After a long day at work on January 26, busy salon owner Olivia Stevenson, 35, went home to her daughter to relax and rest up. But at 11:45pm, she was woken by a phone call that was straight out of a business owner’s worst nightmare. It was from the fire service – her salon was up in flames.
After getting her cousin to watch her daughter, who was still sleeping peacefully in her bedroom, Olivia rushed over to her salon in Sketty, which was thankfully empty at the time of the blaze. Olivia said she could not believe it – a fire had started upstairs in a freak accident with the tumble dryer which had not even been turned on. It was packed with towels from the salon which had debris from the day on them and the door was shut. A chemical reaction and lack of air-supply had caused a slow burn and the doors were open so the fire had spread upstairs.
When Olivia arrived, she was told she would not be able to go up to see the salon that night. “I knew then that it was a bad fire,” she said. You can read more stories about Swansea here.
Since the end of the various lockdowns, Olivia had only re-opened for just a few months but was finally finding her feet with her business when she got the awful news of the fire. She had celebrated the ten-year anniversary of the business just weeks before, although Olivia’s Beauty had only just moved into the Sketty premises two years previously and Olivia had spent around £30,000 renovating it.
But all those efforts were ruined. The fire had spread upstairs and smoke and water damage also covered the downstairs of the salon. Devastated, Olivia helped to board up her salon and went home to her daughter to somehow try to process the night’s events. Arriving home, Olivia sat down for a while in shock before she made some difficult phone calls to her team to tell them they could not come to work the next morning. You can get more Swansea news and other story updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletters here.
The salon owner was then tasked with dealing with the damage. Thick black soot and smoke residue coated the walls and nail vanish and wax strips were swapped for hammers and chisels as Olivia’s Beauty was hacked at and “completely gutted”.
Deflated by the tough first two years of life as a business owner, Olivia began to question her dream of having her own salon. “The fire completely took over the upstairs of the shop, we’ve spent nine months trying to rebuild and get the insurance money,” said Olivia.
“The reason why I moved was because we were growing but now we’ve had COVID and [the fire], I was thinking ‘Why did I move? Was there a reason?’. I’d lost site of the growth of the business,” added Olivia. “My dream was to create a wellbeing hub that people could come to and I needed more rooms for that.
“I’ve decided to stick at it. I could’ve given up. I’ve held on by a thin piece of string. Back in January, there were times when I wanted to ring my landlord and say ‘I can’t do this anymore, I can’t keep battling through.”
But now Olivia is back and she said it had been lovely to welcome her clients to the newly renovated salon, which relaunched on Thursday, October 20. The salon is now also focusing on wellbeing and Olivia said she was passionate about the mental health benefits of visiting salons and treating yourself. As well as beauty treatments, Olivia’s Beauty will offer counselling and relaxation treatments. “I just want to build somewhere that people feel at home and feel safe,” she said.
Olivia said she had kept all her old staff and clients and that re-opening the salon this week had been overwhelming. “I’m so passionate about the industry. I put my clients before myself. The clients have kept me going, I just knew I needed to do it.”
The resilient salon owner added that she had been through divorces, deaths and other huge life events with her clients as her loyal customers would confide in her while getting their treatments.
She said one of her clients recently lost her husband and it was lovely to hear her being able to laugh with the salon workers downstairs on their second day since re-opening. “This is where I’m meant to be,” Olivia said.