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Celebrating 20 years of championing the South African beauty industry!

It was three South Africans running successful businesses in the UK who convinced London-based Mark Moloney, owner of UK-based Professional Beauty Group Trade Events, to take the Professional Beauty brand to their country of birth. “I arrived in Cape Town in December 2003 with my then girlfriend and no hotel booked. We had a wonderful two-week holiday and I spent four days connecting with industry people in Cape Town and Johannesburg,” said Mark. What Mark’s research told him was that Trade Events could add value in South Africa. “Frankly, that is the only reason to do anything in business,” he said.

Mark Maloney at the Professional Beauty Awards 2018

Getting to know SA

“The only reparation I had done was emailing all the beauty-related brands and distributors I could source, asking ‘do you want to meet this bloke from the UK’ and all but one did. Over four days, I had 17 meetings, which gave me a real sense that there was a demand for a professional-only show.”

The first person Mark met with was Stav Dimitriadis, CEO of Twincare International, a significant player in the barbershop and beauty salon industries. “At the time, there was already a beauty show in Johannesburg, so I thought we could introduce an exhibition in Cape Town,” said Mark. “But Stav advised that Gauteng was where to hold a national event and added that he hated trade shows and would not exhibit.

“In the end, Twincare exhibited at most of our shows over the 20 years and is one of many brands and distributors who helped us in those early years and have stayed loyal since.”

Professional Beauty 2017 expo

Humble beginnings

“When we started, the existing beauty show in Sandton had a general approach and included only retail beauty, international companies and a few professional brands. From the start, our focus was on the professional treatment sector,” said Mark. “At the time, our UK business was not that big, and South Africa was our first overseas foray. We didn’t have anybody senior enough to send to South Africa, so I would fly in on Thursday nights and back to London on Mondays!

“We started with three people, Helena Raats, Alex Norval and Vanessa Hefer, and they would meet with me on weekends. Yolanda joined us 18 months later. Helena was a new mom, and we could afford her only because she’d consider a part-time role, which was novel in those days.

“The board members of the South African Association of Health and Skincare Professionals (SAAHSP) were very helpful in the early days and continue to be so today. They agreed to merge their magazine into our new publication, which we called Professional Beauty.”

Mark says many South Africans in the profession were open and kind. “They trusted us and gave us their databases. We said our circulation would be 7,000, but for the first nine months, we sent out 20,000 magazines monthly. At the time, some trade magazines promised high circulation but sent out far less. We did the opposite. So our advertisers were pleasantly surprised by the number of inquiries they received.

“We then launched our trade exhibition at the Sandton Hilton, and 150 people turned up. After that, we held our first Professional Beauty expo at Caesar’s Palace. The stands were small, but the event was packed. The profession now had its own event. The next year, we moved to the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand and have stayed there ever since.”

Salon International 2018

Looking ahead

Mark said that Professional Beauty’s ultimate objective is to expand the market for professional treatments. “We are the champions of trained therapists, salon owners and spa directors and want to help these professionals expand their businesses. Over the years, spas and salons have faced the increasing challenges of costs and online retailing; and training and professional education are big issues. Through our events and publications, we provide information and platforms on which ideas and solutions can be shared.”

One of the highlights of setting up in this country is that most South Africans are ‘can-do’ people and find solutions to problems. “It’s very infectious,” said Mark. “It has taught me that you can overcome most challenges. South Africa is also one of the most beautiful places on earth, so I’ll make any excuse to come here.

“In addition, South African therapists are highly regarded globally and those who’ve undergone proper training will never find themselves out of a job in South Africa or overseas. The key thing for me is that most salon owners, whether in the UK or South Africa, have the gift of combining a true empathy for their customers with running a successful business. The corporate world has a lot to learn from the professional beauty sector.”

“It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been running shows, you’re only as good as your last event,” said Mark. “We have to keep evolving. That is why September 2024’s Professional Beauty expo will emphasise education more than ever.

“There will be five stage programmes, including the World Spa & Wellness Convention, now situated in the heart of the expo. There will be a business stage, an advanced treatments programme, a SAAHSP convention, plus nail and make-up workshops. We will also showcase some of South Africa’s top professional brands. All-in-all, trade visitors will be able to learn how to adapt their businesses to today’s challenges.”

Yolanda Knott at the 2019 Professional Beauty Awards

A SA perspective

Yolanda Knott is the managing director Professional Beauty South Africa.

Yolanda’s rise through the South African company ranks is impressive. She started as a classified sales rep in 2005, then took on the role of full-time sales executive, followed by a stint as sales manager, then general manager, and, finally, MD.

“Our first issues of Professional Beauty went out free of charge to professionals in the salon and spa industry,” says Yolanda. “During the COVID-19 lockdown, we started publishing the magazine online, giving us a much wider audience.

The magazine aims to promote industry networking and collaboration, as well as education and professional development, and it showcases innovation and trends.

“Professional Beauty magazine and exhibition aim to provide educational resources and opportunities for professional development within the beauty industry,” said Yolanda. “This includes hosting workshops, seminars, and training sessions led by industry experts to impart knowledge, enhance skills, and foster continuous learning. By investing in education and skill development, professionals can stay competitive, improve service quality, and drive business growth.”

Professional Beauty Awards 2018

Global brand

Apart from operating in the UK, where they started 35 years ago, and South Africa, Trade Events also has a growing business in India, where they are number one in the industry and have been in Dubai and Ireland for 10 years. In the UK, one of their magazines, Hairdressers Journal, is 140 years old.

Click here to read the full article in the latest issue of the Professional Beauty Magazine