When your biggest failure becomes your greatest triumph

Meet Claudia Van Schalkwyk, successful business owner of Urban Beauty and founder and owner of the Urban Beauty Academy in Kuils River.


At a very young age Claudia and her family moved from Mitchell’s plain to Kuils River. Their father who was a taxi owner at the time, thought it was best for them to move because it wasn’t very safe to raise 4 young girls there.

The move wasn’t easy for Claudia because it was in a time when apartheid was still very rife. At that time, the railway line divided Kuils river into the two areas, the “coloured area” and the “white area”.

It was an adjustment for her because they were the first coloured family to move into Jacaranda street in Kuils river. And on top of all that she now had to attend De Kuilen High School who was a predominantly white school at the time.

Just imagine what it would have felt like being the only person of colour on school.

I cannot even begin to comprehend how much fear was going on inside of her but she was a woman of great strength and she kept on going. She decided to make a statement and took both English and Afrikaans as a first language. At that time if you took both languages as first languages you were thought of as clever.

In 1995, Claudia was matric and by now she has made a bit of a name for herself already. She was chosen to be a cheerleader at the interschool athletics and was chosen to be Miss Personality. She became very popular amongst her peers but it quickly dawned upon her that it was time to decide what she wanted to do with her life and reality started kicking in.

In that same year Claudia’s sister the Late Leony Sonja De wee opened up a hairdresser in her parents garage. Of course, Claudia jumped at the opportunity to help out because it meant she would get some extra money and she became the shampoo girl.


One day after washing one of the clients hair it dawned upon her that our eyebrows actually shape our face’s beautifully. Being the enthusiastic young women that she is, she started asking Leony’s clients if she could shape and clean their eyebrows for them. And just like that Claudia discovered her passion for beauty.

As the matric year slowly drew to an end, she started researching how much it would cost to go to beauty school and soon realised that her parents wouldn’t be able to afford it.

In 1995 the beauty industry was very expensive and not to mention that it was also predominantly white. She knew that there was no way she was going to beauty school but she didn’t let that stop her from getting what she wanted.

So we went to work at Spur in Kuils River. By that time she already started alienating herself from all of her friends, because she was too embarrassed to say that she couldn’t afford to go to college.

As time went by, Leony’s business started booming and because she had a good clientele it worked to Claudia’s advantage. So she started charging each client R5 to have their eyebrows done.

Claudia was determined to become a beauty therapist. She decided to do online courses on beauty and read day in and day out about beauty on the internet and in magazines. And on Saturday’s she tried out everything she learnt that week on her clients.

She quickly became very good at what she was doing so her late Dad built on a little beauty room for her inside her sister Leony’s salon.

Claudia became so hungry to experience the beauty industry so she decided to spread her wings and wanted to see what it would feel like to work in the “urban city”.

She went for her first interview and nailed it the first time round.

Knowing that she didn’t have a qualification in beauty at that time, she was determined to prove to the Salon Manager to let her do a treatment on one of the clients just to prove her worth and just like that she landed the job.

Getting an opportunity to work at a salon like this made her even more determined to become the top beauty therapist in the salon. She soon became the top therapist and then managed the salon for 5 years after that.

This was when she discovered her deep desire to open up her very own salon and she did so in Gardens, Cape Town. She named it, Bella Nova.

Claudia’s salon did so well that she was able to employ 4 permanent staff members within 3 months of her opening her business.

Sadly, due to fame and fortune, the wrong friends, drugs and alcohol, she lost her business.

Everything single thing that she had worked so hard for including the values her parents instilled in her went down the drain with it.

Angry and frustrated with herself for the decisions she has made in her life, she refused to accept the loss.

She was now more than ever, determined to start her business from scratch again.

So, she swallowed her pride and started taking on clients from home and soon started working from her home in town. Luckily for Claudia she had a good clientele and she was able to start over all over again.

She then decided to open up a beauty spa in the Waterfront and that is where she gave birth to the idea of opening up an academy and that was when she decided to move back home, back to Kuils River.

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Claudia with her students at the academy


This is Bridgette Van Rooyen, PR and Marketing Manager of Urban Beauty. She is Claudia’s sister.

Claudia Van Schalkwyk is a phenomenal woman. Her passion, drive and determination paved the way to help other young women who can’t afford to study beauty.

This women is not only saved, but she loves the Lord with all of her heart. She gives all the glory to God because were it not for him she would not be the person she is today. His grace and mercy carried her through all of her failures and successes in her life and for that she is entirely grateful.

Claudia would like to thank her husband, Emile Van Schalkwyk who has been with her for the past 21 years. He has literally been with her through all the highs and all the lows throughout her career. He is also her own personal handy man who builds all of her décor for her business from scratch. Claudia says she feels so blessed. She would also like to thank her 2 children for always giving her so much love and support and for always having so much patience with her.


This woman has proven that your circumstances do not define who you are.

In her lifetime, she has discovered that you are the maker and creator of your own destiny and it is up to you what you are going to do with it.

I hope that Claudia’s story inspires you today because if she can do it, then so can you.

Stay true to yourself


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2 thoughts on “When your biggest failure becomes your greatest triumph

  1. Adele Williams says:

    Remarkable story Claudia.
    All honour and glory to our Almighty who will carry your business.
    Your mom was always fond of her daughters and she spoke very proudly of you all. I met her at Leonys hairdresser when Leony was still in her early stages of her business. Was always nice talking to her.
    May God continue to bless you.
    Much love.

    Liked by 1 person

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