Electra Sawbridge has London head-over-nails in love with her cozy, classy salon.
Business Is an Art Form
How does Sawbridge keep such a wide variety of clients happy and coming back for more? She gives her parents credit for a creative streak that runs through everything she does. “My father was a musician since he was very young, and he worked with some great names in jazz and classical music,” she says. “My mother, who was originally a model, was also an artist, working in watercolor and pastels.”
In fact, before becoming a nail technician and salon owner, Sawbridge held a variety of jobs that not only honed her creative skills but also helped her make valuable contacts in the London business and art worlds. In addition to managing several local bands and working as a sales administrator for A&M Records starting in 1977 (at age: 18!), Sawbridge started a graphics design business with a boyfriend in 1980. “The business was good – the boyfriend, not!” she says with a laugh.
Perhaps it’s that graphic design background that inspired Sawbridge to create one of the more unique (and unexpected) features of The Country Club: the theme restroom. “It’s amazing,” says Marsh. “It has a wave painted on the wall in deep blue with lots of fish and starfish in the sea. It even has seagulls on the walls!” Sawbridge even went so far as to use a filler on the walls to create a 3-D effect, adding colorful wooden fish and dried starfish for the finishing touch. So is it any surprise that, after trying her hand as a graphic designer, Sawbridge moved on to designing jewelry? “I made jewelry by night and sold it all the next day,” she says.
Harrod’s department store was interested in buying Sawbridge’s creations, but by then she had set her sights on a job with Andrew Lloyd Webber as a merchandising manager for his top West End shows.
Up to Scratch
While Sawbridge now feels that her varied job experiences were preparing her for “something wonderful,” it wasn’t until 1982 — at the ripe old age of 23 — that she settled on what was to become her real love. It started simply when she began doing her own nails. But it wasn’t long before people began asking Sawbridge to do their nails, and she began to think about training as a nail technician. But training and products were not readily available in England in 1982.
Eventually she found a liquid-and-powder system that she liked, so Sawbridge phoned the manufacturer in America. The company told her about their supplier in England, and Sawbridge went to the local supplier to inquire about training. “After talking with the trainer,” she says, “[the trainer] actually admitted that I knew more about natural nails and disorders than she did and that my application was extremely good.”
So Sawbridge opened her own nail business. “Within three months, I rented space in a hair salon called ‘Do Yer Nut.’ As they had that name, I called myself ‘Up to Scratch at Do Yer Nut!’” she says with a laugh. Sawbridge moved on to open The Country Club in 1986.
People Come First
While her talent, ambition, and willingness to work have certainly helped this whirlwind of a woman build her career as a nail technician, salon owner, and talent agency owner, maybe in the end it’s her love and empathy for people that makes Sawbridge such a success. While many of The Country Club’s customers are young, it’s perhaps the older, less-active clients who most appreciate the chance to get away from it all in the salon’s festive yet endearing atmosphere, Sawbridge says. “For people with medical problems or those who can’t get around easily, having their nails done at The Country Club can be real therapy.”
And while she’s worked in some of the world’s most glamorous industries, it’s making her clients feel glamorous, says Electra Jane Margot Kyrenia Billericay Sawbridge, that feels like the most important job in the world.
That’s a contribution that would make any father proud.