I went from nursing and midwifery to restoring eyebrows

Olive O’Sullivan, of Browtique, Cork features in our  My Career in WoW!
I went from nursing and midwifery to restoring eyebrows

WOW FEATURE MY CAREER Olive O'Sullivan, BrowtiqueCork

Name: Olive O Sullivan

Lives: Clonakilty

Age: 58 years

Lives: Clonakilty on the bay

Job title: Eyebrow restoration service by Microblading / Business owner ( commonly known as eyebrow embroidery or eyebrow microblading )

Salary bracket: €60,000+

Education background: Registered Nurse, Registered Midwife, Obstetric Theatres scrub nurse, spiritual health development in meditation practitioner x 20 years.

Hobbies: Baking, Calligraphy, Kombucha and food fermentation - yogurt making etc, Card making - anything that helps my creative juices flow… cocktail making even!

Describe your job in five words: Confidence restorer, Fulfilling, Emotional supporter, Morale booster, good nurse help to those who had a recent cancer diagnosis.

My job is more than just brows - I attend to my treatments in a “holding kind of way”.

Describe yourself in five words: Professional, caring , empathetic , understanding in a medical world, mature and knowledgeable (!)

Personality needed for this kind of work? Caring, empathetic, understanding, kindness, ability to relate and connect with people, practical in “getting the job done”.

How long are you doing this job? 15 years self employed, 10 years microblading.

How did you get this job? Registered nurse training in Barringtons Limerick for three years. Registered midwife training in London for three years. Mentally handicapped nursing for one year in Youghal. Private plastic nursing in Sydney , Australia for four years, whereby it gave me an insight into how a minor treatment can restore confidence in (mainly women) where a TWEAKMENT can restore such confidence .We nursed patients who had plastic surgery from car accidents, through to nose jobs/breast jobs/liposuction, etc. Back then (1987-1991) , Australia was more advanced than Ireland with plastics, primarily driven by skin cancer treatments ( as a result of this four years it brought the awareness of the devastation cancer can have on both the physical health and mental well-being of the patient).

That in turn gave me insight into how a plastic procedure could restore the confidence of an individual after a traumatic cancer surgery and how confidence can be restored following it. 

I found the role so fulfilling, to have a patient leave hospital with their physical appearance improved, and also their mental health and confidence restored.

I loved Australia so much - I took out citizenship there - but a broken romance brought me back to Ireland. I moved back to Ireland and resumed a role in my first love as a midwife (in Bon Secour hospital), initially on the Postnatal floor and eventually the Labour Ward for 15 years, before leaving to work as the private practice midwife for Dr John Waterstone ( who was new to Cork in 1999) - so, like any working mother, I could work and balance my home life, as it did not entail working nights or weekends. By now I was a mum of two boys.

I hated night duty and working 12 hour shifts every second weekend.

In 2007-2010, my own family was visited not once but twice by cancer, and I found myself nursing both my mother-in-law and my father in ‘end of life’ care in their own homes.

For my mother-in-law, her hair loss following chemotherapy was her biggest worry (not that the drug was prolonging her life).

When my dad was told he needed chemotherapy his first question was “will I lose my hair?” In 2009, shortly before my dad passed away to cancer, a gesture he made changed my career path to now. He gave me some money to follow a dream that I would have loved to pursue, but couldn’t due to lack of funds - bear in mind I was a stay-at-home mum for a number of years. Keen to spend more time with my growing family (I became a mother at 37 and 39), I trained up in beauty /nails ( CIBTAC level) which gave me the ability to work from home, do school runs, help with homework, do the reading , after school activities AND run a business.

I went in to do a year’s training in beauty by night in The College of Commerce to obtain a certificate, and started my own business from home specializing in nails, pedis, gel nails, threading eyebrows and HD brows (something that was growing in the early noughties).

Having first come across Threading in the USA, I explored training in it, and trained with the famous Louise Walsh from the UK, and further enhanced this skill with an Indian friend who was threading since she was seven years old in the USA.

On holiday in USA, I enrolled in Brows in High Def and the trainer was waxing lyrical about a treatment that was coming in from the East called eyebrow embroidery (now called eyebrow microblading). Having done further research on my return, I did introductory training in EIPMU.

Whilst initially all my clients came for beauty, the first client that contacted me following chemotherapy was the catalyst for me to combine my nursing training with my new skill. 

Having attended two masters classes worldwide and in Europe per year, I developed a treatment package SPECIFICALLY for clients undergoing chemotherapy or about to undergo a chemotherapy treatment. Working closely with patients and their Oncology team, with doctor consent I can provide the treatment before, DURING and after their treatment.

I liaise with their team on an ongoing basis to ensure it is safe, and will not jeopardize their ongoing chemotherapy plan.

In 2020, my business has moved from 100% beauty to 80% cancer and 20% beauty.

My cancer patients love the sense of security they get from being treated by a nurse , who not only has a connection with the Oncology teams but has a background in cancer care.

Never in a million years did I think my nursing career would take me here, tattooing eyebrows!

Do you need particular qualifications or experience? I did a basic introductory Microblading course in Navan 10 years ago, but it was the two masterclasses per year with two different masters every time that gave me the knowledge I hungered for. It’s an ongoing industry that updates year on year and I needed to know how I could get to improve year on year.

Sadly it’s an unregulated industry , and without an governing body anyone can open a business after a two day course. This in turn gives me and my nursing training plus theatre scrub nurse experience credibility in an unregulated industry.

Describe a day at work: I arrive at my office 90 minutes before work to clean, Hoover, mop floors, clean bathrooms, ventilate the rooms, prep the treatment bed with laundry plus plastic disposable coverings and pull the charts for the coming day.

I spend 30 minutes on emails and returning enquiries - although my son Adriaan does these, even though he is in college, he replies to usual queries about availability, patch tests, and more information on our treatments, etc.

I change then into my scrubs.

Every week day I do 20 minute ‘coffee talk’ on Instagram covering a topic per day or chatting about queries that came up by direct message.

My first client is usually at 10.

I take two clients in the morning and two in the afternoon with 40 minutes turnaround time in between to clean the room, change treatment bed covers, and scrub door handles and light switches.

Lunch is usually at 1. Over lunch, I return phone calls from the morning at lunch time.

I return phone calls from the afternoon at the end of clinic.

At 6 pm, I file away charts and upload clients’ photos into the cloud (all photos have to be stored for seven years - an insurance requirement).

I walk to my car via the post office to post out the Patch tests for all new enquiries.

I drive home and have supper with my family. I am lucky to have a husband who likes to cook, so dinner is usually ready for me.

I am in bed by 9pm but I rise at 4.30am to meditate and get in a 50 minute walk.

At weekends, I restock and send emails to clients on our Covid care policy and how to prepare for their treatment with us.

One Monday per month I assign to admin, doing book keeping, ordering supplies, photocopying and assembling patch tests.

How many hours do you work a week?

10-6, 6 days a week. In an emergency I can open on a Sunday.

Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: About a 3.

Do you work with others or on your own? I work alone. When I began first I had eight clinics around Cork and Kerry, spending a specific day in each location. ( I had three in Cork city alone). During this time I worked with other beauticians, but what I found was as my business grew I was spending too much time travelling. In 2018, I relocated to one specific location to my own town in Clonakilty, and now see all my clients in that location.

However, I have recently been invited to bring my expertise to Dublin to cater for cancer clients in the greater Dublin area - this is currently a work in progress.

Best bits:

1) Helping clients with Brow hair loss for ANY reason, be it Thyroid or any other hormonal changes ( postnatal and menopausal for example) through to alopecia, trichotillomania or ladies who simply over-plucked no the past.

2) Getting approval from Laya health insurance was a highlight a few years back - they contribute to some of our fees (depending on your plan) and the Garda Medical Aid contribute also, for their members with cancer.

3) Once per month we do PAY WITH A SMILE for a deserving client whereby we donate our fees for free. All the client pays for is nominal (to cover our insurance contribution, supplies and topical). This person is chosen monthly.

4) When a high profile client avails of our service, pays for our service AND blogs about it without looking for anything in return (recently Derval O’Rourke blogged about her journey to new eyebrows on Instagram).

Worst bits: I was looking to open a training academy before the pandemic, however, having to close and lose a year I decided to scrap this in favour of staying with my clients in a hands on way.

Being self employed means I wear 20 hats per day - every day!

Daily emails from bloggers asking for free treatment for favourable reviews- I never did this, or will I.

Never being off duty - it’s 7/7 a week, between work, filing, storing, admin, paying bills, stocking up, liaising with accountant, etc.

See www.browtiquecork.com

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