The Career Flip: How Chelsea From Trophy Wife Swapped the Corporate Life for a Beauty Salon

Trophy Wife

We’re hearing more and more stories about Australians who are making life-altering decisions to get off the corporate ladder, follow their childhood dream jobs or pursue their weekend hobbies in a new way. The reason? We’re hungry for change. Research by Seek Learning shows us that fewer than half of Aussies are happy with their jobs, and many feel burnt out when juggling work and life.

Experts suggest that the pace and pressure of the traditional ‘workplace’ has changed over the past decade, making people less likely to feel happy in corporate jobs and prompting many to actively make a change. Couple this with the rise in do-it-yourself technologies that help part-time workers build their own websites, accept payments and do their own accounting, and a whole new group of entrepreneurs has arisen: the ‘career flipper.’ And now today’s tecnology is designed to empower self-starters with the confidence and knowledge they need to go it alone and start their own ventures.

Chelsea Bagan, founder of Trophy Wife in Melbourne’s inner-city suburb of Richmond, left a corporate job to follow her dream six years ago. We caught up with Chelsea to find out more about her business journey, how she manages to juggle everything, and what tools and tech she uses to keep her busy life organised.

How did the Trophy Wife journey begin?

I have always been involved in various artistic pursuits and I eventually got my hands on some nail art puffer paint pens during an eBay-obsessed period in my life. I started messing around and painting various patterns on my nails, then it became a little escape for me while I was trapped in a corporate lifestyle. Soon it became the only thing I wanted to pursue.

What does a typical day working in your beauty salon look like?

We like to run Trophy Wife less like a salon and more like a nice experience hanging out with friends. We focus on making people feel relaxed and comfortable so we can connect with them. I think getting your nails done should be more of a personal experience, rather than a sterile service where you are churned in and out as quickly as possible.

We like to get to know our clients and their stories, and we love finding out about their ‘behind-the-scenes’ reasons when it comes to nail styling choices.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced when starting the business?

I found starting a small business really hard, simply because there is a lot to know and it’s tough to know where to begin. Cash flow is the most important thing to learn how to manage quickly. When starting up you need to save money, which means not hiring staff, so I found myself spread a little thin. I also had to learn how to be really organised and have systems — like admin and payments — streamlined in order to be able to focus on the other areas of my business.

What tools have you adopted to help you grow the business?

We use Square for payments. It’s easy to use and the money gets put into our bank account fast, which is important for a small business. We also use a staff rostering system called Deputy, which is a really great tool that keeps everyone in the loop around shift availability. And obviously Instagram is a pivotal tool for us as a visual service. Social media has been really useful in helping us promote our services on a small budget.

Trophy Wife

Why did you start using Square?

I found the traditional card payment devices on the market really archaic and very expensive to use. We mostly work out of our salon space in Richmond, but on weekends we often set up a nail bar at functions or festivals and Square offers a cost-efficient, streamlined mobile service.

We also use Square Stand in the salon. It’s not only super-slick and professional looking but it helps making payments a really simple process. Our clients are always impressed with the simplicity and speed.

We also like to avoid waste wherever we can, so Square Stand is great. It allows us to save paper by sending text or email receipts straight from the iPad. It’s great for invoicing as well!

You’re the owner, operator, manager as well as a nail art technician. How do you manage every aspect of your business effectively?

One of the biggest challenges for me when first starting the business was that I had to do every role. When it comes to employees, inventory, payments and just general admin, finding the right systems that can help you with these processes is key.

It’s not really feasible to be able to source and pay for many different systems either, especially when you’re first starting out, so finding an all-in-one platform, like Square, was invaluable. Although we primarily use Square for payments, the platform is constantly introducing new features and additional tools to help business owners.

Trophy Wife

What’s next for Trophy Wife?

We have recently expanded to offer more beauty services, which is really exciting for us. We are now a one-stop-shop for hair, nails, lashes, brows, facials and more! We’re focused on growing our reputation in Melbourne but we’re also working towards being able to open a salon in every state across Australia.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurial people looking to start their own venture in the beauty industry?

Always stay open to taking a risk and trying new systems — don’t get stuck in the past. Decide on your core business values and refer back to them when you need to make a tough decision. Also ensure that you have systems in place to streamline your business operations and admin. There’s an app for everything these days and it’s a huge time-saver.

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