Karen Betts: If you can dream it, you can do it!


NatWest everywoman Awards Woman of the Year 2014 Karen Betts on how she was determined to win our top prize and what it’s done for her business…

“This woman is phenomenal!” That was how our 2014 NatWest everywoman Awards judges summed up Karen Betts, the founder and Managing Director of Nouveau Beauty Group, who left last year’s sparkling ceremony at London’s Dorchester Hotel with the programme’s flagship Woman of the Year Award.

A beauty therapist from the age of 16, Karen’s true passion was ignited when a close friend lost her eyebrows following cancer treatment. Her journey to uncover the most modern tattooing techniques would see her launch what would become the first of many divisions of Nouveau Beauty Group, the Nouveau Contour training school for therapists.

Her boundless enthusiasm, copious leadership skills and tireless work over the last 16 years has changed misconceptions of permanent cosmetics and seen her small office in Yorkshire grow into a £7 million, multi-winged global enterprise employing 182 staff, incorporating, among others things, a pioneering medical tattoo division offering top of the range treatments to cancer, burns and alopecia patients, several leading cosmetics brands, a salon training business and a lashes division which exports to 19 countries.

We caught up with her to find out what’s new in the world of Nouveau, and the difference an everywoman Award has made to her business.


What have been the biggest changes to your business since you won Woman of the Year?

Where to start! One of the most exciting things is that we’re about to launch an international pigment range in my name. After years of working with pigmentation I felt that there had to be something better out there and I went on a mission to find it. I spent about six months experimenting and testing until I found the perfect solution. The aim is for it to be the top choice for every permanent makeup artist throughout the world.

The other big change is that we’ve launched franchises for one of our divisions, High Definition Brows. At the moment we have six franchise businesses operating under the Nouveau name in the UK. The goal is to have 250 worldwide.


Have you always been very goal driven? What’s your secret to setting the right goals and sticking to them?

Absolutely! I have a very simple routine –a notebook and pencil (very old-fashioned!) in which I record all my goals. I make sure I detail not only what I want to achieve, but how I’ll get there and who else in the business plays a role in achieving that goal. Every other day I go back and read over my current goals. That process really helps to get things stuck in my mind and keeps me focused. I look at what I’ve been doing that day and how relevant those tasks are to my goals; if I’m going off track, I work harder the following day to get back on the right path. Every three months I do a deeper analysis of my goals to make sure everything’s still relevant and that the day to day functions of the entire business are aligned with where we’re trying to get. I never let goals overwhelm me; my motto is: “If you can dream it, you can do it!”


At the 2014 NatWest everywoman Awards you told us that winning the Award had been one of your goals. Do you think your winning mentality impacted on the judges’ decision and made you a standout finalist?

Without a doubt! I approached judging day in the frame of mind that I really wanted to win and I wasn’t going to be modest and downplay my achievements. I’d just got off a flight, I’d not had much sleep and I had no makeup on, but I think when I got in front of the camera, a lot of positive energy came out because of where my thinking was. We’d even baked the award into our business plan, deciding it was a key way we could advance the brand for future opportunities.

I’d say to anyone who’s hesitating about nominating themselves or someone else for one of these Awards programmes: just have a go. It’s the things you haven’t done that you’ll live to regret. Promote yourself; there’s nothing to lose.


What’s been the biggest impact of winning the award?

The business was always very well-respected, but winning this Award and the media attention that followed has certainly elevated our position. Trainers and students enjoy the prestige that comes with being associated with us, which is fantastic.


You won in the unadvertised Woman of the Year Award category. When you didn’t win in your own category, you must have thought you were going home empty handed?

I’ll let you into a secret. A few years before I entered the everywoman Awards I entered a different awards programme. I wasn’t hopeful; it wasn’t a great fit for me. At the ceremony, a fellow finalist – a lady who’d become the highest ranking female in the fire service - won in my category, but another finalist went on to win the secret top prize of the night. I had a hunch that something similar could happen at the Dorchester. So much so, that when my category was being announced I was actually sitting there begging, “Please don’t call my name!” Then it got to the end of the show and they started talking about Woman of the Year and I knew my instincts were correct. I sat with my head in my hands thinking, “Say my name! Say my name!” It was an incredible feeling to walk up to the stage.


When you Google your name the volume of hits about you, your business and the Award is just phenomenal. How have you managed the press attention?

I absolutely love talking to the media because it’s just so valuable to the business. Many years ago I worked with a PR agency to secure press mentions but it was so time consuming. What’s been great about winning the Award is that we’ve just been flooded with requests from journalists – they come to us now.

Talking to members of the press can be daunting at first but my advice would be to approach every conversation as if you’re talking to a friend about your business. Don’t try to be something you’re not or someone you think you should be – be your best, most positive, friendly self and you’ve nothing to worry about.


Despite your intention to win our Award, you didn’t prepare a thank you speech! What’s your advice to would-be 2015 winners when it comes to the acceptance speech?

Write one! Keep it short and simple and thank everyone around you who’s made the win possible. It’s all about teamwork. Overall, embrace the win and the attention that follows.


Where do you keep your Award?

It’s on reception so everybody who walks by sees it every time they’re here. There’s no point hiding it away or worrying about showing it off or being fearful of it breaking! It’s a huge achievement so show it off somewhere every single person can see it!


More like this on the everywoman Network:

8 ways to think like an entrepreneur

Award-winning women share their business goals and how they plan to achieve them

The 6 personality traits of the most successful women in business and how to get them

Know your worth and practise mindfulness: 7 powerful career lessons from Melanie Eusebe