After the success of their Cinch Corset, these dynamic mums opened a clinic to help women get back into shape with their new fat-busting techniques
Two young mothers who blazed a trail with their figure sculpting corsets have taken their business to a whole new level. They tell Una Brankin how their new Cinch Clinic in Holywood was formed
Angela Hunter was concerned about her 'mum tum' when she came up with the idea for Cinch, an innovative waist-shaping corset which also aids weight-loss and helps back pain.
Suddenly, the talented PR consultant had spotted a lucrative gap in the market for a luxury, comfortable shape-wear that created dramatic slimming results both instantly and long-term.
Three successful years on, Angela (36), and her Cinch partner Nicola McIlhagger (41), have gone one further in the body beautiful business by opening Cinch Clinic in Holywood, which offers hi-tech slimming and toning treatments.
The glamourous pair are a walking advertisement for their side-line business (Angela still works full-time with her Birdsong PR company; Nicola is a mortgage advisor).
Married to BBC journalist Simon Hunter, Angela had been dismayed to go up almost two dress sizes after the birth of her children Matthew (6) and Heidi (4).
She's now a trim size 10 and glowing with health.
"Getting back into shape was a real confidence boost for me and it's great being able to help other women all over the UK and Ireland - and some even further away - feel better about themselves," says Angela.
"We've had so much good feedback on the Cinch Corset. Women are delighted that it gives them an instant hourglass shape and good posture, while reminding them not to eat less.
"It's almost like an external gastric band and the heat it creates when worn over a period of time helps beat bloating."
After the birth of her second child, Angela hated the stubborn belly fat she had acquired.
She tried a variety of shapewear solutions but nothing did the trick until she came across an inexpensive 'waist-training' corset online in January 2015, at the height of the Kardashian-led trend.
"I showed it to my friend Nicola - we were both blown away by the dramatic body shaping results but horrified at the quality and the lack of comfort," Angela recalls.
"At the time, the magazines were full of pictures of Kim Kardashian and her famous sisters showing off their amazing corset silhouettes, and that got us thinking.
"We couldn't do anything to improve the fit of the online corset, and we couldn't find anything better in the shops, either - certainly nothing that was fitted correctly to your correct body size and shape.
"So, we decided to produce our own improved design using modern, comfortable and high-end materials."
The friends then consulted with a manufacturer to create a product with a stretch fabric that wouldn't chafe the skin, then settled down to work with the first bolts of material.
"Within a couple of months, we had developed a sample corset that we were both absolutely thrilled with," says Nicola, the mother of seven-year-old Nina). "We showed it to friends and families who placed an order immediately. We had to get to work fast!"
In two short years, Cinch has gone from strength to strength, featuring in national newspapers and magazines.
Former Miss UK Gemma Garrett has modelled the range and broadcasters Emma Louise Johnson and Ruth Langsford are fans, while models Lucy Evangelista and Orlaith McAllister swear by the support the corset has given them to alleviate back problems.
However, being perfectionists, Angela and Nicola began to turn their attention to the body niggles their customers would mention, such as love handles and bingo wings. And, this summer, the dynamic duo decided to take the business to the next level.
Says Angela: "We read endless reviews on the latest celebrity trend - Cool Sculpting - (also known as Cryolipolysis or 'fat freezing), and we decided to do a little more research into it.
"It works by freezing the fat cells, which are then eradicated through the lymphatic system over a period of 12 weeks.
"We had worked with our own corset clients for over two years and the common denominator with every single person we have met - whether it be through trade shows, our retail partners, our sales agents or clients online - was that everyone has a part of their body that they are unhappy with, whether they are size six or 30.
"The corset is absolutely fantastic at tackling belly fat, but Cryolipolysis can literally target any part of the body and kill up to 40% of the fat in the area."
Excited by their findings, Angela and Nicola and decided to try the treatment for themselves.
"Over the next 12 weeks we were absolutely blown away by the results," says Nicola.
"We took before and after photos, and if we hadn't have known better, we would have sworn that the 'after' photos were doctored in some way - the results absolutely spoke for themselves.
"That sparked the idea to open our own dedicated fat loss clinic in our home town of Holywood."
In their spare time, the women travelled to trade shows across the UK and found a supplier in England who could provide them with the most advanced treatment machines on the market.
They took on a full-time therapist who worked from Angela's spare bedroom in the summer months before setting up the clinic in King House in Holywood.
"It's a wonderful building, brimming with character, but it needed a shedload of work," Angela admits.
"We got started on the work while we welcomed new clients - found on Facebook and through our corset clientele - to our new clinic in my spare room.
"Clients came from as far away as Newry to try the new treatment, and results so far have been fantastic. The treatments are designed for people who are close to their ideal body weight but have stubborn pockets of fat that no amount of diet or exercise seems to shift," she added.
"We have also had Pamela Ballantine in - she was keen to see how she might get a little help along the way - she lost a lot of weight though Slimming World a few years back and now just wants to tone up and sculpt her waist and legs a little."
Although the Cinch business is busy, Angela remains devoted to her PR business, Birdsong Communications, which she set up in September 2011. Her clients include Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce and Belfast City Centre Management, John Minnis Estate Agents, Andras Hotels, ASM Chartered Accountants and Betterhomes.
Angela's mother and mother-in-law both provide "invaluable" help with childcare on the days Heidi and Matthew aren't in their local nursery.
"I wouldn't be able to run the business without the support of my family," she concludes. "It's an extremely rewarding job, especially when you open the paper and see that several clients have been mentioned.
"And Cinch is just as rewarding - it's brilliant to be able to help women, who have been in the same boat as you, to regain their confidence.
"That's hard to beat."
Cinch Clinic treatments explained
Cryolipolysis is a clinically approved, non-surgical liposuction procedure. It involves cooling fat cells (known as fat freezing) which gets rid of unwanted, stubborn pockets of fat in targeted areas of the body such as the stomach, love handles, back fat, arms, flanks, inner and outer thighs, bra line and moobs. Treatment involves one 45-minute session.
Cavivation can help towards speedy weight loss. It is a non-invasive liposuction treatment that reduces body fat safely and efficiently. Targeted ultrasonic waves are used to break down fat cells without harming any other cells in your body.
Cavitation can be used on its own - or in conjunction with Cryolipolysis to speed up results for clients who suffer from larger pockets of fat.
Laser lipo is a non-invasive, non-surgical treatment which requires no downtime, is pain-free, effective and produces instant and lasting results.
For inch loss and body contouring, the state-of-the-art laser lipo machine emits a harmless low level external laser which penetrates the fat layer under the skin and breaks up fat which is then removed from the body through the lymphatic system.
Radio frequency body contouring can help firm, tighten, plump and refresh the skin on any part of the body. It helps skin to look more youthful, tighter and altogether more beautiful. The treatment heats up deep layers of the skin and underlying tissue, causing deep collagen structures in the skin to tighten. This boosts the body’s own existing collagen levels and promotes the production of new collagen.
Radio Frequency has two benefits:
Cellulite: the heat generated by the device converts cellulite into water and carbon dioxide, which is removed from the body painlessly and simply through the lymphatic system.
Skin tightening: an increase in collagen production assists in firming up the skin, improving overall tone and lessening the effects of deep wrinkles.