August 10th, 2022
Hayley Harvey-Smith, is the founder of GlamCandy Academy, Scotland’s leading creative college. With four physical centres across Scotland, and an online reach of 130,000, Hayley is a social media expert. Set to launch a new virtual platform to an international audience this year, the multi-award winning school teaches thousands of students a year in makeup and beauty across their SQA, SCQF accredited courses giving them hands on experience working on photo shoots and fashion shows for brands such as Netflix, Gok Wan and London Fashion Week. 2022 will see GlamCandy go nationwide with the expansion of the brand and the opening of its first studios outside of Scotland.
We caught up with Hayley to talk beauty, education, Glow Up and more.
What’s your background and what brought you into beauty?
My background was actually in web design, web developing and graphic design. I worked in an ad agency developing digital campaigns to go alongside TV adverts, including web marketing and e-newsletters. While I was doing that I ended up getting a lot of free-lance work too and advising my clients on their business and marketing. So I thought I’d use those skills and start my own business.
I originally owned a modelling agency – I’d worked in this area while at uni – and started my own with a friend. This was about 10 or 11 years ago when MUAs weren’t all that big in Scotland. I would send models along to photoshoots and one of my friends was an MUA and we decided to do something where models could learn to do their own makeup.
TOWIE [The Only Way Is Essex] was really big at the time and that, and other TV shows, all seemed to be targeted at teenage girls. We thought let’s set something up for that audience – and came up with a young tacky name that would appeal to that audience. GlamCandy was born. And I’m still using the name! [laughs]
Our first masterclass was meant to appeal to really young teenage girls but none of the actual attendees were under 40! At one class we had an 85 year old – so we quickly realised we’d got our target audience wrong.
It was the first makeup product masterclass that wasn’t brand specific. Big brands like MAC and Chanel were running theirs, but my MUA friend and I decided to use a range of products that people were likely to already have, or to think were affordable. We went to Superdrug and got a bronzer and to M&S for eyeliner, used BarryM lipsticks and MAC foundations. We pulled a mixture in so when people came to the classes they were learning a full look, but not having to go away afterwards and spend hundreds of pounds on Chanel or another premium brand. You could actually add to the makeup you had – we wanted to teach the technique rather than sell products.
What inspired you to set up the GlamCandy Academy?
Since we started running masterclasses we have always built on what our clients request. They came in and asked for brushes so we did those, they asked for short-courses so I ran those. Somethings come through customer feedback and complaints, which I like to deal with and make changes if I can. The problem with running a private makeup college is the lack of structure of accreditation. We went for the SQA and SEQ accreditations. Really we try and provide what clients want.
We were asked to run courses for ten year-olds, and then a high school asked for a class – so we now have day-release classes through the high school. We have a really diverse range of clients – from 10 years old upwards. We offer personal lessons to older clients, or women come along with their daughters which is lovely. Our short courses are popular, primarily with women wanting to learn a new skill and perhaps bring in an additional income. We’re big for people on maternity leave who want to choose a flexible career and fit around their new born. Our biggest market is school leavers who want to study for a career in makeup; they will do 6 or 18 months courses with us.
What’s your first make-up memory?
It’s probably not the standard answer you usually get, but when I was at school I raided my mum’s makeup kit, although she hardly ever wore makeup. I remember stealing her black eyeliner pen and using it on my eyes and then waking up in the morning with conjunctivitis. My eyes were stuck together! I don’t know how long it had been there, but it helped me to understand the importance of hygiene when dealing with makeup. I don’t wear much makeup on a day-to-day basis though.
What’s your favourite makeup story?
Before GlamCandy, in my early 20s, I was in Las Vegas with my friend Jade. I said to her I wanted to find a good foundation as I wanted to start wearing makeup properly. I spent about two hours in Sephora trying on every foundation – when I left I still had all the different colour swatch stripes on me. I do have a picture of it and at the time I thought I had so much on – and then you look at the youngsters these days and how much makeup they wear and realise really it was only a light dusting!
In the store I went round trying every foundation they stocked and by the end I said to Jade I’m either buying this one by YSL or this brand I’ve never heard of and I can’t pronounce. I went with the new one, and when I got back home I discovered that they had stockists in the UK. That was Illamasqua.
When I launched GlamCandy they did a good deal for students and offered pro discounts so we worked with them a lot. We had one of their MUAs come up and ran a masterclass for our students. At that time we’d just launched our college buildings and each one had a shop where we sold some products. I asked if they would consider wholesaling to us. A few weeks’ later I had an email from them saying that Julian [Kynaston], the owner, was coming up to Edinburgh and would like to meet us to discuss it. He came to see us and really liked what we were doing. We became Ilamasqua stockists and a few months later he became a 50% owner in GlamCandy. That is definitely my most exciting makeup story. Pick up a foundation in Vegas and seven years later they are my business partner!
What sets GlamCandy apart from other colleges?
Probably our staff. They are very experienced and dedicated. We also have our students working on real brand photoshoots for companies like SpecSavers and Netflix. We give our students opportunities they probably couldn’t get on their own. They leave college with a portfolio showing they’ve worked with large brands.
One of the things I pride ourselves on is that we take on our students as trainee tutors. We give them additional training and put them through assessment awards. They’ll assist and later lead on our courses. We also get them additional work outside so they always have a continuous stream of knowledge and experience that they can pass on to students within the classroom. I think in a lot of colleges, when tutors are appointed and start teaching, they aren’t working MUAs anymore, and can’t share their current experiences and problem solving. Our tutors may come into a class on a Monday and say “I had this bridal shoot at the weekend and this went wrong and this is how I fixed it”. Sharing those kinds of experiences with students helps them bond with the students and ensure they are taken seriously. It also means they keep their skills and product knowledge current.
You started GlamCandy in 2011, what’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced over the last 12 years?
Rebuilding from COVID! Before the pandemic I had been replaced as MD so I could work on other things. Unfortunately, like other companies, we had to make redundancies during the pandemic. So a year ago I bought my shares back from Julian and took back over as MD. It was like starting a new job as so much had changed!
All our students were working from home and they were having a really difficult time, and we had to rebuild our reputation and try to support our students during all the restrictions. When you take students on in 2020 and promise them photoshoots and hands on experience that you then can’t deliver until 2021 they start to lose trust in you, so we had to rebuild all of that while delivering exactly what we’d promised once restrictions lifted. I was working 18 hour days, getting up at 4am for photoshoots, driving from Edinburgh to Aberdeen, picking up the stylists on the way. Paulina, our Creative Director, was fabulous. We had loads of staff changes, I moved people to roles they were better suited to, changed other jobs, it was hard work. I didn’t have a single day off. I started using my old skills and took over doing the digital work myself so that I could invest the money I saved into photo shoots for the students.
It was still really hard up until mid-January this year – we ended up getting London Fashion Week and photoshoots in in Ibiza. We worked on the Mark Fast show – which we’ve done before – assisting Pablo Rodriquez, four of the staff there had started with us as students – their work was excellent and Pablo was really pleased. I was very proud.
I remember thinking though, why are there so many TV cameras and people taking notes this year? Mark’s really gone for it. Then realised they were filing for Glow Up! If you look closely you’ll see us floating around in the back ground of the episode. We then went out and were sitting opposite Dominic [Skinner] and Val [Garland], Nicola Roberts and all these big Tik Tok influencers and I realised we’d done it – we’d rebuilt our reputation. We’d made it and it’s been worth it. Watching the girls and how proud they were was so good to watch. They put their faith in me – it was a bit touch and go for a while – and we achieved it.
What’s the achievement you’re most proud of?
Definitely surviving through COVID by myself. I’d always had supportive business partners before, so it was definitely an achievement.
Also having my own college buildings – I’d previously used salon space from a friend and dreamed of having my own college. Now I have four!
Tell us about your new virtual international training platform – what is it and when does it launch?
It will be live at the end of the summer, UpSkillTV.com. It is a platform where educators can upload their own videos – like a market place. How to do makeup or hair, fashion styling, social media for a business, doing your finances etc. People who are experienced can go on as educator, creating their own account and fees, giving them another income stream.
Everyone has different skills and this is a platform that will enable them to be shared. Another great thing about GlamCandy is our tutors all have very different skills; one is SFX, editorial, colour, glam, skin and beauty focused another bridal makeup. Being able to pull all these different types together on one platform is very exciting. You can go on to look at one video and then see what else is available. I’d love it to be develop into an app for Smart TVs as ongoing learning. It’s available globally – anyone can join.
You’re also launching your own range of makeup brushes – how did that come about?
I’ve been creating and selling black brushes for GlamCandy for some time. But I was in Hong Kong for a trade show before COVID and saw lots of different ones there, in various colours, but they looked a bit ugly. They seemed a little babyish, with unicorn handles – maybe more for kids.
I wanted to create something a bit more sophisticated but with colour – something that wouldn’t look out of place in Gucci or Chanel. I’m working on a fun, colourful range that are vegan and cruelty free. I’m just working the final branding and name but they will be separate from GlamCandy.
What’s next for both you and GlamCandy?
Online learning and brushes are my current focus. That’s more than enough to keep me busy! I have been invited to join a few boards so I am considering that to ensure that I keep learning.
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