Here at Salons Direct, we love hearing success stories from hair stylists and beauticians finding their place in the industry. Alex Ferris, founder and owner of AF Hair Extensions is the perfect example of this! Building her business up from scratch, Alex has not only won a British Hair and Beauty Award, but also has a stunning salon to call her own.
We spoke to Alex for this month’s edition of Salon Design of the Month to find out more…
How did AF Hair Extensions begin?
During the 16 years I spent as a hair stylist and working in various different salons, although I enjoyed cutting and hair colouring, I never quite felt fulfilled and I didn’t feel I was reaching my potential and gaining maximum job satisfaction. I studied at Bradford College achieving my NVQ Level 2 & 3 and also an NVQ Level 2 in Beauty therapy/nails.
Having worn hair extensions myself for the past 20 years, I began to think this was a string i could add to my bow. My first step was to enrol in a hair extension course.
I will never forget the look on my model’s face after I had fitted her a full head of extensions! It was such a rewarding feeling and sense of achievement seeing how happy I had made someone else feel about themselves. I instantly knew this was the path I wanted to take to develop my skill set as it is something I am genuinely interested in and passionate about.
However, there was a huge obstacle in my way. I have suffered from a very young age with mental health issues in the form of Anxiety, Depression, Agoraphobia, OCD and severe panic attacks. This often led to me having to leave the salon I was currently working at as I would feel the need to go home and be in my own environment. It was this that made me realise if I wanted to make this a success my best option would be to set up a salon from home where I could feel safe and comfortable in my surroundings and work independently.
I had no idea how rapidly my business would grow and the client feedback I was receiving was really overwhelming. I became so busy with extensions that I made the decision to phase out cut and colours to focus solely on extensions.
After 6 years working from home and building my business I decided to enter a competition and put myself forward for the British Hair and Beauty awards – never in my wildest dreams did I expect to win gold in my region! I then went on to win the National Award for Hair Extension Specialist of the Year.
After receiving this award and recognition for my work I felt on top of the world and it gave me the confidence to believe in myself and that anything is possible if you work hard at it. I was now ready to take the next step and move my business to a bigger premises, as I had outgrown my little safe haven at home. On the 11th July 2019 i received the keys for my new salon. This was a day I had only ever dreamed of but I had made it a reality.
How did you decide on the aesthetics of the salon?
I have always been creative and had a keen interest in interior design. I like simplicity, clean lines and freshness. After building up trust and good friendships with many of my clients, having open and honest discussions about my struggles, it was surprising how many others suffer in the same way. Coming to my home for their treatments had made them feel reassured and they liked the privacy aspect.
With this in mind it was imperative that my salon felt relaxing, comfortable, private and safe for both myself and my clients, having that home-from-home feeling. Green is my favourite colour so I wanted to incorporate this in the colour scheme, adding gold for a touch of luxury and of course pastel pink for femininity. My aim was to bring some outdoors inside, adding lots of greenery to complement the interior.
How do you stand out from your competitors?
I pride myself on being a perfectionist. I am creative, honest, funny and dedicated. If there was ever a time to turn a negative into a positive it’s now. With me having OCD this has proved to be a help rather than a hindrance in terms of my precision with sectioning and placement.
I keep my social media up to date, always posting pictures of my work, not just the finished result. I also capture different stages of the process to showcase my standard of work.
How do you think social media has influenced our industry?
Whilst I do feel that social media has its down side in many ways, it can also have a positive influence as well. For me, personally, it has helped me reach a wider audience. I’ve gained clients from Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, York and even as far as London. It enables clients to post selfies, give shout outs, collaborations and it’s a platform to have an online portfolio.
How do you keep up to date with the latest industry trends?
I continually reinvest my time and money by attending new courses to keep my work and techniques current. My desire to learn and be the best never dwindles; I just love learning everything there is to know.
What do you think makes a successful salon?
Balance is key between running a successful business and making clients feel welcome. I believe that you need to be friendly, approachable, honest and accommodating. I like to have fun with my clients which helps build rapport and friendships. I have extremely high expectations of myself which enables my clients to have trust in my work.
At the same time I have boundaries and rules in place that apply to all clients equally: eg: cancellation policy, consultation forms, skin tests and I have educated my clients so they are all aware of my work ethic and we have a mutual respect and understanding of one another. I believe this is the key foundation to making your business a great success.
What advice can you give others wanting to open a salon?
Build up a good clientele before even considering opening a salon. Be prepared for every eventuality, as setting up is not an easy ride. Plan what you’re wanting to do with the space, set a budget, have a contingency plan should anything go wrong. If you have a budget, be prepared as you will most likely go over it. Shop around for the best prices. Expect to put a lot of hours and effort in, blood, sweat and tears!
If you feel you are ready to take the plunge and want to open your own salon….DO IT! Be brave, be courageous and always believe in yourself. If I can do it, anyone can do it.
A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true!
What are your favourite products and tools to use in the salon?
I also couldn’t manage without my REM trolley I also bought from Salons Direct as it’s so useful with loads of drawers and compartments. It’s super easy to move around while I’m working round the client’s head.
Then there’s my REM Zodiac Reception Desk which is so stylish, contemporary and sleek with an LED light going all the way around it. It compliments the salon perfectly and has a big lockable cupboard and plenty of shelf space underneath. I just added my own little touch to it by getting my logo made and literally just sticking it on to make it unique to me.
What can we expect from you in 2020 and beyond?
To maintain a high level of customer service. I will be entering more hair extension competitions and hopefully winning more awards, plus focusing on hair loss and treatments for clients suffering from alopecia, trichotillomania and clients who have had chemotherapy treatment.
I have recently welcomed to my salon the very talented Magda who I have known for 10 years. Magda works to an extremely high standard offering eyelash extensions and semi-permanent makeup.
The other exciting news is that we will shortly be welcoming an aesthetics doctor to the salon who will be running a clinic on a monthly basis.
Love Alex Ferris’ gorgeous salon design? Shop salon furniture with Salons Direct to create your perfect salon today!
Don’t forget to keep coming back to the Salons Direct blog for more Salon Design of the Month features!