IN what has been one of the hardest years of Ashlie Simpson’s life she has finally received recognition for her business.

The mother-of-two has been doing hair extensions for seven years and last year decided to make the leap to open up her own studio, having worked from home and rented chairs in the past.

Just after signing the lease to her studio in The Commercial Centre, Picket Piece, she found out she was pregnant and unfortunately at her 12-week scan was told that her son would be born with a rare defect.

After months of hospital visits and working on her business, Blend Hair Extensions and Training Academy, at the same time, Ashlie has now been announced as a finalist in the UK Hair and Beauty Awards.

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Andover Advertiser: Ashlie Simpson is a finalist in the UK Hair and Beauty AwardsShe said: “During my pregnancy I stayed positive and focused on starting my own training academy so I can teach others to do what I love and to also still be earning an income while off on maternity leave.

“Just before I was about to release my online courses my son was born unexpectedly two months early at 32 weeks via an emergency C-section in Winchester and then was whisked straight away down to Southampton, I didn't even get to see him until the next day.”

Ashlie’s son had two surgeries straight after he was born and had a long stay at the neonatal unit in Southampton, but she said that he is now ‘thriving’.

“During his NICU stay in Southampton I managed to keep my whole client base running - I was back behind the chair a week and a half after my C-section - and also released my courses as well as getting to and from Southampton every single day to be with my baby, which was hard but worth it as it meant after his five long weeks in the NICU all my time would be free to enjoy with him,” Ashlie said.

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“I've worked so hard over the last year and the recognition of being a finalist for the UK Hair and Beauty Awards has made me so incredibly proud of myself and where I've got to with my business and how I've managed to juggle everything over the last year.

“I love my job and I couldn't see myself ever doing anything else. I've never entered for an award before but when I look back over what I've handled over the last year and still smashed it, I think it's well deserved.”

The UK Hair and Beauty Awards community come together each year to celebrate the hair and beauty industry in style.

The winners will be announced at a glamorous awards evening on Saturday, June 1.