For the second instalment of #NailNatterswithMets, I sat down with Christopher Kitchen, founder of Beautiful Minds and Book In Beautiful, to give him a special Scratch Stars Award themed manicure and to learn all about Chris’ story.
Please be aware that Chris does touch on some sensitive subjects. If you would like to speak to anyone about mental health or if you are in a dark place, please get in touch with Mind and Papyrus who will be able to provide assistance.
I first met Chris at an industry networking event where he talked about Beautiful Minds – a new initiative aimed at bringing together the biggest names in beauty to support mental health charities. I saw Chris again a few times after that and I loved that he constantly supported everyone in the industry, including myself. Chris would share and comment on everything I put out into the nail world (interviews, blog posts etc) and we had the same interests in nails (obviously) AND business. Chris is a lovely, naturally friendly and open guy and I felt so privileged that Chris was so raw and honest with me during our time together – there may have been a few tears!
Hi Chris, so lovely to see you today. Please could you share a little about your career background and Book in Beautiful.
Career wise, I’ve worked in sales and marketing from the age of 18. I’ve spent most of my adult life recruiting sales people and ended up in the nail industry as I was in a relationship with a nail technician for 6 years. I worked with an amazing team that developed a booking system for a different industry, and together we worked to make it more relevant for beauty, in what became Book in Beautiful. The nail industry really welcomed me with open arms and supported what we were trying to do with the platform. The idea was to support nail techs and alleviate some of the stresses that come from appointment or client based industries and try to help more talented nail technicians stay in the industry. We are 5 years into our development schedule, 2 years in, we love it. It’s lead us to meet some incredible people and we have around 600 nail techs using the system. We have a unique feature called cancellation watch and this feature has added so much additional revenue to our techs by automatically filling up any cancelled appointments. We have clients worldwide and it’s mainly from word of mouth and recommendations.
That’s fantastic, well done on your success with Book in Beautiful so far Chris! I know you don’t like linking the two (Book in Beautiful) and Beautiful Minds but I wanted to let everyone know about your system as it’s so popular in the industry, just in case anyone wants to check it out 🙂
But let’s talk about Beautiful Minds now, especially as we have the grand finale event coming up, mid September. How did the idea behind Beautiful Minds come about?
Before starting working in this industry, I had a long history of mental health. 2 years before Book In Beautiful, I almost never made it… we might as well lay it on the table… at the age of 7 I witnessed my mum trying to kill herself. From that stage and due to other reasons, I’ve had a very fractured relationship with my mum all my life. At 14, my dad was killed and from then I basically lived a good 15-20 years just full of anger and isolating myself and it’s one of those situations where I always felt something was wrong, but just kept pushing through it. Eventually I got to a certain age where it culminated and I felt I couldn’t go on any more. And then.. how dark do we want to get with this? It’s whatever you feel comfortable talking about Chris, it’s your truth, it’s however much YOU want to share, or not share. There’s no right or wrong and we can always edit and remove anything before going live. It’s ok, anything I say you can share. From the moment my dad was killed, I’ve always longed to be a dad myself. I have a 9 year old son, Casper and he is the reason I’m here now, to be fair. I was… I don’t even know how to verbalise this… I was mid suicidal and I got a phone call and it was my mum calling. I was in the headspace of “this is the last chance I can tell you how I feel about you, let all the anger go…” It was actually my son Casper on speakerphone, who was telling me how much he loved and missed me and how he couldn’t wait to see me for his birthday. It was coming up to his 6th birthday. That just completely snapped me out of it. I packed my bags, walked 40 minutes to the nearest doctors and said I’m not leaving until you help me. The worse thing I could’ve done is leave my son in a situation that I was put into.
Did you receive that help you needed?
Yes, I spent some really valuable time in a mental health resort. I made the most of the resources available from various mental health charities but mainly Mind and Papyrus which are the 2 charities we are supporting this year for Beautiful Minds.
To bring it full circle, from the moment I’ve entered the industry, I’ve had some really close friendships with people in the industry. It has really reminded me or made me believe that I’m capable of anything. This gave me a really positive outlook in life. I know it sounds a little soppy Metta, but if you guys can do that for me, the whole objective of Beautiful Minds is trying to encourage you to do it for each other – I’m not just a random bearded guy!
What has Beautiful Minds been up to this year?
This year we’ve been focusing on fundraising. We have official Beautiful Minds products that are raising money, we have salons and techs who have donated and we have our grand finale on 15th September to finish off the year’s efforts. The donations will be split equally between Mind and Papyrus.
What should people expect at the grand finale event?
We have a big charity auction – products from Kirsty Meakin, Katie Barnes, a blinged up Kupa e-file by Hazel Dixon and loads more. Raffles, comedy, a nail competition between myself and Kirsty Meakin’s cameraman Adam! There’s so much and so many prizes to win.
Where do you see Beautiful Minds going? Go on Chris, give me an exclusive!
The long term plan is to start offering mental health training for beauty professionals. It’s such a good idea Chris, I think it is so important as we spend a lot of time with our clients, we can notice patterns and they tell us a lot of things. From living with a nail tech, she would carry the weight of her client’s stories home each evening and feel mentally exhausted. If you haven’t had the correct training, with all the best intentions you could also say something wrong which could be a trigger. It’s very important that people have the correct training. From a consumer’s point of view, if they can see a logo or a seal of approval almost, in a window, to let them know it is a welcoming, safe place, they can feel confident that when they talk to you, you’re trained and know what you’re talking about. Hopefully, all going to plan, it should leave a nice positive impact. The initial idea is to hold a couple of training events and then train independent trainers. We want salon owners to be able to train their staff too.
It’s a great idea to be honest with you. The benefit to our clients and ourselves will be incredible.
I’ve taken a lot of positives from what I’m doing with Beautiful Minds, one of the main lessons I learnt in the mental health resort was the easiest way to help yourself is to help others. Once I left the resort, I moved in with my great auntie to help her and that made me feel better. I get so many people messaging me on Facebook and Instagram, really opening up with their personal stories. Sometimes it’s difficult to know how to respond. I’ve been open and shared my story a lot. It doesn’t matter what your story is; you’re always writing the next page yourself.
It’s so inspiring that you share your story because you never know who it’s touching. Somebody may not reach out to you but they might think “if Chris went through all of that and was able to come out of the other side and see the light, I can too.”
My motto is: make the rest of your life, the best of your life. I’ve been giving a lot of strength from people within the industry. At the risk of crying – I used to be in the mindset I needed one woman to make me happy, to be the best me. When she was no longer around, it did destroy me a bit but I feel like that’s been replaced by loads of women (in the industry) now! I cherish the opportunity to meet so many great people – Kirsty Meakin, Charli Jepson and Scarlett Senter (three very well known nail technicians in the industry) are probably three of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life. I met them through work, they contacted me about Book in Beautiful and we clicked from there. They’re family. So many people took me under their wing – the team at Nail Harmony (Georgie, Jason, Jazz) – it is a bit of a dream, a movie. In 2 years, everything has gone so well. It’s impossible for me to imagine slipping away now…
I’m so pleased to hear Chris! All chieved within 2 very short years. You should be super proud of yourself and how far you’ve come!
CHRIS’ DAILY RITUALS
1. Setting goals
Each night before I go to sleep, I’ll make a list of 5 goals that I want to achieve the following day. When it comes to the following day, if I’ve only achieved 3 of the 5, I’ll make myself think of 2 more positive things a day so that I’m still hitting my positive quota. I can then go to sleep feeling positive and wake up positive.
2. Earthing and going for walks
I have bipolar, so every morning (or last thing at night) I’ll go for a walk and – shout out to Alex Fox (Editor in Chief of Scratch Magazine) for introducing me to this – I’ll do some “earthing”. I’ll walk barefoot on the grass, allowing my feet to follow the level of the earth rather than the level of your shoes. It makes me feel grounded. I’m lucky to live near a nature reserve and to have an internet business, so I am often out on walks whilst on the phone.
3. Listening to podcasts
I like listening to Joe Rogan’s podcasts, because I love listening to people’s stories. There was a random one with ex-wrestler Jake the Snake and I really enjoyed it – he has a really inspiring story.
CHRIS’ NAIL STYLE
What’s your opinion about men wearing nails?
I used to be really insecure about stupid stuff, but I’ve really impressed myself with how I can just walk around with my nails painted. I get more female attention now and I feel fearless. I genuinely don’t see any doors. No matter what status anyone has, every person you meet is just another person.
What type of nail style do you tend to go for?
Honestly, I just let the nail artist/nail technician do whatever they want! I’m really open.