“The salon is like a baby to me, but lockdown came two days after I had returned from maternity leave”: an exclusive interview with salon owner Julie Barras

Nestled in the suburbs of Gateshead lies Sparkle Beauty, an award-winning salon with 15 years of experience. We spoke to Julie Barras, owner of the salon, to get the low-down on how she set up her business and the struggles of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Julie, 39, from Low Fell in Gateshead, set up her salon on 3rd January 2019, after working room- to room in hair salons, building up her clientele.  In January 2017 Sparkle Beauty won ‘Best Newcomer 2016’ at the Matis Beauty Awards kickstarting her dream.

Summing Sparkle Beauty up in only two sentences Julie said the salon is “A beautiful modern salon, offering top to toe hair and beauty all under one roof.  My other baby as it’s definitely a labour of love!”

Sparkle Beauty, located in the heart of Low Fell


A heart-warming sign features proudly within the salon


Julie has always been interested in beauty: ‘faffing around with nails and making face masks out of anything’ she could find in the cupboards when she was younger, however her main drive for opening her salon was to get away from her old office job that she hated.

Julie said: “I love all things to do with beauty and I’m quite business minded so always seemed the right thing to do. I didn’t want a boring job that was the same day in and day out. There’s never two days the same in the beauty industry.”

Julie also spoke about the products and services that her salon provide. The salon retails Matis skincare and have also just launched Space Masks and Spongellé, which specialises in creating your self-care oasis.

Sparkle Beauty’s magical Matis display ready for Christmas


Julie said: “Skincare is my field and I’m already Matis trained, I could talk about products all day long… I’ve got further training coming up with Matis and I’m hoping to get on some advanced skincare training in the new year too. Watch this space!”

We then got onto the topic which has constantly loomed over us … the Covid-19 pandemic. Let’s be honest, this pandemic has devastated many businesses and left several with many difficulties. I asked Julie how hard it was to adapt her business during both national lockdowns.

“It’s been really tough as I literally got back from maternity leave for two days after giving birth to Chloe, 13 months old, and then lockdown happened. It’s financially tough for any business being unable to trade.”

“Still having rent and bills to pay, but health, safety and family comes first always so basically just had to get on with it. Firstly, we could only re-open for hair, then we could open for beauty but not face treatments so dealing with the divide between staff was difficult too.”

When asked about facing any uncertainties because of the pandemic and lockdowns, or whether has lockdown made the business thrive or attract new customers, Julie replied: “I guess the biggest uncertainties are, are we going to have to close again? How long will we be closed? Are we doing things right and following procedures correctly? Have we done enough? However, we have had so many comments on how safe clients feel when they come into the salon, and how we have gone above and beyond to keep clients safe.”

In terms of clientele Julie said: “We have found that now people are working from home more, we get more local clients, whereas before they would use salons in the city centres, and we are as busy as we can be.”

She added: “However, now we can only have four staff in at anyone time to keep social distancing in place and we have to keep bigger gaps between clients for sanitising and cleaning so on paper we are definitely not as busy as before the pandemic.” Julie usually has six staff including a beauty apprentice and five self- employed staff.

With 15 years of experience in this industry under her belt and winning the Best Newcomer at the Matis Awards, Julie has some expert advice for those that are wanting to start up their own salon business.

She replied: “I would say that running your own business is not plain sailing or is as attractive as it first seems.

“You should expect long hours and sleepless nights. You have to be super organised and do your research as there’s so many things you need to have in place. Mind I wouldn’t change it, I love what I do!”


Julie Barras, after winning Best Newcomer at the 2017 Matis Awards.


Looking to the future Julie said: “hopefully now my family is complete I can go on to enter future awards too, as winning Best Newcomer 2017 is something I am really proud of.” Julie has two children- Jake aged eight, and Chloe who is 13 months old.

You can find Sparkle Beauty on Facebook, on their website & below.


Sparkle Beauty

5, Beaconsfield Avenue

Low Fell


Tyne & Wear



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