Every industry is indebted to a handful of long-standing contributors, visionaries and experts that have dedicated their careers to the development and growth of their field, all the while supporting and uplifting their peers. In the South African beauty industry, one such contributor is Sandy Fuhr.
Sandy is a somatologist and beauty veteran with over 40 years of experience in so many aspects of the professional beauty industry. An successful Therapist, Educator, mentor and successful businesswoman, Sandy is a well-known and respected figure among her peers. The educational institution she founded, Sandy Roy Beauty Therapy Institute, currently boasts over 20 campuses in Africa and Sandy is a regular judge, speaker and contributor to beauty expos, conferences and competitions.
Sandy’s love for beauty started at a young age. She studied beauty therapy after school and began her career as a beauty therapist in the 1980s. While she gained experience working in salons, she never lost track of a passion that would enable her to make a positive change to the industry she loved so much: education.
In 1991, Sandy shifted her focus to education and took on a full-time position of Principal at an International College in Cape Town. She moved on from there to become a vice principal and lecturer at another health and skincare academy in Cape Town. Her entrepreneurial spirit soon took hold and she established her very own training school in 1996: Sandy Roy Beauty Therapy Institute, what many know now as BTI.
What started out as a small single-handed training facility, now has campuses throughout South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Namibia and in Ghana. Offering a broad spectrum of courses across skincare, nails, beauty and hairdressing, BTI is an accredited institution that has since enabled thousands of women (and many men!) the opportunity to get qualified in a field of work they love, have a passion for, and to build their own careers.
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BTI was way ahead of the education curve at the time. They offered bite-size modules focusing on single skills rather than necessarily only full-time courses incorporating all aspects of beauty. This enabled students to specialise and focus in the skills they were interested in. While Sandy was criticized for this bold and brave approach at the time, the industry eventually caught on and eventually acknowledged that not every person wishing to enter the industry had a desire to undertake all of the skills offered in full-time courses. Today nail bars, waxing-only salons etc. are the norm.
For Sandy, it’s been a privilege to be a crucial part of the growth of beauty training in SA. “The South African beauty industry has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 20 years. The quality of education and training in South Africa surpasses many other countries, thanks to legendary contributors being dedicated to uplifting the standards of education to a level higher than many countries around the world.”
In between launching and running her business, Sandy has also found the time to serve as a board member at various organisations and to contribute to international beauty bodies. She was elected SAAHSP’s (The South African Association of Health & Skincare Professionals) National President in 2005, was appointed a CIDESCO International Beauty Therapy, Spa and Aromatherapy examiner (CIDESCO is a Swiss based international standard for Beauty and Spa Therapy) and also served on their board for +11 years. In September 2019, Sandy was elected as President of CIDESCO International but resigned 18 months later.
Sandy’s hard work and dedication has been recognised far and wide: In 2006 she won the title of Nedbank Businesswoman of the Year in the Entrepreneurial category. The following year she was nominated for Shoprite Checkers SABC 2 Woman of the Year, in the Education category.
Sandy has judged Advanced make-up competitions, as well as many destination spas and salons, on behalf of Professional Beauty and World Spa and Wellness around the world. She has presented papers at conferences in various countries and has examined students globally to give award them their CIDESCO international qualifications in countries such as Japan, China, Singapore, Zimbabwe, Ireland and more.
Her list of achievements is impressive and ever-growing, but when asked about the highlights of her career, it’s the projects that impacted others, that stand out: “Taking beauty and skincare quality education into Africa with BTI and being franchisor of a group of people in colleges where I have been able to help them and give them a turnkey package to be able to start their own businesses in developing others,” she says. What’s perhaps most impressive, is that she did it all while raising her two children as a single mother – no easy feat for any woman, let alone an entrepreneur.
While her business savvy is undeniable, it’s her passion that’s driven her to achieve all that she has. There’s a strong feel-good factor that comes with working in beauty, and one of the things she has always loved about her work is the ability to make someone feel happy. “When I started in the industry, it was all about making people feel better about themselves on a day to day basis. Clients would walk in with a concern and walk out with a big smile on their faces, feeling and looking better than when they arrived,” she says.
Sandy believes that with success comes the responsibility to give back, be it to one’s peers, an industry or to individuals in need. She is passionate about female empowerment, and has used her influence to help uplift women. “Being in education for the past 30 years, it is all about uplifting, developing and growing others to be able to achieve for themselves in their lifetimes. For me, it is important to enable women to be self-sufficient and provide for themselves and their families. Being able to give back to so many who are also previously disadvantaged, and giving every one of our students an opportunity to grow and flourish in their own right makes all the hard work worthwhile.”
Her interest in female empowerment lead to her involvement in Sorbet’s SEW (Sorbet Empowering Women) foundation, an initiative that creates socio-economic upliftment by providing skills, training and education for women and men, allowing them to enter the beauty and grooming industry. Together with Relate, The Clothing Bank, Sorbet and BTI, Sandy helped create and grow the initiative. Students identified through the foundation were trained at BTI (with their fees sponsored by Sorbet, who raised funds by selling beaded bracelets made by women in local townships). These graduates then went on to work at Sorbet and other beauty-related spaces.
Sandy’s contribution to the South African beauty industry is immense, and while she has already achieved so much, she still has plenty of goals in the pipeline. “My primary goal at the moment is to uplift, empower and give disadvantaged and underprivileged people the opportunity to have their own careers, regardless of their past. In doing this, I also wish to take our unique style of flexible, modular beauty education further into Africa to help the African population gain invaluable knowledge with education of excellence. Without us, they may have to leave their homes and countries to gain this in South Africa if BTI wasn’t in their country to help.”
Sandy approaches any task or challenge with a “can-do” attitude and positive outlook. Her advice to young people wanting to enter the beauty industry? “Just say ‘yes’. ‘Yes’ to the next offer coming your way. Once you say ‘yes’, find out how to do it and then to perfect it. If you go into the day with a ‘negative’ attitude, unfortunately your future and career won’t land at your feet. Know and believe that there are always solutions to problems which may come your way. None of us are excluded from issues which arise before us. It is knowing that you have the strength of character and resolve to confidently approach any potential issues to overcome them.”