Hairdressing student wins funds for start up

November 20, 2020 - Jane Moore

Natalie Blakely, a former Hairdressing and Barbering student, is one of the latest to receive a grant of £5000 from the Ayrshire College Foundation Enterprising Student’s Fund to help her to start up her own business.

Based in Saltcoats, busy mum of two, Natalie, specialises in hairdressing and barbering. Here she gives us an insight into her business, Natalie’s Hair Retreat, and her plans for the future.

My business

I have been a hairdresser for a number of years, and I had been going to client’s houses or renting a salon chair to style their hair, which I really love, but I had wanted to provide more of a bespoke service for a while, so when the opportunity of the Enterprising Student fund came up, I jumped at the chance to get involved.

I completed my placement at You! Salon on the Kilmarnock campus of Ayrshire College, and have recently been addded as bank staff.  It was a wonderful experience, and I wanted to provide a nice environment for my customers too.

I have a lot of clients who suffer from anxiety and mental health issues, and I recognised that some people just don’t enjoy the prospect of sitting in a busy, noisy salon.

For me, it’s all about building up a rapport and trust with your clients, and so my business will provide a one-to-one salon experience where people can feel comfortable in that environment.

It’s an amazing feeling to see your client’s spirits lifted after they have had their hair styled.


I approached Lynn at Bridge 2 Business after attending a workshop. Once I’d been to that, I got as much information as I could. Lockdown has actually been quite beneficial in a way for me, as although I couldn’t work for a while due to restrictions, I found that I had more time to focus on my business plan.

While doing my course, you get workshops throughout the year. Lynn introduced me to the workshops and I approached her and I got as much info as possible. When we went into lockdown I turned the negative into a positive. I flung myself into my business plan. I would never have had this time in between working. I just threw myself into. When I had my interview they were amazed with my business plan.


The funding I have received has meant that I am now having a Summer Pod built in my garden. It’s getting built early 2021, and to be honest, it would have taken me a while to save the money to have the pod built, so the grant has been brilliant!

And the bonus of having my own premises is that I won’t have to pay rent. My customers are very excited about this and are looking forward to coming to the pod to have their hair done.

I’m super grateful for this opportunity, and would still be freelancing if it hadn’t been for the grant, not having my own place where customers can have a great experience.

Future plans

Before lockdown I didn’t have any social media for my business. Lynn suggested that I build a Facebook business page, so I’ve done that and created my own logo. I’m now in the process of planning my Instagram page. A lot of customers are through word of mouth and their loyalty is brilliant, but it’s good to expand and promote my business more too.

I can’t wait until I can offer the one to one salon experience within my work pod in my quiet garden, and to see my clients have a really relaxing experience will just make my day!

If you have been inspired by Natalie and would like to find out more about the Enterprising Students Fund, read more here.

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