We’ve had a lovely catch-up with salon owner Brooke Evans, founder of BE Ironbridge. Brooke has a huge passion for balayage, straight lines and all thing creative. When she’s not in the salon, we can often find Brooke in London doing some kind of stage work or a photoshoot. We were really excited to find out about Brooke’s business values and what modern day salon work looks like to BE Ironbridge.
When did you open salon and why did you choose this location?
I opened the salon in December 19. I chose Ironbridge because I was looking for a destination salon and there wasn’t many in the area and this had been on the market for 20 years and it just so happened to be here in Ironbridge, a beautiful tourist destination, very pretty and people will travel here for the day.
How many members of staff do you have? Are the employed or self-employed?
I have 6 members of staff, all employed by me. There are many for and against self-employment and employment, but for me I wanted to build a brand and obviously with IR35 and everything else going on in the background, I just felt like in this way I could build a brand and repair some of that negativity towards salon owners, by treating staff with respect, giving them a life, 4 day a week, earning a decent wage. I think we sometimes get bad flack, so we are going against the grain.
Why is it important to you to employ your staff?
I think it is really important to me to continue a legacy. Obviously, I use to work for Tim Scott Wright and I had a great time there, so when I see people who haven’t had a good experience in employment that makes me quite sad. I feel like every person shouldn’t feel like they have to go self-employed and they shouldn’t be backed into a corner where that’s there only option. There are people out there, where employment is good and it’s a great option to have – paid holiday. My staff get so many perks and that was important to me to give back. I want a salon with good vibes only, and for my team to feel happy coming to work because you’re a long time working.
Did you have to change your business model during Covid?
Yes! We now do 36 hours over four days per week. That was a big change for me and the team. I would never go back, it’s a great balance for them. I get more out of them now than I did before. Even financially… how can you drop a day and still get more out of your team? It really works. We have now have weekly meetings every Friday and I ask for feedback as a boss and a business. I am by no means perfect, it keeps you humble and there’s always room for improvement and if my team can see something that I can’t then that needs addressing. We have meetings where they are completely open and honest as to where they see the brand going. That’s a driving force for both me and them.
How do you look after the team’s mental health and wellbeing?
Staff needs – 4 day a week definitely helped them. I have team members who are really interested in the industry, meaning they may have to go down to London and we still allow them to have two full days off. I think that’s really important. I treat my staff as much as possible, we go out for meals. In lockdown they got treat boxes and self cate boxes. And having a salon environment, where they can come and talk to me at any point is important, regardless of the topic. Whether it’s an in salon or out salon issue, whatever it is. Gone are the days that if it’s not happened in my salon then I don’t want to know… I want to know. I want to know that my team are ok, if I can help.
Why do you think the industry is suffering from a skills and recruitment crisis?
Big topic, a topic I love to debate. The whole suffering from skilled recruitment etc. I definitely feel like there’s a massive situation going on in the industry at the moment. I feel that people are leaving employment far to early and are not skilled enough, which means they then don’t open a salon and because they’re self-employed they don’t have any apprentices so they don’t educate. They can’t educate because their self-employed in a rented chair salon and that means that only salon owners can take on apprentices or its college based. And college education is not up to standard and therefore people are leaving college uneducated and into employment really under skilled and I think its crippling the industry.
I also think regulation is a massive part. I know we have never been regulated, but as an industry we should really be looking into it. If you’re in a salon that’s charging £8 for a cut, the skill set is going to be shocking, as no one can do that and earn a profit. This conversation should be an open topic and it should be something we’re talking about because it’s something will massively impact our industry if we don’t act now. And we should be charging our worth and shouting about that as well because we’re still deemed as the “thick” industry. You go into hairdressing if you’re not a skilled person, if you haven’t got your GCSEs. I don’t think its massively respected which has a massive impact on us.
As far as recruitment, obviously the norm social media, advertising etc. But I actually believe that if you post what you do in the salon, I post a lot about what we do as a team, if we’re going out, I just bought one of the girls some new converse for her birthday. If you’re respecting your team and you’re putting it out there, people want to work for you. I posted about what we do differently as a salon and it got so much love and we bullet pointed it to showcase to our clients and other people. Our clients loved that my team are being respected, looked after and educated. And then the word spreads, then they tell their friend who might have a son or daughter looking into hairdressing and there you go there’s your new apprentice.
For a modern day salon – I think they are wanting to be more of a part of life in the salon. We had a meeting recently and I said is there anything you’d change, if you were me? And they said they wanted more responsibility and that shocked me. We automatically think we are a young industry, young influential people working for me and I never expected them to say that and because they see that I am the person that does everything and they want to take responsibility to take some of the weight off my shoulders and I think that’s a really amazing thing for them to witness and want. I think they want more impact on where the brand goes. I am in the process of rebranding and they are so on board, they want something fun, they want to be creative and essentially they want the salon and our brand to showcase that, because they then post on social media. That’s a lovely thing for them to be a part of. Being a part of something special, forget the cults, forget working like a dog, but being part of something special is really important. I’ve been away from the salon, I know I can leave my team and they respect that place just as much as I do.
But they also want money, no question about it. Money is never spoken about, and we should be talking about it. None of my team are on minimum wage, they’re on good salaries. They’re on a commission structure. A commission structure encourages them to do all sorts, if they sell a product that goes on their commission. They don’t have to graft to earn, but it’s about them thinking, they work hard and therefore they’re paid well. My youngest staff members take home a really good wage for a 36 hour week. They earn more than I did when I was working 40 hour weeks, easy! I gave them a pay rise when fuel price increased. They have a fuel allowance, I don’t believe you should be penalised to get to work. I have one member of staff that travels an hour to work, so will cost her absolute fortune. The fuel allowance goes towards their wage and that means they don’t have to stress about that. Essentially, if I’m making money then I share it out.
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