.ie and Dragon den winner) always has my back in a supportive non critical way.
3) Train with someone (always better that you) so they can take you to the next level.
4) Never take advice from someone who wants to be where you are at.
5) Weed out the free loaders .
6) Be kind and authentic – it rises above everything else.
7) Follow up when you say you will.
8) Be prepared to run at a loss x 2 years before things improve.
9) Stay within your tribe and they are your main supporters
10) Say ‘yes’ to every opportunity , and work it out later, but say yes immediately!
Anything to add?
One of the things I found in pandemic was my business was closed 10 off the 14 months, I focused into on line exposure mostly by Instagram .
I turned to educating my clients on what my treatment was about, and how they might benefit from it ( and saving these stories to IGTV , You Tube and highlight bubbles on Instagram).
All the common questions were covered.
I also took the route of Women supporting Women by doing a LIVE every day with other women in business- a kind of on line networking of sorts and I just LOVED that.
I also took the opportunity then to continue my education on line by taking several on line courses in how to move my business forward and pivot in those unusual circumstances.
Last year – My friend Holly Kennedy needed my help , as she had triple negative breast cancer, and needed to go to San Francisco for a trial drug treatment.
I began a Go Fund Me which mushroomed beyond all my wildest dreams culminating in the lovely Helen Cody donating a couture dress for raffle, Sile Seoige, Kathryn Thomas , Triona Mc Carthy and many TV personalities coming on board to speak about it and promote the campaign.
Sadly Holly passed away Sept 1, 6 months later but my learning at this time, is NEVER think you can’t make an impact. I didn’t think my efforts to help Holly would come to much but the selfless generosity of everyone who helped out took a life of its own.
I kept saying “ but , I am a nobody” when speaking to the above high profile people , and the common response was “ if you think you are too small to make a difference , try sleeping in a room with a mosquito “!
Despite all that we raised €110k through the Go Fund me and private donations.
There is always room for an altruistic gesture, and if you believe in Karma ( as I do) these gestures return four fold.
I have many ‘pinch me’ moments, and believe my business grew organically with a little help from like minded people and MY TRIBE of women.
My clinic is in Clonakilty West Cork.
I am closed to new clients until Jan 2022 but cancer chemotherapy clients can be facilitated at any time – just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Website : www.browtiquecork.com
Phone line 021 4193011
On line booking ; http://browtiquecork.schedulista.com
Instagram : Browtique Ireland