This Hull mum left school with no GCSEs - but now she owns this six-figure beauty business

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 5 Dec 2018

A Hull mum who left school without any GCSEs has revealed how she has built up a successful six-figure beauty business from scratch.

Gemma Winstanley - a self-confessed perfectionist - is now one of the best-know semi-permanent makeup artists in the city after carving out a name for herself as a specialist in microblading, lip blushing and other aesthetic enhancements.

Now, the 36-year-old has launched the city's only semi-permanent makeup training academy - so she can share her skills with others who want to excel in the beauty field.

The mum-of-two says she hardly recognises herself before her journey started nine years ago when, as a single mum who didn't have a penny to her name, she re-mortgaged her house to open Illusions Nails and Beauty salon in Bilton. At the time she was a nail technician and had worked in local salons since the age of 17.

Gemma Winstanley with beauticians Kirsty Lillian, Tori Bell, Melissa Jelassi, Kayley Ring and Holly Clark during a training session at the Microbeau Training Academy. (Peter Harbour)

"I made what some might say a naive decision to re-mortgage my house and open my own salon, with no clients, and at the time I was a single mum without a penny to my name," Said Gemma.

"I never really gave it a thought that I could potentially lose everything if it didn't work out, I just threw myself in and hoped for the best, but I was never going to let it fail. My personality is such that I was determined to make it work."

Read more: New fitness centre and gym is opening in the heart of Hull city centre

Illusions has grown over the years into the successful business it is today, which Gemma is keen to stress is the result of hard work and sheer determination.

In 2011 she begged and borrowed £10,000 to train in semi-permament makeup and buy the equipment - but the real turning point for her business came in 2014 when she trained in microblading.

She's now got thousands of clients, her diary is full and her skills are recognised far and wide and customers visit her from all over the country for treatments thanks to her reputation. "I just love what I do, it's a hobby, not a job," said Gemma.

"Helping people feel and look better is an amazing thing to do. I absolutely love helping people feel better about themselves."

Gemma could be forgiven for continuing to run her successful business, where she employs seven staff, and enjoys the financial rewards of the industry, which can be more than what a doctor earns.

But she says the reason for the next step of opening the Microbeau Training Academy isn't motivated by money, it's the love and passion for her job which makes her want to share her skills.

Gemma Winstanley, centre, with Kayley Ring, Holly Clark, Tori Bell, Kirsty Lillian and Melissa Jelassi who are training with Microbeau Training Academy. (Peter Harbour)

The academy, in Hedon has been launched alongside friend Marie Selby, another beauty expert who is based in the south of England. "It's been a massive investment, but I wouldn’t let it not work, I'm really driven and passionate about what I do," said Gemma.

"I always try to do the best treatments I can, and I want to pass on my passion.

"Students come to me because they have have seen my work, they like how I work, and they want to learn my technique.

"Together we felt we could offer something not received at other training courses we've both been on.

The Microbeau Training Academy has opened in Souttergate, Hedon. (Peter Harbour)

"Both of us have trained with independent people and also with big companies, we liked the way a big company is ran with training material and other benefits but we also like the personal touch of independents, they're more approachable, more personal so we wanted to give the best of both worlds.

"It can be quite a stressful thing to learn, you do have ups and downs, and what I never got from my training was that little bit of counselling, and that’s why I think were a little bit different from others."

The academy now offers courses in semi-permament eyeliner, lips and powder brows and Gemma is planning to add new treatments during the next few years. Everyone from complete beginners are trained.

Students complete a pre-study workbook before attending the course, they then have three training days, before going away for six weeks with 12 levels to complete.

Gemma Winstanley teaches at her new training academy in Hedon

They go back to the academy for a fourth training day where they work on a live model under supervision by Gemma. Before they can qualify they must complete 10 real case studies.

Some 70 students have already trained with Gemma and the academy is the only Vocational Training Charitable Trust (VTCT) accredited beauty training centre in east Yorkshire.

Each student leaves with a recognised qualification with is insurable, professional and beauty acredited. But Gemma's help doesn't end there.

She said: "My help is limitless. The students must have achieved their certificate within six months of starting the course, but the help and feedback is lifelong."

Gemma Winstanley at her new academy in Hedon. (Peter Harbour)

But Gemma won't be turning her back on her own clients any time soon. She still works at her Bilton salon three weeks in four, and teaches the other week.

Asked if she's worried about sharing her skills and being in competition with those she's taught, Gemma said: "As long as I stay on top of my game and continue to provide a good service and constantly train myself, I am sure I will always keep my clients."

And if that doesn't keep her busy enough, Gemma is so passionate about what she does, she offers some treatments, for medical conditions free of charge.

Gemma often does areola reconstruction treatment for recovering breast cancer patients. She tattoos the nipple after women have had a maestactomy.

To get in touch with Gemma , visit her website, or her Facebook page.

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