Nicole Hurson owns Rachel and Nicole’s hair and beauty salon along with Rachel Evans, which has been open in Magharafelt for two years. It's a dream come true, but comes as the culmination of a lot of hard work, and ambitions she's had all her life.

Hairdressing had always been a part of Nicole's life. She says, ‘from a young age I always did hairdressing. In my local town I worked in a hair salon from the age of eleven, just washing hair and cleaning up.’ However, when it came to progressing down the career path, she decide she would have to look at the educational route, and South West College felt like the perfect fit.

'South West College was close to where I lived and I knew a few of the tutors, so I felt that it would be the right place for me to study. I started out at Level 2 hairdressing, which I did full time, and when I progressed from it I studied Level 3 during the day, as well as taking barbering classes at night.’

The vast range of skills and experience picked up in these studies meant Nicole was well placed to pursue her ambitions further, and when she did, she decided to travel to Australia. She says, 'I took great confidence from what I learned at the college and I took that across the water with me, first going to Sydney, where I worked in a hair salon, and then to Perth, where I worked in a barbers as well as a salon, where I was eventually sponsored by the owner.'

When Nicole returned home she had a new set of goals. She explains, ‘I got talking to one of the lecturers in the Dungannon campus and she helped me realise what I needed to do next to progress with my career. She suggested I study Level 4 and the HNC and HND Level 5, so that encouraged me and I signed up and studied one night a week for the next two years.

'I’ve worked in plenty of salons over the years, and held management roles, but having my own salon is something I dreamed about from a very young age. I sometimes laugh when I look back at my old CV, because all I ever wanted to do was be a salon owner and teach hairdressing. I was able to follow my own dreams, and South West College definitely played a large part in helping me do that.

Rachel and Nicole’s salon is very representative of the modern business model for many salon's. 'Myself an Rachel Evans previously worked in a salon together and we got on great together so we decided to branch out together. Rachel is very experienced with makeup, nails and spray tanning, and I’ve a lot of years of managing hair salons, so we had plenty of knowledge to bring together when opening this shop. We have the hairdressing and the beauty therapy here, with a fair few members of staff, and it works well together.

'It’s a brilliant time to get involved in the industry. At the minute hair and beauty is very big and they definitely go well together, as is the case with our salon. I know plenty of people who own hair salons of beauty salons and a lot of them are looking to combine.

'For people starting out, South West College definitely opens the right doors for you to start your education, and help you with what you need to get to where you want to go. For me, going back and studying Hair and Beauty Management taught me lots of skills in terms of working with the public and working with staff, and it’s definitely made me feel a lot more confident. You learn all the skills you need for the hands on side of things, but the paperwork and things can prove just as important, and the college had supported me with that over the years and I definitely feel I’m better placed for it.

'I’m currently doing my assessors award and what I hope to gain from that is to be able to somewhere down the line have my own hair academy, where I can assess students, and help them feel the way I felt, to love hairdressing and be able to grow it into a career.

To find out more about studying Hairdressing at South West College, check out the website.