Secretarial: I Work For - Mum is the word

Shailu and Priti Vyas work for their mother, Bharti Vyas, Holistic Beauty Therapist
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The Independent Culture
Shailu Vyas: I intended to study pharmacy when I finished school but 15 years ago, whilst helping out Mum and Dad at the salon, I realised that I wanted to work with them permanently. What really spurred me on was seeing a client with bad skin problems being transformed through her therapy treatment from a hunched up person to someone with confidence who could hold her head up high.

I thought that Mum and Dad would disapprove of my decision because it would mean giving up my pharmacy plans and there's an emphasis on study within our Indian culture. But when they saw how much I enjoyed the work they allowed me to stay.

As well as taking a beauty school diploma I had to learn how to co-ordinate the schedules of our 15 staff and administrate the salon. It's very important that we trust the staff because we have so many high profile clients, like Belinda Carlisle, Cherie Blair and Cher, who obviously don't want the world to know what treatment they are receiving.

I think people are often scared to work for their mum because they anticipate that they will get bossed around, which in itself creates barriers. The solution is to communicate properly from the start. We have a basic rule that work is for work and home for home life. Sometimes we stray over the boundaries but generally if we have a disagreement at work we leave it here at the end of the day. We work like a team. Sure, Mum's at the forefront but her success is our success.

It's not all Little House on the Prairie harmony. We do have arguments and occasionally cry or scream at each other. But my dad, who manages the accounts, is a great arbitrator. He's never resented Mum's success and often says "my daughters are just as good as any son".

Priti Vyas: I was 11 when Mum launched her business. She had a fallopian pregnancy and wasn't allowed to lift heavy things so she decided to get involved in beauty as a hobby and the business grew from there. I've always been her guinea pig. I remember when she was learning ear piercing and pierced about ten holes into my ear - I looked like a right little punk.

I trained as a hypnotherapist but found it too gloomy. I also had journalistic ambitions but when my family asked me to join the business 10 years ago, it made far more sense to devote my time to promoting my own family rather than working all hours for a stranger. Each of us draws on our own strengths to build the business which means that we have positivity coming from all angles.

I act as Mum's Girl Friday, working through her diary, administering the supply of our products to the right stores and organising her PR. I called her Mum at a recent press meeting and someone told me that it sounded most unprofessional. I explained that our salon workers and even some of our clients call her mum because they like the familiarity. I felt very protective over her when the press discovered that she was Cherie Blair's therapist and started knocking on our door. It was rather frightening because they were trying to take pictures of my children as well.

I enjoy working for Mum because I respect her both as a person and a professional. She doesn't put on a salon persona and her clients appreciate that. She's worked so hard to keep the family together that even if the business was to fail we would always have each other. When we were children and the family lived in a one-bedroom flat and Mum was working a 12-hour day, she always had time to massage our faces with Vaseline to keep them soft whilst singing us to sleep. We all have different views and sometimes we shout at each other but we never blame one another because we know that we would only be failing ourselves.

I live over the road from Mum and Shailu lives five minutes away and we meet up every Sunday so we must get on well together.

A lot of people have asked me: "But you are working in the background whilst your mum gets all the credit, doesn't that bother you?" But I don't feel that way at all. In fact, by pushing her forward I push myself because we are Bharti Vyas and Bharti Vyas is us.

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