FEMtrepreneur: Sandy Francis – ‘The Duchess of Mane’ Hair Artist

Meeting Sandy Francis for the first time is like catching up with an old friend who you haven’t seen for years. Dynamic, bubbly, warm and easy-going, Sandy is the kind of hairstylist that you book an hour appointment with, but choose to leave two hours later, after she’s sculpted your locks with an award-winning coif and nurtured your soul with heart-to-heart therapy and endless laughs. Casually discussing her impressive list of achievements and expert training in hair design, Sandy is nonchalant about the fame and popularity it’s brought her, insisting that there is so much more for her to learn. Better known as the ‘Duchess of Mane’, she is every bride’s dream stylist, conjuring exquisite hairstyles that make as much of an impact as the gown itself. Having lived and trained all over the world, Sandy still calls Pretoria home, and it’s here at her salon Scarlet Hair, where she’s been revamping hair (and lives) for the past 14 years.

This renowned hair artist shares her entrepreneurial advice and personal life journey with us…

Where does your love of hairstyling come from?

Naughtiness! From a young age, wherever there was fun, I was there. At school, I was always braiding everyone’s hair instead of concentrating in class.

How did it all begin?

After flunking university, I worked three jobs; answering phones at a doctor’s office, capturing data at Standard Bank, and washing and sweeping hair at a salon.

At that point, studying a Business Management diploma was all I could afford.

I was then offered a three-year training contract with Carlton Hair in Johannesburg where I passed with flying colours, and thankfully managed to obtain a hairdressing qualification.

I took all the money I earned and moved abroad to work in a Kibbutz, every day from 5am to 11am, and in the afternoons I spent the rest of my time working at a local salon. After that, at age 24,

I moved to Turkey where my former boyfriend’s mum found me odd jobs to do as a means to earn money.

My journey continued to the Aegean islands where I worked in various bars for a while, but I needed to earn more money so I decided to return to the Kibbutz. That’s when my friend from home called to say that a well-known hairstylist was opening his own salon and wanted me to work for him. So I returned to South Africa after two years abroad.

After gaining experience at a local salon, my friend Lucy and I opened our own hairstyling studio in Hatfield, Pretoria. We had 14 stylists working for us and through the success of our business, we managed to buy our own property. When Lucy moved to the USA, we sold the salon and I started Scarlet Hair – which I still run today.

Life threw a few curveballs my way; I was faced with a family tragedy and I suddenly had my five-year-old niece under my care. At around the same time, my son was born but I had to get back to work when he was just ten days old, in order to earn money and take care of my family. This was my motivating factor which made me strive even harder for success.

How did you get into bridal hair?

When I entered the bridal hair arena, there was no one else willing to go out and work on weekends. I always want my brides to be happy and I try to make their big day even more special with outstanding hairstyling. That’s how I got into bridal accessories; I wanted to tailor a more personalised experience for each bride by sourcing beautiful and unique hair embellishments to suit their individual style.

If someone can’t afford my wedding day services, I will recommend another great stylist who can work within their budget. I enjoy supporting other women and stylists so I also consult with both the bride and the stylist on the preferred hairstyle.

Sandy with world-renowned hair artist, Georgiy Kot

What training have you done to facilitate your ever-growing expertise?

I completed my first hair course in Rome, Italy.

Thereafter, I trained with the phenomenal Georgiy Kot in Russia. Over the years, I’ve been trained by Georgiy four times!

At one of his training sessions, I met Victoria Schimbator from Moldova. I was amazed by her skills and have been trained by her twice.

Sandy trained with stylist to the Kardashians, Jen Atkin

Other amazing hair artists I’ve trained with are:

  • Kardashian and celeb hairstylist, Jen Atkin (in Australia).

  • Hollywood’s most sought-after hair colourist, Tracey Cunningham. She does colour for Jennifer Lopez.

  • Celebrity hair guru, Tokyo Stylez in Canada. He makes wigs for Shakira and Kylie Jenner.

  • I did a course with Beyonce’s makeup artist, Sir John. I realised that it isn’t really my thing.

Have you styled hair for anyone famous?

I was fortunate to earn a contract with KMS, the company which did hairstyling for the Miss World contest in 1995. I am also honoured to have worked with the reigning Miss World at the time, Aishwarya Rai, for the event. Backstage, I did Miss Venezuela, Jacqueline Aguilera’s hair, because no one else was willing to work with her since she couldn’t speak English. I’m happy to mention that she won the crown that year! I was then approached by one of the judges, Bobbie Eakes (who you may know as Macy from The Bold and Beautiful) to do her hair for a press conference.

These opportunities motivated me to up my game.

How do you balance it all?

I have the most magnificent team ever! They are everything to me.

All credit goes to Charity, who organises my life – she runs everything! And

I couldn’t do it without the support and help of Irina, Skye and Siyaam.

How did the name ‘Duchess of Mane’ develop?

My personal brand ‘Duchess of Mane’ manifested in a dream after my son was born. I wanted to him to create a stick drawing which could be adopted as my logo, but my friend disagreed saying that this name needed a more regal look and feel, and she encouraged the thought behind ‘Duchess of Mane’.

The Duchess of Mane brand has been in existence for the past five years. We began by importing high-quality hair extensions and very quickly the demand grew to include bridal hair accessories.

At the moment, what my brand is currently doing with hair education in South Africa, no other company is getting right.

What challenges have you faced as a FEMtrepreneur and how did you overcome them?

No matter what came around, I stayed extremely focused.

Whatever presented itself as a challenge never distracted me from what I wanted to do. I always had my eye on the prize – and that was to move forward.

I always try to flippin’ find a way!

How many hours do you work in a week, on average?

I work from 7:45am to 4pm every day. Almost every weekend is spent doing bridal hair and I stay until the last client’s style is complete.

Exquisite bridal hair piece by the Duchess of Mane

What drives and motivates you each day?

There are lots of opportunities in South Africa for hair and styling.

Currently, there’s no individual or big company that’s willing to bring hair education to us, and that’s something I want to do.

I’ve had amazing opportunities to train with some of the best stylists in the world and I could keep all this education for myself, but I want to share my energy.

Whatever I have, I give of it freely.

I tell my kids: “You have to believe in yourself and love yourself. It doesn’t matter what other people say, you need to be true to yourself”.

An eye-catching tiara from the Duchess of Mane accessory line

What has been the most effective way of marketing your business?

Instagram and word-of-mouth. I don’t need a website. People find me somehow and when I post details of upcoming training sessions, they get booked out in minutes!

What is the most courageous thing you’ve done as a FEMtrepreneur?

I got onto a plane and went to an eastern European country alone. My visa was incorrectly stamped for the wrong dates. I was stranded at the airport for hours, where a kind official helped me to get to Kiev, Ukraine.

What has been your favourite project so far?

Undoubtedly, the Duchess of Mane hairstyling education program. I love sharing my training with other people.

Sandy on the cover of Estetica Magazine, Romania

Describe yourself in three words:

Hardworking. Fun-loving. Energetic.

What do you love most about your job?

Everything! I love my job!

I feel like I was born to empower through hair.

What guidelines would you like to give brides regarding their wedding day hairstyles?

  • Please keep your hair in good condition Just respect it. Don’t abuse it.

  • Don’t worry about the length, I have great extensions for that.

  • In general, your hair has got to smell great.

Biggest lesson about entrepreneurship?

You can’t keep anything for yourself, you have to share it.

 

What has been your greatest career achievement thus far?

This year, I trained with 28 other people from 28 different countries around the world at Georgy Kot’s studio. I received my diploma as a hair designer with the biggest international hair organisation in the world!

Is there anything you haven’t done yet that you would love to achieve?

I would love to open a Duchess of Mane training school and

I’d also like to develop a hair fragrance.

Sandy with one of her idols, Victoria Schimbator

Who are your hair-styling idols?

Victoria Schimbator and Georgiy Kot.

 

What tips do you have for other stylists in the industry?

  • Just when you think you can’t get it right, push through, because you will be surprised at what’s waiting on the other side.

  • Keep educating yourself.

Where would you like to see your brand and business in five years?

Exploding with education!

What advice would you give to other young female entrepreneurs?

Don’t lose hope and find your inspiration in things that make you happy.

Generate positive energy.

Sandy also offers expert haircuts at her salon

Fun facts about Sandy

Favourite business tool:

My personality 😉

Styling tool you can’t live without:

Hairdryer

My personal style is…

Relaxed

Heels or flats?

I love a good pair of heels but I have to work in flats.

Favourite hairstyle?

Plain, straight hair that’s well cut.

I unwind and relax by:

Meditating

Favourite shade of lipstick:

A nude tone by Chanel

Favourite country you’ve lived in:

Italy

Favourite coffee haunt or restaurant:

Casalinga in Muldersdrift

If you had an unlimited budget, where would you shop?

At a travel agent

Celebrity whose hair you would love to style:

Jennifer Lopez

The secret to great hair:

Don’t abuse your hair with chemicals and mechanical styling tools. Nourish from the inside.

Dream destination:

The Amalfi Coast

The one thing required for success is…

Perseverance

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from Sandy, it’s that you don’t need a college degree to fulfill your dreams. With a positive mindset, lots of hard work, patience and determination, it’s possible to reach for the sky and revel among the stars. This duchess has put her heart and soul into educating herself with the world’s best teachers and is passionate about sharing her knowledge with other local stylists. She is a true example of #womensupportingwomen

We can’t wait to see what she achieves next!

 

Need to update your tresses or looking for a bridal hair artist?

Contact Sandy at Scarlet Hair on 072 593 2096.

Follow her inspirational hairstyling expeditions across the globe on Instagram

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *