Everyone in the salon industry has had it tough this year. But, what would you do if your plans to open your brand new salon were almost scuppered by the events of 2020?
This is where Robbie Woodhead, the owner of the stunning Black House Salon found himself. But, despite the challenges, the doors are open and the interirs are as beautiful as you could have hoped.
Find our how he made it happen in this month’s Salon Design of the Month…
How did Black House Salon begin?
Black house was born from the desire to do better for the environment, my town and from my own commitment to education.
I wanted Black House to be a multi use space, the salon has been designed to be easily stripped back for educational events. We have a large floor space for look and learn events.
How did you decide upon the aesthetic of the salon?
I am a lover of all aspects of design, particularly interiors. When I found the premises, I instantly knew what I wanted to do. It was a huge empty space but the scope for expressing my creative vision felt really exciting.
I needed to “break up” the space while maintaining the light and spacious feel.
I started out as a barber, I still do a lot of gents hair. I would say my client base is almost 50/50. So, I designed a space that is both male and female friendly. The design is intended to be gender neutral yet contemporary with an industrial twist.
Although I wanted the salon to be appealing to my own clientele, I was also very aware that the majority of stylists I would be working with would be female with a predominantly female client base. For this reason, I chose to go with a muted pink, black and white colour scheme, white marble floors to give a real luxury feel and concrete furniture throughout to add an industrial feel. Real concrete was my ideal choice, but once I researched the environmental impact of concrete I decided to commission a local furniture maker (GRAY Furniture Makers) to design and make the reception desk and styling sections.
How do you stand out from your competitors?
I believe that to really stand out from the crowd, it isn’t enough to just do one thing well. For a salon to truly capture the attention of the public in such a saturated market you must be visually stunning and welcoming, while offering the best of the best.
This is why I chose to avoid the temptation to be a brand affiliated salon. I feel that no one particular brand or colour house quite has enough diversity in its range to cover the needs of all of our clients. For me, client inclusivity will always trump brand affiliation. I have also encouraged the stylists who work within the salon to be specialists in their favoured area of hairdressing as this really niches down on their skill set and attracts their ideal clients.
We have placed sustainability at the core of our business too, and we are constantly looking for new and innovative ways of reducing our carbon footprint and environmental impact. A few steps we have taken are to source a waste disposal company who recycle the maximum amount of salon waste possible. I have also dispensed with the traditional magazines in favour of the new digi-mags format which is also great given the current climate and minimises touch and helps stop the spread of Covid-19. We use Scrummi towels and gowns which are all 100% bio-degradable and I even managed to source disposable coffee cups which were sustainable, as I found that most of them had a plastic lining which defeated the point of their disposable nature in my eyes.
How do you think social media has influenced our industry?
Social media has definitely influenced our industry. I used social media to look outside of our industry at record shop, hotel and bar interior for inspiration.
Social media is an amazing tool to entice your audience in the lead up to your opening day.
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My good friend and social media coach, Vivienne Johns helped me come up with a social media strategy to gradually reveal the salon to create excitement and a buzz. Social media is probably the most powerful marketing tool that our industry has ever been able to utilise and the best thing about it is it’s free.
It’s like anything in life though, there are no short cuts, you get out what you put in. By understanding your ideal client you can aim your attentions at the most suitable social media platform for your demographic. It’s really a game changer and the possibilities are seemingly limitless.
How do you keep up to date with the latest industry trends?
Being an educator, as well as a stylist, I understand the need to have your finger on the pulse of our industry. I am lucky enough to have a close network of other educators who I can contact to pick their brains regarding new trends and techniques.
The people who have been amazing inspirations to me can’t go without mention. Vivienne Johns, Emma Fowler, Kelly Furnival and Sarah Love are all great friends of mine and amazing educators in their respective areas of our industry. Being able to pick up the phone and chat to them all has been a great help to me. We all have very different skill sets so being able to bounce ideas and have that support has been an amazing help for me.
I think that Facebook is a great tool to use to have conversations with other industry professionals through the various groups that are focussed on supporting our hairdressers. Instagram is also great for inspiration, especially for pictures. Instagram has also made remote consultations with clients so much easier.
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What do you think makes a successful salon?
This is a tough question because it all depends how you define success. To me, success isn’t a balance sheet or followers on Instagram. Success is a feeling that’s intangible that both the clients and the staff get when they come to the salon. I have always believed that if you look after your staff, they will look after the clients. Once you have happy staff, happy clients and a vibrant positive environment, all the other things such as sales revenue and client retention can follow.
I’m not naïve though. I constantly have my eye on the numbers, but that is not my primary focus. The business ethos and brand values must always come first. Right now, success for me is seeing a vision come to life. Ask me again in twelve months because as we grow, we will adapt, and as the business adapts, my definition of success will no doubt be slightly different.
What advice can you give to others wanting to open a salon?
Well, I wouldn’t advise doing it in the middle of a global pandemic if you can avoid it! That’s where I found myself; half way through the salon build process, all work had to stop and all my plans had to change suddenly.
One thing that was consistent throughout that I would advise anyone who is planning on opening a salon to do, is to create a structured and concise business plan. Set a realistic budget and try at every step to stick to it. Its really hard to set your budget because you will normally have your dream salon in your head, but you only have the money you have to work with. If you only have £20,000 then don’t be unrealistic with your expectations. Make sure you have a viable business to open and work your way towards your ideal salon over time.
I would also advise people to invest heavily in the areas of your salon that will generate revenue, such as your choice of product brand and training for your staff.
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What are some of your favourite products and tools to use in the salon?
In the salon we LOVE Framar foils. They are just another level and all the stylists love the grip and ease of use of the pop up foils. We have recently purchased the Gamma iQ Perfetto hair dryers for all the stylists and they are amazing. They are as light as an iPhone so even the longest, thickest hair doesn’t feel like a chose to dry anymore.
What can we expect from you in 2020 and beyond?
2020 has been a tough year to open a salon but we have had an amazing first quarter thanks to the team and the clients. This year is all about developing a salon ethos while dealing with the current global situation.
We are finalists in the Salon Awards new or refurbished salon of the year category which we are really excited about, but you can expect us to be entering many more awards while continuing to grow and develop as a team.
We are all really excited about the future. We have a beautiful space which has the potential for more styling sections. I also am personally looking forward to restarting my live education sessions in short cutting within the salon. This has been delayed unfortunately but 2021 will be an amazing year for my education brand, Black House Education.