Gill Springgay changes people’s lives. She helps them to walk with confidence, with their heads held high and finally recognise who they truly are. Her route to entrepreneurship wasn’t easy. It wasn’t as a result of an MBA after years in a city firm. Instead, it was graft, circumstance and changes in a personal situation.
With just two pounds to her name, Springgay bought as much red hair dye as she could from a local salon so she could begin her own makeover business, and Reinvent Yourself Makeover Girl was born. The only difference? Today, every single one of Springgay’s clients is transgender, and seeks to feel confident in their own skin.
“I’d worked in the Housing Sector for 20 years. When I was made redundant I moved from the north east to the north west, and that’s when things got really bad. I was in an abusive relationship and I had two girls under three. The relationship meant I moved from being a really confident housing manager to a train wreck. I was trying to study at night school to start my own business and was stopped from going. It was horrendous.”
She left her relationship, taking the children with her, still working part-time as an anti-social behaviour officer. Things went from bad to worse when she was notified of redundancy a week after moving.
“This was when I decided to start the business as a makeover consultant. I’d got all distinctions in image consultancy from my extra studying, and I planned to get women in from all over the village. I had no income at all other than one woman who asked me to dye her hair red. She was my only client at the time, and then a male friend asked if I could dress him up as a woman.”
Springgay describes how he had his own wig and dress and shoes. “I kind of thought, he looked really feminine,” she says.
Starting Reinvent Yourself helped Springgay reinvent her own life too and fulfil her true potential. Working with this client piqued her interest but by her own admission, she knew next to nothing about being transgender. She located a social group in Manchester called Concorde which supported transgender people. When she found out there was a gap in the market for image consultancy, she knew she’d be able to help.
“I asked if I could come along and do a demonstration on how to do make-up. I drove to Manchester by myself and met 30 transgender women.”
She says: “I’m a professional person, and I just went in and I’m friendly and got on with it. It was voluntary, but I handed out my business cards, and from then on, I never had another female client.”
After working with Concorde, she began to reach out to other support groups. She judged beauty pageants and travelled across the country. “It was really hard work as I didn’t really have any childcare, but something told me to keep on with it.”
And it’s a good thing she did, because Springgay won a Virgin StartUp award for her new business. “I help people to look feminine, by choosing the right wig, teaching makeup skills and choosing flattering clothing but more importantly I give them confidence and self belief. I offer an affordable option.”
To boost her profile, she started writing a regular column for both the Beaumont Society and also Transliving. She was able to share makeup tips by contributing to the beauty page. “I help people look natural.”
When she was awarded the Virgin StartUp Loan, her priority was getting a mentor. “I needed to create a functioning, basic website that would make it easy for people to find me. I’ve used the loan for branding as I instinctively knew that I wanted to franchise my business model. I’ve also worked to create a new make-up product that’s used to cover the five o’ clock shadow and I’m hoping to grow that side of the business.”
And, she’s being recognised nationally too. She was nominated in the Positive Role Model category at the National Diversity Awards 2019 for her work in styling and providing makeup for transgender women.
But the biggest reward for Gill Springgay is clients telling her how she’s inspired and helped them. “I get a lot of people crying on me in the studio. They see themselves for the first time as a woman. They’re passing as the women they truly are. I give them a good start. They come with the attitude that they’ll never pass, but I help them work through that.”