Five Great Moves If You’re A Hair Business Owner

Five Great Moves If You’re A Hair Business Owner


These were the big ‘must-dos’ that emerged from Salon Smart 2024.

The hairdressing landscape is complex and challenging, so it’s more important than ever for business owners to be pro-active and strategic. Here are the best ideas for thoughtful decision-making to come out of Creative HEAD’s networking event for salon and barbershop owners, Salon Smart 2024.

Massarella & Jones

1. Get collaborating.

Business collaborations can bring lots of benefits: they help build relationships, generate ideas and create new opportunities. When Jordan Massarella and Ben Jones opened their new Massarella & Jones premises in Leamington Spa, they made it a priority to develop relationships with local businesses that operate exclusively online. A collaboration with a local florist not only ensures the reception area always has stunning flower arrangements, the blooms are also available for clients to purchase; a collection of books on the coffee table includes works by local authors, giving clients the chance to discover new literary talent. Says Ben: “Our salon operates as a shopfront for these businesses, giving them useful exposure, and we gain brand awareness through their social media followings that target a similar local demographic to our own, which in turn brings new clients through the door.”

Chris Foster

2. Recruit a chatbot.

Yes, we know, AI feels very Brave New World, but it is revolutionising the way businesses interact with their customers, and salons should grab a slice of that action, argues professional profile-builder (and men’s hair specialist) Chris Foster. AI-powered chatbots can be programmed to do anything from handle queries to offer personalised advice, using natural language processing and machine learning to communicate with customers in real time. “What if you had a retail bot in your business, just retailing? While you’re talking to your client about Love Island, she can interact with the bar code by her chair, which is recommending her products, showing her how they’re to be used, she puts them in the basket and picks them up at your till. A well-trained bot is an asset to any business,” he said.

Sam Cusick

3. Don’t be afraid to delegate.

As a business owner you’re probably attempting to do the work of five full-time jobs. Keep hold of the parts where you know you bring value but ensure people with different strengths take care of the rest. As serial entrepreneur Samantha Cusick stated: “In order to grow, you need to take steps to work on your business, not in it. That includes delegating tasks, so that you can create the time you need to work on your plans.”

And after years of being told not to put the salon assistant in charge of Twitter, Instagram et al (something about compromising the ‘authentic tone of voice,’ we seem to recall) it turns out even social media is fair game for delegation. Says Ben Lifton, social media expert of Content Kweens: “I thought my socials had to be all about me, but I learned the hard way that’s not the case. I hired someone to help me with content creation and they shone a light on so many holes in my existing business and so many new avenues I could explore. Delegation is important!”

Mark Ronayne

4. Ensure you’re compliant on tipping

Are you familiar with the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act 2023? (Err, hello, what?). It’s a piece of legislation – expected to be introduced on July 1 this year – that creates a legal obligation on employers across all sectors (including hairdressing) to allocate all tips, gratuities and service charges which they are paid or which they exercise control or significant influence over to workers, without any deductions. It also requires employers to ensure that the distribution of qualifying tips between workers is fair.

The legislation and draft code concern what is called ‘Employer-received tips’, which involve tips paid by a consumer and subsequently allocated and distributed to workers by the employer. For example, a client pays a tip via card payment made into the employer’s bank account before being distributed to the workers.

This is different to ‘Employee-received tips’, whereby the employer has no control over how the tips are distributed. For example, if a client pays one of your team members a cash tip that the team member is entitled to keep for themselves. Employee-received tips are not covered by the legislation.

With the aim of promoting fairness, the new legislation places great weight on an employer’s duty to be transparent when it comes to tips and how they are allocated and distributed. To ensure transparency, employers will be required to:

• Have a written policy in place for how tips are dealt with at their place of work: This policy must be made available to all employees and agency workers.

• Consult with workers to seek a broad agreement that the allocation of tips is fair, reasonable and clear. As above, factors determining the allocation of tips must be included in the written policy.​​​​

• Keep a record of tips received and distributed to each employee for three years from the date of the tip: All records need to be kept for three years from the date that the tip or service charge is made by a consumer.

• A worker has the right to make a written request (limited to one request per worker in one three-month period) to view the tipping record for a period dating back three years. If a request is made, the employer must provide:

The individual’s tipping record; the total amount of qualifying tips received by the employer (i.e. Employer-received tips); and the amount of tips paid to that specific individual (tipping records of other individuals must not be disclosed as part of this process).

(Luckily for customers of salon software Phorest, as Salon Smart presenter Mark Ronayne confirmed, there’s a free update that ensures your customers can still tip, and you will stay compliant. For more info visit

Maddi Cook

5. Be confident with your pricing.

It’s common knowledge that the hairdressing industry can be guilty of discounting (let’s face it, discounts are easy to give away). And yes, they can be a great way to promote your business, bring new customers and turn existing ones into loyal clients but discounts can play havoc with your profit. So is there another way?

“Please put your prices up, guys,” says Boss Your Salon boss Maddi Cook, who once surveyed 20,000 hair pros on how they set their current prices to discover that 80% either copied their competitors or guessed. “The prices you charge need to be tailored to you and your business. You will have your own household income, number of kids, amount of debt and mortgage interest – and that’s what make your goals so specific to you. There are so many moving parts. So your pricing has to be really personalised to you and based on your goals. And actually, when you learn to articulate the value of what you do – the incredible hair you create, the services you offer – pricing becomes less and less relevant. And that is one of the easiest ways to soften the blow for any price increase is to lean into that and learn how to articulate what you do.”

Meanwhile, Danny Coles of colour management system Vish says salon owners need to start looking at the cost of product, in order to price services more accurately and profitably. Other industries charge for every bit of product, he argued, whether that’s ordering an extra ‘side’ in a restaurant or a refill in a wine bar – while salons often lose out by not understanding the numbers (a Vish survey of 2,400 salons showed that one in five colour services are non-profitable). “Learn from your local garage,” said Danny. “They break down their invoice into parts and labour, and you need to start thinking that way too. Break down your services into time and product cost, price accordingly, and the profits will come.”


Embrace Tech, But Not At The Expense Of Human Connection

Embrace Tech, But Not At The Expense Of Human Connection


Tech is important to support your business, but the human connection is unique, enduring and vital.

Brian MacMillan, Justin Mackland, Josh Miller

First things first: Salon Smart 2024 was an absolute belter – packed with people and packed with new ideas for how best to run a hair business now. Tickets for Creative HEAD’s networking event for salon and barbershop owners and managers had sold out weeks in advance, so it was a lucky crowd of 200 first-past-the-post hair pros who descended on the Chain and Buoy Store in East London for a day of insight, learning and inspiration delivered by industry experts and innovators. And what did they learn?

With no less than 22 awesome presenters and panel members taking to the stage, the Salon Smart agenda was diverse and wide-ranging. But as the day played out, some key themes emerged:

• It is vital now to embrace technology within your business, whether that’s using best-in-class software for client bookings, stock management and marketing; creating AI bots to tackle specific areas like retail or staff training; or harnessing the power of social media to find new clients (let’s face it, social media is the only place young humans are looking for a hairstylist nowadays). Tech is not only changing the game in-salon, it’s something your clients expect to experience within their salon visit, too.

• However, whizzy tech should not come at the cost of human connection. We heard a lot about the powerful role hairdressers play in the lives of their clients beyond a cut and blow-dry, whether that’s as an advisor, a listening ear or as a business within the community that’s genuinely making a difference. (Most Wanted Best Local Salon 2023 winner Alison McRitchie, owner of The Head Gardener in Inverness, delivered an incredibly moving showcase of the work she does at the Highland Hospice, where she provides joy and happiness to terminally ill cancer patients.) This human connection is unique and valuable and should lie at the heart of your business long into the future.

• Your client base will change dramatically over the coming years. According to keynote speaker Monica Teodoro, general manager of education and professional development at L’Oréal Professional Products, by 2035 your clients will be older, more male, even more urban, more ethnically diverse and also more culturally and religiously diverse. “Whatever you did before will not be enough for tomorrow,” warned Monica, noting that businesses will need to invest in education, in order to stay one step ahead of new skills and trends as they emerge, and they will need to be significantly more diverse. This latter point was also made in compelling fashion by textured hair campaigner Winnie Awa, who revealed that only 1% of the UK’s 35,000 salons currently cater for textured hair clients. “We need to work harder to create an inclusive environment for the products we use and the services we offer,” she said.

• Don’t be afraid to delegate. As a business owner you’re probably attempting to do the work of five full-time jobs. Keep hold of the parts where you know you bring value but ensure people with different strengths take care of the rest. As serial entrepreneur Samantha Cusick stated: “Take steps to work on your business, not in it. That includes delegating tasks, in order to create the time you need to work on your plans.”


“Salon Smart is like a litmus test for what’s actually happening in salons right now – what’s working well, what’s going wrong. It’s an event that takes a vast amount of information from real business owners and distils it into clear, thought-through ideas that you can use to plan for the future.”

Catherine Handcock, publisher, Creative HEAD


Phillip Bell, Ishoka, Aberdeen

Winnie Awa

Jenni Gibb, Charlie Miller, Edinburgh

Monica Teodoro

Jenni Gibb, Charlie Miller, Edinburgh

Samantha Cusick

Jenni Gibb, Charlie Miller, Edinburgh

Alison McRitchie

And there was so much more to listen to and think about at Salon Smart 2024. In other highlights:

Jordan Massarella and Benjamin Jones shared the clever thinking behind their new Massarella+Jones salon in Leamington Spa, from their collaborations with local online-only businesses (“We give them a shopfront, while we benefit from their social media presence”) to how they created a homely and welcoming salon experience that fully reflects their personalities and brand ethos (the bespoke wallpaper, created by a local artist, features nods to the duo’s pets, agricultural upbringing and even their tattoos).

Mark Ronayne of salon software expert Phorest alerted the audience to upcoming new legislation surrounding tipping – primarily targeted at unscrupulous behaviour within the hospitality industry but also, coincidentally, impacting on hairdressing – and offered excellent advice on how to stay compliant (there was plenty of note-taking during this session!).

Staying with software, Danny Coles of colour management system Vish showed how salon owners need to start looking at the cost of product, in order to price services more accurately and profitably. Other industries charge for every bit of product, he argued, whether that’s ordering an extra ‘side’ in a restaurant or a refill in a wine bar, while salons often lose out by not understanding the numbers (a Vish survey of 2,400 salons showed that one in five colour services are non-profitable). “Learn from your local garage,” said Danny. “They break down their invoice into parts and labour, and you need to start thinking that way too.”

Phillip Bell, Ishoka, Aberdeen

Jordan Massarella and Benjamin Jones

Jenni Gibb, Charlie Miller, Edinburgh

Mark Ronayne

Jenni Gibb, Charlie Miller, Edinburgh

Danny Coles 

The Resilient Hairdresser, Hayley Jepson, offered tips on recognising and dealing with burn-out, a condition she believes is leading people to exit the industry. Juggling a business with family life (and the logistical overwhelm that can involve) and the exhaustion that comes with having to be “creative on demand” can lead to feelings of joylessness and resentment and the realisation that you don’t do anything for yourself anymore. Hayley’s advice? “I prescribe fun! Put your phone away, focus on your family, go out on date nights with your partner and make time for other creative outlets that are non-work related. If you’re going to look after clients, you’ve got to take care of yourself first.”

Delegates were fully immersed in the Salon Smart experience, with the opportunity to ask questions after every session, as well as taking part in on-the-spot polls about their business. A Working Lunch session also provided valuable contact with brands providing transformative business support and innovative products and services, including L’Oréal Professionnel Paris, Phorest, Vish, Beauty Works, Glowwa and Moroccanoil.

For a full report from Salon Smart 2024, read the April issue of Creative HEAD magazine. Register for your free copy here.





Profit, recruitment and mental health are all right up there!

When we start shaping the Salon Smart line-up, we look at the topics first – what are you, the Creative HEAD audience, telling us would benefit your businesses right now. Then we marry those topics with the perfect speakers to deliver actionable insight that could make a real difference, or perhaps inspire an unthought-of outlook. So, what will the 2024 event cover, here’s a look at five subjects hitting the stage… 

1. How to boost your profit 

It’s the number one, business 101, isn’t it? Making sure you’re making money? Well, Boss Your Salon owner, Maddi Cook, will be giving a masterclass in maximising on missed potential and divulging her top tips for topping up your profit in 2024. She’s helped over 15,000 professionals unlock business growth, putting over £30 million back into pockets of people just like you. 

Then this year we’ve also introduced a brand-new Profitability Partner in the form of Vish, who are all about reducing colour waste and increasing coin. They’ll be taking to the stage with some awesome advice. 

This isn’t just about conserving cash, but how to actively make more money – pretty pertinent in a financial crisis we think! 

2. Maintaining mental wellbeing 

A recurring concern across the industry has been prioritising wellbeing. Hayley Jepson, aka The Resilient Hairdresser will be deep diving into burnout and how it is a gateway to spiralling mental health, providing essential facts and tips to keep yourself and your team fighting fit.   

3. Navigating the recruitment crisis

Falling apprenticeship starts, a widening skills gap and unfilled vacancies ranked highly in hairdressing business owner worries, so Neil Maclean, owner of five Edinburgh salons and Charlie Collinge, director of six Collinge & Co salons, will come together to discuss how they find, train and retain young recruits and what that’s meant for their teams and approach.

4. Exploring untapped texture potential

From our reader survey to our most viewed articles, you continue to tell us that you want more access to education on textured hair. In 2023, Winnie Awa, founder of AI-driven platform Carra, unveiled its first Texture Gap report, drawing on millions of data to identify common concerns for the Type 4 hair community, along with their needs, and goals, to uncover opportunities to better serve them. Winnie will be joining us to provide insight and advice on the untapped potential in the textured hair market and how professional hairdressing businesses can provide what clients are currently missing.

5. New rules = New revenue

The shape of salons is shifting, could you be missing out on a new revenue stream? Following on from the launch of her multi-use space Stā Studio, Samantha Cusick will delve into the potential on offer when you dare to diversify your business offering.

Have we tickled your interest? Then head HERE to get your ticket to Salon Smart 2024 – spaces are limited! You can make a cheeky £20 saving on the ticket price if you sign-up to the Creative HEAD newsletter and if you do, you’ll also be in for some incredible content direct from our team, including a load of exclusives not seen anywhere else…

Salon Smart 2024 | Monday 18 March, 9.30am to 5.30pm | The Chain and Buoy Store, London






For salon owners and managers there’s nothing else like it.

Lots of business events inspire, but Salon Smart, Creative HEAD’s business networking event for salon and barber shop owners and managers, aims to do this and more. The speakers are peers – people who are navigating similar circumstances, the topics are targeted to hair professionals and what is impacting your businesses right now, and the advice is relatable, action driven in a way that could make a genuine difference to your goals.

Salon Smart will return to London on Monday 18 March 2024, with a packed one-day agenda. It provides the chance to get together to share real experiences, explore new ideas and discuss big topics. Whether you’re a start-up or long-standing brand, solo venture, or growing chain, coming along will be a great investment for future success.

Hear how to diversify your business and reap the rewards, zone in on mindfulness and better mental health and gain tips on making young talent an invested part of your team. Get the latest insight on building a social media strategy that delivers on business results, explore the untapped potential of the textured hair market and revisit the client connection, as we go beyond hair, delving into inclusivity, community and giving back.

Speakers include influential industry experts including Winnie Awa (Carra), Maddi Cook (Boss Your Salon) Samantha Cusick (Samantha Cusick London and Stā Studios), Chris Foster (The Profile Guy), Hayley Jepson (The Resilient Hairdresser), Neil Maclean (Neil Maclean Hair Studio), Jordan Massarella and Ben Jones (Massarella & Jones), Alison McRitchie (The Head Gardener), Tom Smith (hairstylist and trend forecaster) and so many more. Click for the full speaker line-up >

Every topic and session on the Salon Smart agenda is carefully selected to help you build a better business, and that extends to the brands supporting the event, too. In addition to opportunities throughout the day to network with your peers, you’ll also have the chance to connect with leading hairdressing and business brands – including L’Oréal Professionnel Paris, Phorest, Vish, Beauty Works, GLOWWA and Moroccanoil – to learn about transformative products and services and gain important market insight. Read more about the brands here >

A ticket to Salon Smart costs £95 plus VAT, which includes access to the full business agenda, a hot buffet lunch, refreshments breaks and a goody bag containing products and offers from our event partners. Better still, sign up to Creative HEAD emails and get a £20 discount on your first ticket.

Salon Smart 2024 | Monday 18 March, 9.30am to 5.30pm | The Chain and Buoy Store, London






“Hairdressers are stupid,” says educator Conor James Doyle

“Hairdressers are stupid,” was the provocative slide in educator and three-times L’Oréal Colour Trophy winner Conor James Doyle’s thrilling presentation at Salon Smart Dublin yesterday, on why education needs to be approached through the lens of our industry’s specific (but largely overlooked) needs. Neurodiversity, an overarching term for learning difficulties or differences, is prevalent amongst hairdressers, not only compounding some of the stigmas around our craft, but also resulting in various triggers that deter or hinder future learning and progression

Conor James’ informal study of 1,343 hairdressers revealed that more than 55 per cent had either been diagnosed with, or related to, a neurodiversity such as dyslexia, autism or ADHD. While this often led to negative experiences at school (51 per cent) and anxiety around learning (also 51 per cent), neurodiversity is also closely linked to strengths such as problem-solving, crisis management and creative thinking – skills that emphasise the advantages of diversity and which should be celebrated.

Conor James argues that awareness of the obstacles around teaching hairdressers with neurodiversity can actually create a better structure for learning. What’s key is an injection of dopamine into lessons (Conor James describes it as “rocket fuel for focus”) – lots of hands-on practical tasks coupled with regular breaks – plus a ‘safe space’ approach, where students are encouraged to ask questions and share ideas and teachers are not afraid to admit to making mistakes.

Conor James’ presentation included some clever practical demonstrations in how this collaborative approach can improve learning. The audience was presented with some memory tests. When invited simply to observe, the success rate was just 10 per cent, but it rose to 90 per cent when shared learning techniques were involved.

“If you’re paying £300 for a colour course, that’s the difference between getting £30 of value for money and £270,” said Conor James. “We need to take more time to familiarise ourselves with the hugely varied needs of our industry, and to create spaces for students to transition to ‘active contributors’ in their continued learning. Only then can we go back to the drawing board and generate new spaces to allow true collaborative learning to take place.”