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June - July 2008


Lifestyle

Woman of Substance: Seema Flower’s disability was no bar to her business success

Ensconced between Covent Garden market and the theatre world of the West End London is a business establishment owned by an Asian woman, Seema Flower, who has been virtually blind from a very early age.

Seema (39), Managing Director of successful independent Covent Garden hair salon ColourNation, is responsible for the smooth running of the business and the work ethic and welfare of her team of dedicated staff. Although not trained in hairdressing, Seema has a great sense of style and has always enjoyed being pampered in cutting edge salons offering a high standard of customer service.

As ambitious as any other salon owner, Seema’s ColourNation is the first London salon to embrace the Colour Factory mixing system, an amazing piece of technology producing two hundred and seventy unique hair colours with potentially millions of variations. Probably because of Seema’s unique view of the world, ColourNation is a highly client motivated salon, with everyone treated as individuals. One example of this is private salon facilities where Muslim women and other more shy clients can have their hair styled in complete seclusion and thus their religious beliefs are respected.

Seema, who doesn’t let the fact that she walks with a white stick and requires a DWP supplied personal reader to peruse the letters in her in-tray and complete the paperwork restrict her ambitions, first began to experience problems with her sight at the age of 5-6. At 21 she studied for a combined degree in business studies and computing at what is now London Metropolitan University, going on to qualify and work as a Careers Advisor and then work for the RNIB for seven years spending some time in the role of student advisor. All the while her sight was deteriorating, despite the fact that there was nothing in her family history to indicate that this would be her fate.

Seema’s personal experiences and her professional dealings with the partially sighted and blind through her work with the RNIB has prompted her to set up Access and Beyond Ltd, a consultancy which specialises in the Disability Discrimination Act and how it should be implemented in the workplace. Her clients to date include Marks & Spencer and UCL, Greenwich Leisure and others. Seema’s plans for ColourNation involves opening another salon in Manchester and as she revealed to me she has plans to expand to Mumbai and Delhi as well. If all this was not enough she has recently given birth to her first baby, India, much to her and her husband’s delight, further evidence if needed that this seemingly tragic tale is, in fact, one of triumph.

My curiosity to meet this young lady of true grit made me to make an appointment to meet her in her den in Covent Garden.

The salon ColourNation, 53 Entell Street, has a modest facade but quite spacious as you enter the building. The decor is a contrast of white walls and black furniture. Seema and her husband, Andrew Flower, were there to greet me.

My first question was a bit abrupt:

You are a business person. What made you choose Hair Salon as your main business venture?

“Well, first, it is recession-proof. In this part of the world, the hair has to be done for all occasions. It becomes part of one’s personality. The clientele is mainly women; easy to deal with. Moreover, although it was quite established, I had ample scope to expand it”, said Seema confidently.

Were there any objetions from family or any hurdles in your way?

Yes, at the initial stage there was scepticism; but I was determined to make it a success. Physical disability was more of a challenge. It gave me inner strength to make a success of my business. Over and above there were other business hurdles e.g. competition, cash-flow, legal problems, etc.”.

What are your aspirations?

I always wanted to be my own boss. Running this business successfully has given me enough scope to put into practice my own ideas about running a successful business. I love dealing with people. Finance and personnel are the two areas where I feel quite confident. At our salon we employ 14 people. I can confidently say that they are happy with the work they do; and the environment I provide enables them to give their best. That is the reason of our success.

What about your interests other than your business? Any hobbies?

“Music, socialising and family. Any time I find away from business is devoted to my family. (Seema has a five-month old daughter called India). I love parties and interacting with other friends. I love meeting people and listening to music, especially music from old Indian movies.”

“She is a workaholic”, butts in Andrew Flower, smiling with a big grin.

I know you are planning to open another Hair Salon in Manchester. Are there any plans to open branches of ColourNation in Mumbai or India?

Yes! I know there is plenty of scope there. The young generation of Indian women are as fashion-conscious as women in the west. I am sure it is going to be a success if I plan to go global.

Seema Flower, with her endless energy and the sixth sense bestowed by Nature as a compensation for the loss of her sight, is indeed a woman who has the capacity to determine her own destiny. She has proved it by running a successful business establishment in the heart of fashion world of London, the trend-setter Covent Garden.

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