The 8th of March is etched in my mind as a reminder of how much we have to celebrate and how much women have achieved since the notion first appeared to be seeded in the early 1900s. At this time the Women Labour movement in the US sent ripples across the world where women began to mark the day out collectively as they earned the right to vote, from New Zealand to Russia until in 1975, the UN officially adopted the day to remind women of how far they have come but how much opportunity there still is.
It certainly reminds me of how, not conforming to an expected societal role is so crucial. Always challenging expectations. As a second generation Indian, where marriage and not a career, was the key ambition my parent’s had for me and my sisters, I felt compelled (always with their encouragement but not expectation) to do so much more. I am thrilled to now be celebrating launching Blink eighteen years ago.
When I launched the business, I was juggling 2 children and felt overwhelmed by the prospect of managing it all. Being a mother helped me to be laser focused in the little time that I had, in between naps and nursery pick-ups to. The adrenaline kept me going along with support of family, friends, female mentors and eventually my team at work. Being a woman was never a hinderance, it gave me the empathy to understand my customer and what they needed, how their perfectly shaped brows, instantly lifted their cheekbones and opened up their eyes. Being a woman was pivotal to my success in setting the business up.
In 2004, the ability to thread eyebrows, was always seen as a basic skill that women passed from generation to generation through a necessity to take care of excess hair. Indian women are blessed with a lot of hair and with that goes a lot of brows. In the UK, many women were offering the threading service in the outskirts of cities, where there was a large ethnic community, as a basic skill where £2 was the going rate for a rushed and sometimes quite harsh whipping of brows into shape.
It was exciting to bring the skill to Central London for so many reasons. Firstly, it allowed women globally to be introduced to Threading, an undiscovered method of eyebrow shaping in the parts of London that hadn’t been as obviously touched by the influx of immigrant cultures. My father came to London in the 1950’s and chose to live in Ealing, it was close enough to Southall, where many Indian migrants had congregated to work in local factories and it was comfort in numbers. It was here that small salons, offering threading cropped up to service the needs of the burgeoning Indian community. Threading was a more precise way to shape brows and required nothing more than a piece of cotton thread and the light touch of a skilled therapist.
I was mindful that this skill needed to be elevated a fair price for the trade. It also gave many Indian women a chance to venture further afield and celebrate their artistry. It offered them the opportunity to have a career around their family but also required a certain bravely to venture out of the comfort of their community to service the needs of the wider British Women.
Secondly Brows were an afterthought in the UK. Plucking the odd brow hair was a random act rather than a dedication to getting the best out of their brows. However, British Women were certainly open to trialling the service and always marvelled at the transformation; how their perfectly shaped brows, instantly lifted their cheekbones and opened up their eyes.
They soon adopted this new method of beauty maintenance and many went from the uninitiated in any kind of brow maintenance to becoming addicted to the discrete but essential performance of brow shaping.
Eighteen years later, we now have an all-female force of two hundred South East Asian women tending to the brows of British women and am so proud to say they have threaded over 20 million brows since launching.
Who are the women I admire? On a global scale, Michelle Obama who shares her journey so candidly with the world, holding a beacon of light to what is possible. On a UK business front, mentors such as Chrissie Rucker, a mother of 4 with a brand, The White Company that has become a household name in the UK, Natalie Massinet, who disrupted how we shop and Anya Hindmarch who recently shared her challenges when juggling five children and a global handbag brand in her book – If in Doubt Wash Your Hair. In my mind the Blink Therapists are also female warriors. Straddling two cultures, sometimes English being a second language; where they have responsibility to earn money but also take care of their children and potentially elderly parents living with them; They often wake at the crack of down to organize food for the family before setting off for a day to attending to brows. having little time for themselves but always with a smile on their face.
Beauty is something that is now being taken more seriously as a credible industry that not only provides many talented women with work and is a huge contributor to GDP but also to support and give women confidence. Whether a brow shape, or hair cut or facial, the interaction of services between two women are deeply personal where a bond of trust is created. Women supporting women.
That feeling ripples across the world and it is wonderful to have this day, marked in our diaries to congratulate each other for the progress we have made day by day.