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Building a business out of adversity

Motivation can be a powerful thing. When Vanessa Cowan noticed in 2014 that she was losing her hair, she responded first with worry, then with panic, then with sleep loss.

“It was the worst time of my life,” she says. “I had crippling anxiety. Not only did I lose my looks, I was also experiencing the most excruciating pain. My hair felt like it was being ripped out of my skull. Once all my hair was gone, the pain stopped, and it was almost a relief that I was bald.”

Vanessa found little support where she lives in West Cumbria, needing to travel to Newcastle for her first “awful” wig. It was an experience she vowed no one else should go through. “I decided I was going to turn my condition into a positive,” she says. Following months of research, business plans, training with celebrity hairdresser Trevor Sorbie, freedom-of-information requests, surveys and meetings, Glamorous Butterfly was born.


Today, Glamorous Butterfly is the nation’s premium supplier of custom cut and dyed wigs, providing bespoke care and support for women and children affected by hair loss. Vanessa is now an authority in the sector, working with the NHS and advising the National Hair Loss Association in the US. Her range is extraordinary, running from free wigs for those who cannot fund their own to £10,000, tailor-made creations. Exports are growing to Australia and Eastern Europe.

“The secret to my success is 100 per cent hard work,” says Vanessa. “I have a vested interest. I know the emotions people go through, and I want to help those people.”