Every Monday, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Donna Melvin. She runs Unique Skin Clinics, based near Forres.
How and why did you start in business?
At the age of 16 I suffered from idiopathic hirsutism (excess body hair growth), something inherited from my dad. I also developed a stammer and became quite introverted, avoiding conversations and eye contact.
After a two-year pre-nursing course at college, I moved to Cornwall to train as a nurse.
Sadly, a back injury ended my nursing career – but I had a mission to help people like me by providing permanent hair removal. I started Unique Skin Clinics in May 1998 and was fully booked from day one.
How did you get to where you are today?
Twenty-three years of painful electrolysis had left me quite badly scarred, and still with most of the hair. I bought my first IPL (intense pulsed light) system in 2000 and removed all my excess hair in one year. It’s now a joy to get out of bed every day, and I never give it a second thought.
As my clinic is “needs driven”, I later added skin treatments for acne, scars, pigmentation, rosacea, red vein, birth marks, tattoo removal etc. Lesion removal is a big passion, something I’ve been doing for 25 years now.
Acquiring new skills meant training under the best in Harley Street and Marseille. I also invested in top-notch equipment. For example, my medical laser supplier, Lynton Lasers, has won many awards and is always on hand for treatment advice.
I teach meditation and healing, both online and face-to-face, which is free to charities. I also provide free talks on preventing/managing skin problems for groups and charities.
Who helped you?
The Federation of Small Businesses. I was amazed its online networking meetings and webinars were free to non-members, and full of friendly, supportive people. My first use of the members’ free legal helpline to discuss an internet issue more than covered my membership fee.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?
Nobody cares who you are or what you are called; they just want to know how you can help them.
What is your biggest mistake?
Not starting the business sooner. Who knew there was such a void to be filled? I completed a masters in reiki during lockdown, but wish I’d done more.
What is your greatest achievement?
Treating children and adults who previously could never look anyone in the eye. They stride in after two or three sessions, with heads held high and smiling.
A lot of joyful tears have been shed in my clinic, some of them mine.
This 6ft 4” farmer picked me up, hugged me tight and whispered ‘thank you’ in my ear.”
Also, removing 20 long skin tags from a 70-year-old farmer’s eyelids. They had been hanging down obscuring his sight for many years. His wife had to do all the talking at our first consultation, but he was a changed man when he returned for his post-treatment check a month later.
This 6ft 4” farmer picked me up, hugged me tight and whispered “thank you” in my ear.
I cried for 15 minutes after he left. It took a lot of courage for him to be so vulnerable, and I felt privileged that he allowed me to help.
How is your business managing rapidly rising costs and what should government do to help?
My electricity bill has increased fivefold. So I no longer allow the lasers, IPLs etc to run on standby, unless they are about to be used.
What do you still hope to achieve?
To open more rural clinics for children and adults with anxiety issues/autism, and for those who can’t afford to travel to the main clinic.
What do you do to relax?
Start the day with an hour of meditation and “sending healing” (a meditative technique for sending your love and wishes to others) – it’s my fuel for the day.
What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on TV?
What do you waste your money on?
I come from a very poor morthern English household, so it’s against my genetics to splash the cash. I get joy from donating to dog charities, especially Loving Homes Dog Rescue in Orkney, where my beloved Kilo came from.
What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
What do you drive and dream of driving?
My Nissan X-Trail is a great tow car, pulling my home on wheels/caravan effortlessly to my rural clinics. A car is a car to me – it just serves a purpose.