Nadia Suliaman, is co-owner of Forbici London – a new, luxury hair, beauty, grooming, and wellness destination in Knightsbridge. Having opened just three months before the pandemic, Fobici London has grown from one branch to now four across the capital. We chatted to Nadia about changing careers, taking the leap and opening Fobici with her partner Tyson, and what the future holds: 

Can you give us a brief overview of your background and your journey to becoming an entrepreneur?  Why are you so passionate about the hair, beauty, and grooming industry?

When I was 15, I had my heart set on becoming a hairdresser. I always had a passion for hair and beauty, experimenting with different hairstyles and doing my friend’s hair at any opportunity. My parents advised and pushed me away from pursuing this path, as going to university, and getting a degree was seen then as a more desirable path to success. 

With my parents also being entrepreneurs and business owners, I spent my childhood surrounded by the challenges and experiences positives/negatives of business ownership, which has given me the entrepreneurial mindset that I have today. 

After university, I moved to London and worked in the corporate world, but one thing never went away was my passion for the hair and beauty industry. It’s so true that what’s meant to be is meant to be and what you’re destined to do will finally come back to you. Whilst I am not a hairdresser, I am working in an industry that I have so much love and passion for, where I can combine my creative side and also my business knowledge. I have big plans for Forbici and want to make us a global brand, expanding into the Middle East, Germany, and additional locations in London and around the UK. In addition to this, we are also in the process of rolling out a product range and a pipeline of innovation.

What inspired you to start Forbici?

I met my fiancé, Tyson Grant 7 years ago, when he was working as a senior barber and hairdresser in Knightsbridge. He was extremely well known in the area, and I spotted a talent in him. I was adamant that he should set up his own business and coming from a corporate background, saw an opportunity for us to work together, combine our skillset and set up something with a real point of difference. 

We set out to create an experience for Hairdressing, Beauty and Barbering that showcased a 5-star service. We felt there was a large gap in the market for this and what better place to start a business than in Knightsbridge. 

Forbici means scissors in Italian, and with Tyson’s connection to Italy and being nicknamed scissors at the age of 17, the name was very fitting for our brand. Having worked in the barbering industry for many years, Tyson had noticed that very few hairdressers and barbers have a high expertise in scissor work, which is why we’ve set out to specialise in this area and become a one-stop destination for hair, beauty, and aesthetics.

Was there a lightbulb moment that resulted in you leaving the corporate world and setting up Forbici? 

Absolutely.  One day a colleague told me that in the corporate world I was ‘a square peg in a round hole’ and it really resonated. I always felt like I didn’t fit in and now that a friend had said the same, it was the validation I needed to pursue my dreams of owning my own business. I’ve never been a conformist, which is why I just couldn’t get on in the corporate world and why being an entrepreneur appeals to me, allowing me to push boundaries and channel my passion into something positive. 

By nature, I am a hard worker and an overachiever, and I often felt this wasn’t acknowledged in a corporate environment, with people who would do less than me, mess around and gameplay get promoted over me, and it didn’t sit well.  

Since starting my own business, I haven’t looked back and I’ve used my experiences in the corporate world to make myself a better manager, promoting the people who deserve it and giving people the opportunity to thrive. I pride myself on elevating my team and leading from the top to get the best out of people. 

Were there any bumps along the way, and would you have done anything differently if you could turn back time?

Like any new business, there are always learnings to be had, and if you’re not learning then you’re not growing as a person.

The key to smoothing out the bumps in the road is the ability to adapt and self-assess. If there’s one thing I would change, I would have targeted a broader demographic from day one of opening my business. Initially, the salon was set up as a barbers and shortly after opening we realised that we had limited ourselves too much, which is when we took the decision to offer high-class Hairdressing, Beauty, Barbers and Aesthetics, which has resulted in business growth of 65%.

What would you say to someone wanting to change careers or start their own business? And what insights would you give to people looking to take their business to the next level?

Owning your own business is hard work and it takes determination in abundance as well as sleepless nights, but my goodness is it rewarding. My recommendation would be to plan ahead and be as realistic as possible about everything. Look for the positives in all the feedback you get and approach every challenge with a positive attitude. 

In addition, build a solid team and network which will help gain great long-term successes. Don’t overthink things and allow others/friends/family/peers to convince you not to take the risk. If you believe in your business and yourself then don’t let fear or other people’s fear get in your way. It’s far easier for people to be negative towards change and tell you to play it safe because of their own insecurities. Believe in yourself and if you are unhappy in a current job role or situation make the change for the better.

Always believe that when one door closes, another one opens. If you have recently applied for a new job role and haven’t received the yes you wanted, take this as a learning that the time wasn’t right for you but don’t give up. Never give up!

Having a plan of attack is also helpful so you don’t make rash, thoughtless decisions. Life is about lessons. Whichever move you choose there is always a learning behind what you do.  You don’t know until you try, which is why the fear of being told no can be your biggest enemy. Lastly, be brave and bold, think on your feet and be proactive. Every day in business is an opportunity to have a work ethic that allows you to strive to be the best and step outside of the box. When you own your own business, you need to remember that everything fundamentally falls on you, don’t be afraid to get stuck in and lead by example if you have to.

Do you think it is more difficult to start and run a business during a pandemic?

Undoubtedly. I opened the first branch Forbici Knightsbridge in February 2020, just 3 weeks before the first lockdown was announced, and what a shock that was! After years of planning and preparations, a pandemic was definitely not something we could foresee or plan for. During this time of closure, lots of activity took place behind the scenes. So much so, that by the end of the pandemic we were expanding to three new locations after being approached by luxury clothing retailer Hackett London to engage in a long-term partnership bringing their barbering services to their Regent Street, Covent Garden and Sloane Street Stores, taking the Forbici brand from one store to 4. 

Being in business with your fiancé, how do you separate work and your personal life?

Maintaining separate lives is extremely challenging and is something that is continually worked on by both of us. At times it is very difficult to have a work-life balance because business worries and passion for growth are always on both of our minds. The solution is making the time to switch off at least one day a week and having individual hobbies and different job roles within the business. Luckily, we both play very different parts in the development of the business so both of our inputs are extremely important, valued and unique.

For more information on Forbici, see here