Feature: Maria Hayllar of Harold Hill salon Heavenly on her first 18 months in the trade

Success is heavenly for the beauty therapist whose Harold Hill business is beating the odds.

Maria Hayllar, who runs Heavenly in Petersfield Avenue, has just celebrated 18 months in the beauty trade.

But the modest 39-year-old, who received business training at Havering College in Hornchurch, says she’s amazed by how well the shop is doing.

“Since I started, the time has gone like a blur,” she said. “We’ve done so much in 18 months. The salon is changing all the time.

“We’ve got a two-storey salon and I’ve used every nook and cranny. We’re having to knock down a wall to make more space.

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“We’ve got four beauty rooms and it’s not enough.

“In today’s recession it’s absolutely remarkable – I’m so, so lucky.”

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It was a case of modest beginnings for the mum-of-two. The journey began when Maria’s husband fell ill in 2005 and was unable to work.

“I was really in a low place,” she reflected. “My husband was ill and I was going through some things with my son.

“Now, I just think: ‘How did I achieve what I achieved with so much going on around me?’

“I might have used it as an outlet so I didn’t have to properly think about what was going on in my own life.”

Spurred into action, Maria enrolled at Havering College as a mature business student.

After graduating, she spent time building up her reputation by offering services free of charge.

Maria enlisted the help of Havering Council to draft a business plan and apply for funding to a Dragons’ Den-style board in central London.

The hard work paid off and Heavenly opened in 2011, building up a steady clientele and a good reputation.

And recognition came earlier this year when Heavenly won New Business of the Year at the council-organised Havering Business Awards.

But despite everything she’s been through, Maria says her biggest challenge came last month when she returned to the college to give a talk about how she made it big.

“I did a talk for 30 students,” she explained. “Getting up in front of people and speaking was one of my fears, and I think that was worse than everything I’ve gone through.

“I don’t know how I did it, standing in front of 30 students, but afterwards I felt like I could do anything.

“They were all in the same position I was in. I just explained to them how I got here – no one gives you anything so you have to work for it.

“It sounds a bit silly but if you believe in yourself and put your mind to something, you can achieve it.”

So just how did she build a thriving business during a recession? Maria reckons it’s down to dedication.

“When it’s your own business you never switch off,” she confessed.

“You’re constantly thinking about tomorrow, the next day and the next week.

“I’m always looking for the next big thing – I never become complacent. We’re constantly introducing new treatments, like laser liposuction.

“The equipment is fun for customers to use. And we’re child-friendly – we have a little telly for them, just so mums can have 10 minutes to themselves.

“Every day we’re looking for ways to make our salon stand out from the rest. There are so many different salons but you want people to go to you, to think: ‘This is a place I want to be.’

“It’s about all the little personal touches.”

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