Tracy Fensome is the founder of Permanent Cosmetics UK and Signature Academy of Permanent Makeup. An accomplished owner of three businesses with a training background which spans over 25 years with 10 years working exclusively in permanent cosmetics. She is proud to be a member of the SPCP with CPCP.
- Elite Artist & Trainer,
- VTCT Assessor,
- CPCP, Cert.ed, PGCE.
- Director of Signature Academy of Permanent Cosmetics, UK.
How have you come into the pmu industry? Tell us about your background and experience gaining.
My background prior to Permanent Cosmetics was university, teaching part time in college and private academies providing skills in VTCT and degree courses in beauty, anatomy and physiology. I’ve also setup a successful business management skills analysis training company to the private sector and later sold it during a divorce. As a single mother I had to ensure I could provide myself and children with a comfortable lifestyle. I worked long hours and promised myself I would continue to develop and learn through my life. I wanted to give my children a good understanding of work ethics and that working hard brings rewards.
Over time I became restless in my job role and wanted to go back to university to study again ideally within a medical arena. I was accepted to sit an entry exam to explore a career towards becoming a Doctor but I later withdrew. I was being unrealistic; my mother had become very ill and I was in my mid 30’s with two young children. It would have been logistically complicated so I continued in my existing role and continued to seek new avenues.
A short time after I met someone that suggested Permanent cosmetics and they explained that this career can lead to working in the medical side with breast cancer survivors and specific skin disorders like scars, burns, cleft lip. This was music to my ears and my research to who to train with began.
As soon as I was qualified, Permanent Cosmetics became my passion and obsession. Within two years of qualifying I had trained in all the advanced treatments and paramedical with skin needling, cleft lip, areola, scars and burns, camouflage, vitiligo and scalp scars. This was a revelation to me that I could now continue on my journey to work in medicine. I continued to attend as many courses in the UK and abroad as I could find. Back then it was harder to find new innovative courses as the social media and internet were not prevalent then. That was 11 years ago after all.
How the competition in UK pmu market has changed with time? Have you experienced any difficulties in the beginning?
I never experienced competition in the beginning. There were very few PMU artists in the areas I worked in, although you would think the opposite living in places located only 45 minutes from London and near some busy counties. I covered a wide travel area and gained many clients. The clients came once they had seen my work and flyers; referrals continued each month. I was marketing myself by travelling to open events; flyers, talks and early on I also used radio. Today, I would say the UK market has changed tremendously with competition. There is a phenomenal amount of artists out there, some good some bad. To accommodate huge changes and demands, the industry has had to evolve and bring new skills, equipment and standards to help artists promote their businesses as being up to date with skills.
Let’s not forget that being able to target a huge audience and keeping ahead of your competitors can be done by just sitting at your desk. Social media is exceptional and incomparable with anything else I have experienced over my career. So competition is good as it keeps us on our feet!
On your website there’s the information that you do camouflage for vitiligo and scars, cleft lip re-pigmentation and areola and nipple reconstruction. Tell us how you came from cosmetic to medical tattooing. We’re sure there are a lot of difficulties with the latter as it requires a lot more knowledge and implies even greater responsibility.
As I mentioned above, I entered fairly quickly into the medical side of Permanent Cosmetics. It was the main reason I entered into this career. I would not say it was easy but I did have the advantage of understanding anatomy and skin from my early on qualifications, teaching the subjects as well as working on clients for many years.
Of course, there is a huge responsibility with this job per say. Whether it is brows or an areola, the responsibility of the technician is to deliver results and managing expectations is the key to a successful treatment and happy client. The best advice I can give technicians wanting to progress into medical tattooing is be prepared to get as much education in skin and anatomy as possible. There are many good professional courses out there at colleges and private academies. My training academy Signature, also provides VTCT courses in anatomy and physiology, medical tattooing, skin needling, laser and microdermabrasion. Also in collaboration with our colleague Victoria Ammoscato we host excellent training with in-depth anatomy theory in her skin needling, PMU removal courses and skin peels.
For me the medical side is a different journey with more emotions and a closer client relationship. It delves deep into your soul and makes you humble when you hear their stories. I am thankful every day for this opportunity.
What was the most hard and/or interesting case in your practice?
There has been many over the years. The one client I will always remember is a young lady that had facial scarring from a childhood because of the boiling pan of water she pulled over her head. When she came to me to have eyebrows created it was around 20 years post her accident. She had severe scarring around partial forehead, nose, cheeks and both eyes. She had decrease in eye mobility and had undergone many operations to enable her to be able to close her eyes to be able to rest. Today, she still only has 70% eye closure and has learned to live and sleep with light coming through. I studied her scar tissue and she had suffered full thickness burns which involved her having many skin grafting operations. These types of scars are at high risk for scarring in the early stages of healing. When skin is damaged it forms a protein called collagen to help the skin heal the damaged skin. With scarring the collagen fibers end up healing chaotic and this creates the new skin on scar to be a very different texture and appearance comparing to unharmed skin. You can see this from the before photo. Scar tissue is fragile and can be easily damaged so it was important that I took my time and I performed three separate sessions over 5 months. You can see from the photos that the hair strokes are not crisp nor perfect however, an astonishing difference from her before photo where there was not definition at all. She still returns for a top ups. She is a very independent inspiring young woman that embraces life. Out of respect for this client’s privacy I have only showed parts of her face.
After the procedure (Copyright T Fensome.)
Have you ever faced particularly atypical complications in your work?
There has been many over the years. An unusual situation was identical twins, both with the same hair loss wanting their brows to be identical! Given it was in my early days as a permanent makeup technician I was perplexed at this request not to mention the fear of getting them different. Perseverance took hold and I spent hours and hours drawing, taking pictures before the treatments then replicating the same brow on the other twin. Complications came when twin 2 brows would not implant as well as with the twin 1. Pigment was blurring more and colour looked slightly different. There was nothing I could do. The shapes on both were great but not identical in crispness and colour density. Just goes to show that you cannot predict skin. It is dynamic no matter how identical it is to the opposite person. Crazy, but true story!
Generally speaking, any successful pmu artist sooner or later comes to the point where they’re ready to establish their business, mainly salons and schools. Can you tell us how and when permanent makeup became more than just the procedures for you?
I decided after 7 years of performing permanent makeup that I should utilize my past teaching skills and pass on my PMU skills to new learners. Over the years many people had asked me to teach them this art but I felt that it warranted me to have had many years of performing treatments and dealing with the challenges that this art can present. How else would I gain credibility and respect or will be able to assist and calm learners if they were faced with a challenge/problem that I had not experienced? So I continued to perform procedures dealing with different clients and skins daily until 2013. The time had come to draw upon my teaching skills and open Signature Academy of Permanent Cosmetics. Our USP is simple. I believe in small personal classes and 1-1 training particularly for beginners. It’s not about the money, it’s about having control and being able to give my students the mentoring they deserve to do well post course as well. In 2013 I was ready and had justifiably earned my stripes to be promoting my training courses.
Were there any problems with establishing your business in UK? Can you give any organizational advices to those who are just now trying to find their way into this business?
First of all before I give some basic business advice let’s talk about one of the first questions I get asked before a student decides to train with my company: ‘How do I find clients with so many artists out there’?
At my academy we cover a module in marketing and using social media with basic business setup advice. 11 years ago when I entered into the industry there was no social media and a website was on the ‘I’ll get round to it’ list. The opportunities today are there for all new artists to go and get business; it just requires time and focus. Although, personally I believe there is more competition today and clients have more choice while deciding to whom to go to.
Artists today are far more fortunate whether starting out or established and looking to find more business. The difference now is we have an amazing tool – Social Media. Make as much use of the free facebook, instagram, pinterest, snapchat as well as the internet to promote your website and blogs. There is no excuse not to be busy in this industry, if you put the effort in it, you will get the rewards.
Obviously your work needs to reflect a good standard when starting out and you need to keep improving your skills. A picture speaks a thousand words and more. Like millions of words once posted out there! Get your training right to begin with. Choose carefully.
I have had 3 businesses and learnt a lot along the way. Mistakes are good as you do not make them again and you can also pass your knowledge on to those that would benefit. These are just a few fundamental tips for the newbies looking to get started in business. Consider them.
Start as you mean to go on and allow your business to evolve with time without losing its identity.
- Look at who is your market (clients) and where to find them (location).
- Evaluate the best branding for your business whether it is a business name or operating under your own name.
- Get your work license. Ensure clients can see this and your insurance.
- Create a portfolio of your works on ipad, a hard copy brochure and in addition a reception TV with your treatment photos rotating with case studies.
- Open events are good for creating awareness at the location you work from. Offer a promotional saving if starting out.
- Recommend a friend schemes are a must.
- The obligatory business cards, flyers, brochures and website are a first.
- Decide whether your services will be from one location or if you wish to visit many others to capture a wider footfall.
- Network with local businesses to create referral schemes, offer to perform a heavily discounted treatment on a salon/clinic owner in return for reduced room hire or marketing on their web site.
- Do not agree to a high commission % when negotiating a room hire. You bring kudos to a clinic and a new footfall of clients. They need to see your services as valuable. Need advice then speak with your trainer about this or email us and we will give you some tips firstname.lastname@example.org
- Keep up to date with blogs and whilst funds are limited create your own editorials and send them to magazines with interesting content and photos.
- Be sure to speak to an accountant about ‘trading as’ or being a ‘limited company’ they can provide up to date tax pros and cons subject to your personal situation.
- Set up a separate bank account based on your accountant’s recommendations.
- Lastly, there are amazing deals out there particularly with Paypal and other providers. Get yourself a card machine to take deposits and receive payments. All my students tell me this is the best tip I gave them. It doubled client spend in first month. Not to be missed!