1. Can you please tell us more about your business?
BTI – Beauty Therapy institute offers quality education and training in the beauty industry, but with a difference. We were the first beauty therapy training college to offer a flexible modular system that allows student to study in their own time, at their own pace. Hence our students can enrol at any time of the year and study according to their own schedule, covering courses which they are most passionate about.
We offer modules in nails, skincare, massage, body treatments, hair removal, lashes, brows, make-up, hairdressing, business, client relations, cosmetic science and many more.
BTI is a franchised company with 20 campuses in 5 different countries – South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya.
We are accredited with Services SETA which is soon changing to QCTO and we are registered with the national body (SAAHSP) as well as international examination bodies such as iTEC and CIDESCO.
BTI’s reason for being is to Shape beautiful careers so that the clients are ensured of safe and exceptional treatments.
Our core values are Respect, Equality, Accountability, Integrity and Excellence.
2. When, how and why did you start your business?
Beauty Therapy Institute was founded by beauty veteran Sandy Fuhr in Cape Town in 1996. A beauty therapist and somatologist with a passion for education, she saw a gap in the market at just the right time and developed a flexible modular system which consisted of bite-sized modules focusing on single skills as a starter.
Sandy started BTI by developing a single module for a single student and when that student completed, she then enrolled into another course. Sandy then went on to develop the next module, and so it grew into where we offer 48 individual beauty therapy modules, 16 combination beauty therapy courses, a full time 2 year diploma in Health and Skincare Therapy, 9 hairdressing modules and a full time 3 year hairdressing occupational certificate.
Sandy’s passion has always been to give people careers which leads to financial freedom, hope and independence. The majority of our students are from previously disadvantaged families, being individuals who thrive on the ability to do short courses in their own time, at their own pace. This has opened their doors into the beauty industry when previously they were unable to do so. We offer more than a qualification. We offer our graduates a future, a career and a lifetime of potential in the industry.
3. What is your role in the business?
As the Director and Franchisor of Beauty Therapy Institute, my role is a catch all. Previously, I was involved in each and every business and aspect thereof, from the ground up but as we have grown, I have had to delegate more and focus on specific aspects to ensure the continuous growth and strength of the franchise as well as the individual campuses.
I focus mainly on improving our franchising opportunities in Africa to grow the reach of BTI across the continent. I am in contact with the team regarding the daily tasks as I like to be involved as much as possible in the operations, marketing and education development. I often spend days in meetings with suppliers, colleagues, industry professional bodies etc, discussing business opportunities in the industry and improving accreditation throughout Africa.
We spend a lot of time improving and adapting our teaching materials to ensure we are up to date with the latest trends and changes in the industry.
We are always looking for PR and marketing opportunities to get the BTI name out there as we are driven change as many lives as possible.
4. Where did you study and what did you study?
I studied at a college in Cape Town which is now long closed down. I gained a French Qualification in Beauty Therapy. I then went on to do my second International Qualification with CIDESCO 10 years later. Thereafter, with my Continuous Professional Development, I am no titled a Somatologist.
5. How did you finance your business?
I approached my bank for a very small overdraft at the time to cover my needs (not my wants). The overdraft grew over the years as we expanded the business. I also met a wonderful woman who let me use one of her rooms in her salon as well as equipment in return for a percentage of my earnings as the start-up facility of BTI.
6. Describe your average workday, if such a thing exists.
Each and every day is so different for me, fortunately. Some days I am at my laptop all day dealing with emails, attending meetings with suppliers and franchise partners over Zoom, checking and editing teaching materials and working on the business as a whole.
Other days I might be at one of our campuses doing a student meeting where I talk to all of our students and discuss their career paths and motivating them to continue with their studies. I meet with the Principals and Educators to discuss any issues or topics they might need assistance with and I spot check the campuses to ensure they are up to our required standards.
Then there are days when I am in strategic meetings with my team, determining the future of the business as a whole.
There is so much that goes on in a week in our business that every day is something different and I absolutely love that.
7. How do you balance your home life and your work life?
The biggest challenge is balance, so that neither family nor work colleagues take umbrage when your personal or work life impacts on each other.
Family need to understand your need to work. Being a woman, working from the age of 19, I have had to generate an income. I have 2 kids and got divorced when they were 6 and 9 with no maintenance or assistance from my ex. I had to make a plan, so I was driven to succeed. I was 40 years old and needed to make it work so that’s what I did. With zest and enthusiasm, I set about creating a unique business model to suit the needs of the majority of South Africans coming out of Apartheid. It was 1996 when I started BTI.
My family always understood I needed to work. But earning a Beauty Therapist’s salary in those times, I wouldn’t have been able to bring up 2 children in the way that I wished. So, determined to increase my income, I needed to change what and how I did it. I stretched my thinking and went to research a unique business system in the UK and set focus for growth and increased income.
I was also very fortunate to have a younger sister who, with her hubby, used to look after my kids when I had to travel away for any extended period of time.
My kids are adults now which has made balancing my life much easier. My daughter works with me in the business as our Brand Manager, so it’s great to be able to combine those parts of my life as well.
8. What drives you and inspires you?
I am hyper focussed on giving people a qualification in order for them to have lifelong careers in the beauty industry. Giving them the opportunity to look after their families. Just like I did. To see women and men grow inspires me every day.
9. Where and when do you have your best ideas?
When I am about to fall asleep the best ideas pop into my mind. I like to keep a notebook and pen next to my bed so that I can quickly scribble them down. I want to make sure I remember them all in the morning. I have a hyper focussed mind which is continuously in work mode, conceptualising and strategizing at every turn.
10. Where and how do you market/advertise your business for sales leads?
We use the general Social Media platforms – such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn – as our main form of marketing. On top of that we are on additional platforms like Swivel which goes into high schools to show the students their career and education opportunities.
We are on the website Coursetakers which is a great lead generator. However, our largest lead generator is our website which we are constantly updating and amending as we need.
We are busy working on email campaigns to capture that part of the sales funnel as well.
Some of our franchisees have branded their cars, put posters on lamp posts, hand out flyers at high schools, attend career days, host events and so much more in their areas.
11. What is next for your business?
My primary goal is to uplift, empower and give disadvantaged and under privileged people the opportunity to have their own careers, regardless of their past.
In doing this, I also wish to take our unique style of flexible, modular beauty education further into Africa to help the African population gain invaluable knowledge with education of excellence. The beauty industry in Africa still needs much support and growth. Without BTI in their country, they would be obliged to leave their homes and countries to gain the equivalent in South Africa if BTI wasn’t in their country to help.
12. What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs hoping to start their own business?
Just say ‘yes’. ‘Yes’ to the next offer coming your way. Once you say ‘Yes’, find out how to do it and then to perfect it. If you go into the day with a ‘negative’ attitude, unfortunately your future and career wont land at your feet.
Trust and believe that there are always solutions to problems which may come your way. None of us are excluded from issues which arise before us. It is knowing that you have the strength of character and resolve to confidently approach any potential issues to overcome them.
The Beauty Industry is one of the largest growing industries in Africa. Particularly geared up to female empowerment. The beauty industry has you in its heart. To grow you, develop you and to give you the opportunity to look after your family and home single-handedly. If you look, you will find opportunities abundant for you in this industry.
+27 (0)83 457 1965