10 January 2024

Women's balancing act can be great for business

| John Thistleton
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Leah Cain.

Leah Cain admires the growing number of Goulburn women going into business as she did and having the flexibility to raise their children too. Photo: Rachael Cramp.

Fearless and full of optimism at age 21 when she opened her first beauty salon in Goulburn, Leah Cain says she underestimated the success that would follow.

While always confident Goulburn rewards anyone who appreciates the local community, she learned from lots of mistakes, too.

“When I was younger I probably would have worked around the clock to accommodate everybody,” she said. “But now, you know that saying, the only people who remember that you worked late are your family, your children. No one is going to remember that beauty therapist who stayed until 7 pm to do everybody’s waxing. But your children will because you weren’t there for dinner or for homework.”

Women in business today get that too, says Leah.

“So what I’m loving with the way the world is going now is women can still work, they can accommodate the hours of where they work, and what they do,” she said. “They can run their own businesses but still balance it with a family, which I think is brilliant.”

She wants to rekindle a network she began with a friend before the pandemic called ‘Secret Women’s Business’ which grew swiftly with monthly meetings of florists, jewellery and candle makers, artists and yoga teachers to talk about ideas and how to help each other’s business.

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“There are so many beautiful, talented women out there,” Leah said.

Working from two rooms converted from a garage outside her family’s home, she has a huge clientele and has layered her business with sideline ventures such as the same-day home delivery of beauty products, an Airbnb next door and letting her rooms out to other practitioners when she’s not using them.

She resolved at age 11 or 12 to follow a cousin into the beauty business and by the time she was 16, her parents Brian and Bev Swift agreed with her decision to leave high school in Year 10. “In their words I was wasting my time (at school) and their money,” she said.

Black and white image of people in front of a truck.

The name Lush Beauty and Skin honours Leah Cain’s grandfather Kenny Reilly who worked for Luscious Sponges in Sydney. Photo: Swift family collection.

At a Canberra beauty school she learned everything about manicures, pedicures, waxing, tinting, massage, Reiki treatment, acrylic nails, facial skin care and types of skin. Working alongside colleagues in salons in Goulburn, Wagga and Bowral she soaked up as much knowledge as she could. When a business where she had worked came onto the market, she bought it.

Her late father Brian, a floor and wall tiler with a strong work ethic was a good early business mentor. “My dad always said as long as you have your family and your health, gamble everything if any opportunity comes up; always grab it because, why not?” she said.

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Still in her early 20s, juggling the arrival of children and running a full-time business became tricky.

“I then decided to take the salon back to the house,” she said. “We had just bought our first home and converted the front room into a beauty salon. I still had all my regular clients coming in and I was at home with my children. If someone cancelled I was fine; I’d put on a load of washing or cook dinner.”

When the Cains moved into their second home her husband Nathan converted the garage into rooms which meant clients would not be walking into or out of their home. She has continued there for the past 12 years, using her large clientele and advanced bookings to convince brands she would deliver from home the sales they needed to support her.

Hazel House.

Hazel House, the Cains’ Airbnb has given Leah an idea for a new business venture which can involve her children as well. Photo: Em Callaghan.

Aged from 17 to 10 years old, her four children, Ava, Poppi, Eliza and Carter are playing their roles. Now licensed to drive, Ava takes them to and from school. “They all get amongst it; we all think of silly things like the Airbnb – it’s wonderful,” Leah said.

Her latest project is establishing a website, ‘Shop Your Stay’ to enable visitors to buy what they enjoy while staying in Goulburn. She says inviting artists and artisans to show their work and products like shampoo in Airbnbs will be a great way to help them into their own businesses and show people what the city has to offer. Leah says her daughters will offer babysitting services for people in town attending weddings, in another enterprise that starts at home.

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