The Joan Cashman Colour and Image Academy specialises in all aspects of makeup and image consulting, so you can be your best self at all times. But who is the inspirational business woman behind the name?
What attracted you to the industry?
I have always been interested in clothes and makeup – even from a very young age, I always wanted to wear lovely things. I suppose the apple didn’t fall far from the tree because my mother had a great eye for style. She could turn her hand to anything, from intricate tapestries to crochet work. She would tell us stories of how, as a young girl, she would cycle from Kiskeam to Killarney – that’s a 70-mile round trip – to buy materials to make herself new costumes in the latest styles. “I was the best-dressed going into Ballydesmond Hall,” as she put it.
Music played a big part in my earlier life; my brother and I had our own band back in the seventies and we travelled the length and breadth of Munster playing for weddings and doing gigs at night, while holding down a full-time job by day. My mother was able to make clothes-to-order for me – with no pattern or anything, she could run up a velvet skirt or a glitzy jacket, just from listening to me talking about what I needed. Getting all glammed up for the stage was part of my routine and I realised early on how important my image and the image of the band was. The lessons I learned on the road back then – about people and business – was the best education ever.
I got my colours done when I was just 18 and straightaway it sparked off something inside me. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Colour Me Beautiful book to learn everything possible about the colour concept, proportions and body types. Mary Spillane was the author of that book and it was she who saw the talent in me from the beginning when I trained with her several years later. But in the meantime, my friends and work colleagues often sought my advice on how to style an outfit or which makeup they should use, so it was my hobby long before I ever considered making a business out of it.
How did you get to where you are today?
I couldn’t have done it without the support and help of many people along the way – my husband and my two children for starters. In 1987 I gave up my ‘real job’ in credit control, and I dropped out of the music scene to work in the family vending business and raise our two small children. But soon after that, when I did the training with Colour Me Beautiful, I really couldn’t ignore the calling. I was obsessed – I loved telling people their colours, and the word got ‘round!
I had been looking for a place in the city to take clients on a part-time basis and in 1995, when both my kids had started primary school, I found a beautiful little studio in the Savoy Shopping Centre and my business just took off. Juggling home life, while running my own new business and still doing the accounts for the family business wasn’t easy but we made it work. I was a new woman from the minute I opened my doors and I looked forward to going to work every day.
Bookings rolled in and I proudly held my place as the top global award-winning consultant with Colour Me Beautiful every year, and in 2000 I was headhunted to take over the Irish division, which was a huge honour and a mind-blowing experience. I got exceptional recognition and learned from people involved in this dynamic international company, grew a strong team of consultants and I was honoured with the Outstanding Contribution Award within the industry. As if I didn’t have enough to do, I also took on the role of the international trainer. I did a huge amount of travelling, training consultants all over the UK and Europe. I also helped develop the new colour system that is used by CMB today.
At the same time, I was still operating out of my Cork studio, doing makeup for brides around the county and in the RTÉ studios and for the TV3 morning show. I could see a gap in the market for a style and makeup artistry school and I wanted to offer my training to others apart from Colour Me Beautiful consultants. My family was growing up; I wanted to spend a bit more time at home, so finally, my husband convinced me to take the plunge and go it alone. In 2006 I opened my own academy in Cork’s Carey’s Lane and today it attracts fashion designers, beauty bloggers, boutique owners and women with exceptional creative flair, who want to work for themselves. I have made many mistakes and learned many a lesson along the way but that is what has kept me grounded. I still have the same raw passion for my work and I am always hungry to learn and evolve.
What do you love most about what you do?
No two days are the same and I love that challenge. I could be styling front-of-house hotel employees one day, hosting style nights/hen parties the next, running training courses, doing one-to-one consultations, training personnel for large department stores, looking at company branding… the list is endless. I meet new people every day – some have become lifelong friends – and having the ability to create a transformation before my very eyes and see the smile on their faces when they look in the mirror gets me every time. I have the best job in the world! To quote Diane Von Furstenberg: “to inspire confidence is the best gift you can give anybody,” and that is what I do every day. I help women and men to make the most of themselves by giving them the confidence and easy step-by-step guidance on how to do so.
You must have lots of great stories about people you helped down through the years?
All my clients are private; some would never disclose that they use my services. I’m their three-hour dental appointment! Others may rave about me and share their experience about my services on social media, which is so good of them, but I provide complete confidentiality. I remember, one day, asking my client where she heard of me, and she said she couldn’t help but notice how a nurse she worked with, walked taller, up and down the ward after her session with me! Everybody noticed the change in her confidence, so she wanted in! It just goes to show that owning your style and understanding who you are can change how you see yourself and change your behaviour.
Then this one girl stands out because she had been dating this guy for over six years, and she was hoping he would pop the question. At the end of the session, I’ll never forget the look on her face when she saw how beautiful she looked in a ravishing red maxi that moulded her body to perfection. She would never have tried it on in a million years. With fresh highlights and a new makeup-look, she was transformed. Not long after, I got a message on WhatsApp with a picture of a big sparkler on the second finger of her left hand.
Every client is different, some have small children and just feel out of the loop. It may be that they need a new work-wardrobe or have a special occasion coming up, while others save up for a complete makeover. I could fill books with the wonderful people I meet and I love empowering women.
What’s the most difficult part of what you do?
The part I find most difficult is the work that goes on behind the scenes: accounting, scheduling, inventory, meetings, emails – the stuff that is needed to keep the wheels of any business in motion really.
Then there’s the research side – that never ends! Keeping up with new seasons arrivals and trends, building up brand knowledge, looking for new brands to work with and keeping an eye on breaking news and fashion-related stories.
Sometimes you have to work crazy hours to fit in with your clients; you need to be flexible and have a Plan B. No matter how busy you are, you must be relaxed and at ease because you’re creating a complete experience for your client. It’s important to focus on the task at hand because you must produce the goods within a limited timeframe… that can be high pressure at times!
What’s the best piece of style advice you’ve ever received
Stay true to yourself. Find what lights you up and follow your own dream!
What’s the best piece of style advice you can pass on?
Know your body type and what colours flatter you best and always dress to suit your personality.
If you could travel back to one fashion era, and the style icon of the time, who would it be?
Oh, it would have to be Grace Kelly and the fifties! I love the polished, feminine look of the era. The definition of the waistline, the accentuating of the bust, the impeccable grooming and hairstyles, cat-eye and all the fabulous accessories – hats, gloves and jewellery.
What designer are you loving right now?
Brandon Maxwell – he produces timeless garments, gorgeous block colours, clean lines and sharp tailoring. Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga are often seen on the red carpet wearing his creations.
What trends do you love just now?
The return of the female silhouette in longer length skirts – anywhere from below the knee to the ankle – and the classic trench of course; always timeless!
How do you stay motivated?
There’s no magic potion that you take in a bottle, but I write down my list in my diary and I try to stick to it. The big tasks, I break down into chunks and chip away at them, rather than trying to do it all at once and get overwhelmed. The power of a lovely comment on Facebook cannot be underestimated; it has helped motivate me on many an occasion. I’m usually high on adrenaline after a presentation or during my training and workshops. I’m always looking forward to the transformation when I’m working with my private clients, so I get a rush of excitement when I’m on the job. It’s the administration side that takes effort and a bit of discipline!
What plans do you have for your business over the next 12 months?
My diary is full for half the year already, so it’s pretty much well mapped out for me. I must plan my training modules three to six months in advance. I run a Personal Stylist course and a Colour Analysis & Makeup course in the Spring and again in the Autumn in Cork.
Last year I joined forces with The Bronwyn Conroy Beauty School in Dublin, so I teach an incredible class there too. This Spring I have had to add another course in Cork to meet demand. I have students who fly in from the UK and Northern Ireland, so it must run to schedule. And then there are the makeup artistry courses every other month. I carried out workshops on interview dressing and personal grooming to Level 5 and Level 6 students, in the College of Commerce, last year with great success, and I’m thrilled to be invited back again this year. I have another hotel chain on my books, a few charity fundraisers and hen parties to look forward to.
Winter is the best time to invest in a good wardrobe. Between late September and early November you have the best choice in coats, jackets and investment pieces, so I always recommend my loyal clients to book their personal shopping trips well in advance, while I still have some dates left in the diary.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Fashion is the fastest changing industry. Who knows, maybe drones will be picking up our shopping for us by then, but I am excited to remain in the thick of it and evolve and grow within it. I will continue with my private consultations, train consultants to the highest standards and lead by example. Write my first book! Spend more time between Scotland and London visiting my family and maybe they will have families of their own by then.
What advice would you give young people who want to break into the industry?
You need to be a people’s person and you must love making people feel good.
You need high energy to quickly assess where your client is at in terms of his or her confidence and courage, and you need a gentle but firm approach to motivate your client to try new clothes, combinations and looks.
You need to have a real passion for style and beauty because you will be living it 24/7, 365 days a year.
Study your craft. Get proper training under your belt – you want to be around for the long haul and build a strong reputation from the get-go.
You need to be creative. This business is not about buying clothes, it about creating a complete look for your client. Get a feel for her personal style, taking her colouring, shape, proportion, shape, age, budget and lifestyle into account.
Learn some bookkeeping – you will need to keep a budget and be able to balance the books. I was lucky enough I have accounting under my belt, and it has been a great help.
If you are a blogger it will be a great advantage and have a good presence on Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms.
You need to be flexible, disciplined and motivated because being self-employed is not for everybody.
Joan Cashman Colour and Image Academy
2 Carey’s Lane, Cork
021 427 6330