by Tricia Jamieson
A former employee of tragic hairdresser Natalie Esack is opening a salon in her memory.
Natalie, 33, died from multiple stab wounds in the salon she owned and ran in Ashford High Street.
Now close friend and colleague Chelsea Ford is opening her own business in the town.
Chelsea, 18, is naming her salon after her former boss, who she said was her "very best friend who taught me everything".
The teenager was in the Esack Hair and Beauty salon when Natalie died in April.
"This is my tribute to Natalie," said Chelsea, who is being backed by her parents Michaela and Paul Ford in her new venture.
"Because of what happened, people will remember her for the wrong reasons when they should remember her for her hairdressing and for all the right reasons.
"I learned everything from her and I hope she would have been proud of what I am doing."
Floral tributes outside Esack hair and beauty where owner Natalie Esack was stabbed
The salon, called Nat'ural Hair, after Natalie, is in North Street, in premises formerly occupied by the Art Room.
The finishing touches are being put to the building and Chelsea hopes it will open on Saturday, November 3, with a champagne reception and special offers.
"i don't want people to forget her. she was my role model, my mentor, my best friend" – chelsea ford
Chelsea, who lives with her parents in Susans Hill, Woodchurch, started work for Natalie as a Saturday girl when still a pupil at Homewood School & Sixth Form Centre in Tenterden.
"I have only ever wanted to do hairdressing and did my work experience with Natalie when I was 14," she said.
"She then took me on as a Saturday girl until I left school when I went there as an apprentice.
"Natalie helped me so much and taught me everything. She was my best friend, despite the age difference which did not matter.
"We used to go shopping and go out together and were very alike. People called me mini-Natalie. My salon is like hers was ... so is the type of place I hope she would have liked."
Chelsea's mother said they had spoken to Natalie's family about the plans and hoped they would attend the opening.
Chelsea is fully qualified and will be joined in her salon by another former employee of Natalie's.
"I was in the salon on the day and it has affected me deeply," she said. "I have not been able to work since.
"I always dreamt of having my own salon but would never have left Natalie – it was me and her until the end. There is never a day goes by when I don’t think of her.
"I don't want people to forget her. She was my role model, my mentor, my best friend."
Mrs Ford, who with her husband has put around £20,000 into the business, said Chelsea could not have worked for anyone else.
"This is our way of helping her move forward," she said. "It has given her something to focus on."
Chelsea hopes former clients of her and Natalie will use the salon. To make a booking, phone 07739 751851.