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Setting Up a Beauty Business in Bulgaria

Many people delay moving to Bulgaria because they worry about how they will earn a living when their savings dry up, but more and more people are finding innovative ways to start their own business and maintain their life in the sun. Eighteen-year old Emma Burleigh from Selsey, Chichester has lived in Bulgaria for five years and recently started her own mobile beauty business here.

Moving to Bulgaria was not a popular option

Emma moved to Bulgaria in 2004, when her parents decided to open an English bar in the village of Avren near Varna, “I was not at all happy about the decision to move here because it meant leaving family and friends behind and it took me a long time to settle in, but once I mastered the language I started to enjoy life here.” As the years rolled by Emma and her sister both integrated into Bulgarian life and when it was time for Emma to consider making her own way in the world she opted to stay in Bulgaria rather than return to the UK, “By this time I was fed up with England. I realised that the friends I had left behind weren’t real friends because they never contacted me anymore. There seemed like nothing to go back to.” It would have been easy for Emma to take a leading role running the family business. She had grown up in the licensing trade and was well versed in all that the business entailed, but she wanted a new challenge, something she could do on her own for herself.

Choosing a career

Fate wove its intricate magic, when Helen a beautician from Scotland rented a room at her parents business, whilst she went through the process of buying a house in Avren. She hit it off with Emma who she soon discovered was a determined, forthright youngster with plans and ambitions, but no direction. On her return to Scotland she organised a beauty course for her. Emma left Bulgaria and went to Scotland to study at college and gain practical experience in Helen’s salon. Emma took to the work straight away, “I loved doing something new especially nail techniques, but I got so used to being in Scotland and working for Helen that at first I didn’t want to return to Bulgaria and work for myself.” In the end the lure of a Bulgarian summer and being back in the bosom of her family was the real clincher. Wasting no time, Emma purchased all that she needed to set up as a mobile beautician and set about advertising her business locally using fliers printed in both Bulgarian and English.

Setting up shop

“I started to get customers faster than I had imagined. I offer a wide range of treatments; for nails I offer basic manicures and pedicures, but my most popular treatment is for acrylic nails. I charge 20 lv. for a full set, which will last about a month depending on the wear and tear they get from the user.” Emma also offers a range of waxing treatments – a godsend for any expat living in Bulgaria who is used to regular waxing; this tends to be a treatment only offered in resorts at premium prices. She also does ear and nose piercings with a single piercing costing only 4 lv. “I have plans to expand my business, I want to offer clients make-overs, electrolysis, therapeutic massage and more in the way of piercings.” Emma finds that the piercing side of the business is also popular particularly with men who would not have dared to have their ear pierced in the UK, but in Bulgaria where it is the norm amongst many younger men, they have the confidence to do it. Emma has already secured a monthly booking at an English bar near Albena and is looking at opening a salon in the near future.

Thinking of doing the same?

There are no restrictions on people operating a mobile beauty salon in Bulgaria other than the need to be fully qualified and to keep reliable accounts so that taxes can be calculated. Emma Burleigh’s success has come from her determination to succeed, her talent and the competitive pricing of her treatments. Anyone thinking of setting up a business in Bulgaria should take note of Emma’s philosophy. She recognised that many people come to Bulgaria to set up businesses thinking they can charge the same or similar prices to those charged in the UK. This is not the case and not just because some of the customers are Bulgarians on lower incomes; expats will not pay English prices once they live in Bulgaria. They soon make contacts in the local community and find out where they can get the same services for the same quality at Bulgarian rates. There are many gaps in the market in Bulgaria for expats to do business. It helps if like Emma, you can find work, which you find personally satisfying, but be prepared to work hard and make sacrifices to make your business work.
Burleigh’s Beauty operates in the Varna / Balchik area (tel: 0878424897)