Follow your heart, rid yourself of negative people, and if your gut is telling you something, it is probably right.
This was the advice of Derry born business woman Brenda Shankey to local pupils when she spoke at St Cecilia’s College Employability Skills Week.
Mrs. Shankey, one of half of the globally successful Jason Shankey Male Grooming, told Year 11 and 12 pupils - “you can be whatever you want to be.”
Accompanied to the college by her father, well known youth worker Brendan Wilkinson, the Derry businesswoman admitted that although she didn’t do well in her exams at school, if she had to go back and do it all over again, she wouldn’t change a thing.
That’s hardly surprising given that Brenda now runs a number of successful salons and over the past 18 years has had the chance to do hair and make up for some of the most famous people in the world.
“The choices you make in the next few years will be a platform of what will happen in your future,” she said.
“Everything that happens to you is an opportunity and it is up to you to make the right choices.”
Brenda revealed how her love of hairdressing prompted her to take an apprenticeship in Harvey’s Hair Studio while studying in the North West Regional College.
“From day one I loved what I did,” she said. “My dad wanted me to do my Level 3. He said ‘education is everything.’ He got me out of bed in the morning and pushed me do it even though I didn’t want to.
“It was that qualification that changed my life because without it I wouldn’t have been able to get on to the next step, which was teaching.”
When Brenda met and married her husband Jason they saw a gap in the market for male grooming.
“18 years ago we only had barber shops,” she said. “So we opened the first male grooming salon in Europe.
“This was followed two years later by a salon in London. 18 years ago male grooming went boom, and I was responsible for that with my husband Jason.”
But the former St Mary’s College pupil says it was only when she began to believe in herself that things started to happen.
As well as her successful business she is also a mindfulness and meditation coach. The Jason Shankey duo are also now selling their own brand of male grooming products.
“I’m a workaholic and when you have your own business you don’t get a day off,” she said. “You always want to improve. I don’t do it for the money, I do it for the love, but it is nice having the money. I wake up everyday grateful for what I have. I’ve never got too big for my boots.”