'A careers officer tried to talk me out of being a hairdresser - but now I own a top salon'
Award-winning hair stylist and salon owner, Sharon Malcolm, who was a finalist in the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Award in Hair, Beauty and Fashion 2015, says the secret of her success is hard work and focusing on the now, says Stephanie Bell.
Trend-setting hair stylist Sharon Malcolm is one of those successful creatives who works hard to perfect new techniques to keep her ideas fresh and stay ahead in the fashion stakes.
Her original hair creations have won her countless top awards and, as a business woman, she has also been honoured in many competitions for the success of her salon - Sharon Malcolm Hairdressing in Newtownards.
A finalist in the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year in the Hair, Beauty and Fashion category last year, Sharon has maintained a high profile since she first opened her Co Down salon in 2000.
A very driven person, her determination to succeed has seen her make it as a finalist nine times in the British Hairdressing Awards in London. And in 2014, she realised her dream of picking up the top gong when she was named Northern Ireland Hairdresser of the Year.
Having worked her way from the bottom up, when she earned £4 a day as a 'Saturday girl', she now runs one of Northern Ireland's top salons.
With a staff of 13, Sharon last year celebrated 15 years in business by investing in a trendy new refit of her salon.
And she readily admits it took a huge amount of financing to open the business. But, with a clear vision of what she wanted to achieve, she eventually secured the backing of Schwarzkopf.
Within just two years of opening she picked up her first major award - Best Newcomer in the prestigious British Hairdressing Business Awards, and she has been on a winning streak ever since.
Last year she was chosen as the Best of the Best Long Hair in the Irish Photographic Awards and won the I Want That Hair prize in Hair Magazine's 2015 competition.
Already this year she has been named Best Regional Salon in Ireland in the Hair Magazine Awards.
She is currently working on a new collection for entry into this year's British Hairdressing Awards and, again, has a goal in mind.
Sharon says: "My aim is to be the first woman from here to enter the British Hairdressing Hall of Fame. But to do that you have to win the Northern Ireland Hairdresser of the Year three times.
"That's my ambition and I am doing it, not just for me, but for women. That's what was so wonderful about the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards - it was a night to celebrate women and their achievements.
"It was such a great night and there was a real variety of women there from all walks of life and all professions. It was lovely to have so much female talent in one room."
But it's not all about personal success for this savvy business woman and fashion leader - Sharon has also made sure she gives something back.
Over the years, she has raised thousands of pounds for charities and recently took part in the relay event at the Belfast Marathon with team member, Lisa Ward.
Last week she held a coffee morning and together the two events have raised £1,685 to be split between Leukaemia and Cancer Research UK, Friends of the Cancer Centre and the Hair and Beauty Benevolent Fund.
The award-winning stylist describes herself as a positive person and practices mindfulness, therefore always trying to live in the moment.
In fact, she believes so strongly in the power of mindfulness that she has paid for her staff to take classes.
"I have a saying that 'you can't taste a past strawberry and you can't taste a future strawberry, you can only taste the strawberry right now'. I believe that yesterday is gone and tomorrow isn't here yet, so we really have to live in the now," adds Sharon.
"I think with social media and the pressures of work and family life today, it is important to take time out for yourself. That's what I hope to achieve for my staff by bringing someone in to instruct them. I have a great team and many of them have families and life can be tough."
Even as a child, hairdressing was Sharon's passion and she refused to be deterred from realising her dream.
She recalls: "I don't know why but from a very young age all I wanted to do was hairdressing. Other girls at school said they wanted to be a hairdresser when they grew up, but when they said it I used to think 'but I really want to be one'.
"I did well at school and a careers officer tried to talk me out of becoming a hairdresser, but I was so determined to do it. I think it is that love for the job that drives me.
"I am constantly going on courses and I am always learning new things.
"I love perfecting new styling techniques and then putting my own twist on them."
Sharon (46) has recently trained in a new method which helps women with fine hair to either thicken or lengthen their hair.
Her evolving new collection, though, is under wraps for now. But all will be revealed when she will again be vying for the title of Northern Ireland Hairdresser of the Year in London later this year.
According to Sharon the 'bed head' trend is the look which all the most fashionable women will be wearing this year, along with bright colours.
"Anything goes at the minute and every colour of the rainbow is in," points out Sharon. "It was the fashion last year and trends usually take a while to filter through. This year everyone is going for bright colours.
"Taylor Swift used to have soft golden blonde hair. Now, though, it is bleached blonde with some yellow in places.
"The big look is the 'just got out of bed look' - not too dressed or structured, but something which is beautifully undone."
Of course, achieving the unkempt tresses look isn't as effortless as it may sound, but thankfully Sharon has some top tips.
She says: "Styling products really work here, like dusted powder on the roots, a conical wand or even straighteners to add a twist."
While straight hair ruled the A-list for years, now softer shapes are back. "Young stars such as Selena Gomez used to have straight hair but now it has a textured wave. To achieve that look, use straighteners or a wave wand to get that undone curl, then finish with a bit of hairspray to hold it in place."
Similarly, hair length is very much your choice. Sharon says: "Long or short hair, anything goes - and the more undone it looks the better.
"Even people with beautiful curls will possibly have some purple or green in their tresses, with straight haired ladies adding bright colours."
Trends aside, Sharon believes that hard work is the key to success and regularly devotes 50 hours a week to her job.
The currently single girl lives in east Belfast and when she is not working enjoys music, walking and the great outdoors.
"I absolutely love my job and I love life," she says.
"The recession was a tough time but I believe that in order to succeed you need to work hard and I'm lucky that I enjoy my work."
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