Brain tumour survivor Danielle McGrisken opening Belfast beauty business with sister
Danielle McGrisken and her sister Rebecca will tonight officially cut the tape on their new salon on Belfast’s Lisburn Road. The young Ballinderry woman tells Stephanie Bell how the expertise she gained as a fundraiser is proving an asset in her new career — and why she wants to give other women coping with illness the feelgood factor.
Tonight a very special party in Belfast will see one of Northern Ireland's bravest young women fulfil her dream when she officially launches her own business. Danielle McGrisken (21) has battled a brain tumour since the age of 14 and, despite living with almost constant pain and facing over 20 surgeries, she was determined to study and one day open her own business.
Combining her business skills with her sister Rebecca's expertise as a beautician, the two young women have come together to open a modern boutique make-up studio in the heart of Belfast's trendy Lisburn Road.
And tonight the enterprising duo will celebrate the official launch of the Rebecca McGrisken Make-up Studio with a select number of guests.
Typically the business will have a strong charitable ethos and both girls aim to give something back while running their own company.
An excited Danielle said: "I am delighted and excited to be working with my sister after being unwell for a number of years.
"I can now move forward on to the next chapter of my journey and bring my charitable and business acumen with me."
Giving back is what Danielle is best known for since she was diagnosed with her brain tumour seven years ago.
Of course, no-one who knows the Ballinderry woman will be in the least surprised that she has achieved her dream as her steely resolve has inspired people not just in Northern Ireland but across the rest of the UK. When Danielle was diagnosed with the tumour, her response was to immerse herself in trying to help others by raising funds for the Brain Tumour Charity through the Danielle McGrisken Fund, raising an incredible £160,000 to date.
She has received numerous awards in recognition of her charity work, including a Diana Courageous Citizen Award, and was also presented by the Prime Minister with a Point of Light award which recognises outstanding people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others.
She also won the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Young Person of the Year award in 2015.
Throughout her illness Danielle never lost sight of her ambition to run her own business. After completing a BTEC Extended Diploma in Business at the age of 20, and with the many skills she acquired through running her own charity, all she needed to realise her dream was an idea.
And she didn't have to look far as her younger sister Rebecca had completed her training as a make-up artist and it seemed perfectly natural to Danielle that they would combine their skills and go into business together.
Rebecca (19) is as ambitious as her older sister and has trained with a number of leading make-up artists including Pamela Smyth, an Emmy award-winning hair and make-up designer for The Fall and head of department for crowd make-up for Game of Thrones.
She has also attended - and continues to attend - masterclasses and workshops to keep her looks fresh and relevant.
Rebecca was working as a make-up artist for Inglot in Belfast when the idea for the new business came about.
Danielle explains: "Rebecca had always been into make-up ever since she was a tiny tot. I always wanted to open my own business and my health issues meant that being my own boss would suit me best.
"I didn't have a specific skill but Rebecca did, so about six months ago I suggested to her 'what if we work together and I take care of the business side and you do the make-up?' She was delighted.
"We started by converting a spare bedroom at home into a make-up studio and we weren't really looking for premises, but after about six months in business we heard about a place which had become available on the Lisburn Road. We just decided to go for it. We used our own money and did it ourselves, although dad helped with furnishing it.
"We opened in February and it has been going great.
"We've had great support not just from friends and family but from other businesses on the Lisburn Road. I am delighted to be working with Rebecca and we really enjoy working together."
Rebecca is as creative and ambitious as her sister and has given masterclasses at a number of events, as well as working on several photoshoots.
She is just as pleased as Danielle to be working together. "From a young age I have always dreamed of being a make-up artist and running my own successful business," she says.
"I am delighted to have my sister on board. She has the not inconsiderable experience of running her own charity so brings those skills to the business. Together we aim to provide a high quality boutique style make-up studio that meets the needs of our clients for all age ranges."
The sisters live in Ballinderry with their parents, Brian and Amanda. Life changed for the entire family when in July 2011, aged just 14, Danielle was diagnosed with a brain tumour and hydrocephalus, which is water on the brain caused by the tumour.
Before her diagnosis she had endured 12 months of horrific symptoms which had been misdiagnosed as migraines.
Head pain is measured on a scale of 1-10 and for that year before diagnosis Danielle's was at nine. She described it as excruciating.
To date she has faced more than 20 operations, mostly to manage the fluid on her brain. She has also undergone radiotherapy in Bristol.
Although her illness has robbed her of much of her carefree teenage years, she typically focuses only on the positives and managed to complete her business course even though her health meant that she missed many classes.
Her last surgery was in November of last year and while her treatment is finished she still lives with her brain tumour and will have annual MRI scans for the rest of her life.
The cancer has left her with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and she still suffers from headaches which she says she has now learned to manage.
After she became ill Danielle was alarmed to learn brain tumours are the UK's biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40, yet receive less than 2% of all cancer research funding.
Determined to change those statistics, she launched her own charity fund. Since then she has sold hundreds of wristbands labelled with her motto 'Stay Strong, Keep Positive... Always' and organised events, including a fashion show and concert, with all profits goings to the Brain Tumour Charity. As well as raising vast amounts of money she has been active in raising awareness of the symptoms of brain tumours by helping to organise the distribution of thousands of Headsmart leaflets to local schools and youth groups.
She has also inspired others through her blog 'Danielle's Journey' which has 100,000 followers and which she now plans to relaunch since starting her new business.
"I still get headaches although they have eased a lot and I have learnt how to pace myself.
"I also have chronic fatigue and the beauty of working with my sister is that if I need to take time out I can," she says.
"I had stopped my blog and people kept telling me they missed it so I now plan to relaunch it and make it more about how to look after yourself after illness and how people can pick themselves up and contribute to society.
"I will also include hints and tips on running your own business and about how to deal with life after a cancer diagnosis.
"It will be very much about the next part of my journey."
And that journey will have a strong charity focus as both Danielle and Rachel plan to use their company to give something back to the community.
They will be holding make-up master classes for women who are going through a breast cancer diagnosis and will also nominate an annual charity to support - the first is unsurprisingly one close to their hearts, the Brian Tumour Charity. Danielle's wristbands will also be on sale in the studio.
Danielle adds: "As well as having a charity of the year we want to carry out acts of kindness throughout the 12 months which will include giving make-up lessons or make-up applications to those who are going through difficult times in their lives."
Salon's array of services
Rebecca and Danielle offer a full range of services at their new studio for weddings, black tie and formal events, festivals, concerts and nights out.
Rebecca will also be providing make-up lessons for all ages and abilities as well as a range of monthly masterclasses to include Sweet Teen Masterclass, Monthly Masterclass and Refresh Masterclass.
The studio sells a number of branded make-up products, which have been hand-picked by Rebecca for their quality and the girls are proud to be the first stockists in Ireland for Eyeconic by Felicia and Lash Unlimited.
The Rebecca McGrisken Make-up Studio is on the second floor, 661 Lisburn Road Belfast, tel 9066 6518 or go to www.rmmakeupstudio.co.uk.