Business Builder – Matthew Sutcliffe

by | 28 Jun 2021

Matthew Sutcliffe had a bold new vision for how hairdressers want to work in the future. A concept that retained the key education and growth of new stylists, while still allowing that desire for freedom and freelance life… So he created Tint, in Leeds, a salon structure which married the two.

The hybrid salon model just celebrated it’s 4th birthday, but Matthew’s mission is just beginning, with a new guest artist role with L’Oréal Professionnel Paris and big dreams of expansion.

Like any new business, it’s all about finding a gap in the market. There is a need for freelancers at the moment but, going forward, the problem is where these new freelancers that are coming through are going to be trained. If salons shift to a freelance model, where does that training come from? We realised that we needed to create a culture of education, where we’re bringing new stylists through like a traditional salon, while also offering freelancers a space. It creates a unique dynamic.

My business partner Zak and I have both worked as self-employed and fully employed, and we know there’s a need for a bit of both in life. When we worked in a fully employed salon model, everybody reached a certain level and began to get twitchy because they couldn’t earn any more, due to various factors like VAT. It meant there was no power behind your earning potential. But as a freelancer you often feel that you’re out of the loop. People do what they already know, and they might not change or develop further for years.

We’re trying to capture the people before they decide to go freelance; to create a salon where freelancers can work and still progress as individuals, as well as still being able to train hairdressers so that they can do everything else that they want to do in their career. We offer this set-up to resolve a second career path further down the line.

Trainees start with us at Tint, earning a salary. They become qualified, as graduate stylists, and work on their practice. With time, when it gets to a point where they feel confident enough to be a freelance business, then they take the reins of it. But we need to make sure these stylists come through with a solid level of education, that they have what they need to become a freelancer; to have a good clientele and to be able to earn. What we don’t want is to just train people up and say ‘right, you’re a freelancer now, you can do what you want.’ We’re making sure we’ve got all these boxes ticked.

Images: TINT

Going forward, we’d like to think that we’re creating a fleet of freelance hairdressers that are all trained at Tint. That we’ve created a new ethos of freelance hairdressers. I’m invested in this business model from a business point of view as well… it works. We’d like to have a few different salons, with the graduate stylists within them all employed, all from Tint’s education programme – a proper career programme – and then the rest of them will be freelancers. We know that one day everyone wants to become a freelancer because of the earning potential, so we want to capture them before they do that. The graduate stylists grow, and the freelance stylists keep the energy going, they keep the salon busy – they’re so busy because it’s it really is sort of limitless in what they can earn.

Everybody works together. When Zak and I worked in the freelance salon… you can feel really isolated. It was all about you and your own brand, and everybody was in competition with each other, so we are constantly pulling the team back together and making sure that everyone’s looking out for each other. Not even necessarily in a managing way, but as team leaders, trying to encourage the younger ones. This week alone we’ve had three birthdays and three caterpillar cakes – we’re doing stuff like that all the time. It helps the freelancers to feel like they’ve got support around them as well.


We’ve taken all the best things out of our experiences. Take colour – when I was freelance, everyone was just using everything, every and any brand because the salon itself didn’t house any colours. So if a client came in and unexpectedly wanted pink hair it could be a bit panic-inducing if you didn’t have something with you, trying to make pink out of 15 different tubes at the back. We just want to be able to put out quality work, that’s what it all comes down to, which comes down to having the right products in the salon.

Images: Tint’s first collection

We have quite a unique system; we stock the full range of L’Oréal Professionnel Paris and another colour brand. Whenever anybody wants a product you just go to the computer, scan it under your name and you get a cost-price bill for it. This way our stylists all have the confidence that any colour that they might need will be in stock. It also helps us to build a great relationship with the brands, and is ideal for marketing ourselves to freelancers; they know they won’t have any problems with colour here. They see that as an advantage of working at Tint.

We use the salon as an event space as well, so we work quite a lot with like local artists. We’ve teamed up with Chloé Mead, an illustrator, who does these really cool illustrations of hair, for a new exhibition starting in July.

SELF/STYLED Sunday was my first livestream education for L’Oréal Professionnel Paris – there’s extra weight to it when you work for a big brand like that, and you want to make sure you’re doing a good job. I’m so glad they invited me to become a guest artist for them, designing courses and education.

I’m running a course on L’Oréal Access called Find Your Niche. It’s a cutting course that taps into the same vibe as the Masterclass for SELF/STYLED Sunday. I’ve talked a lot about how I want to find the balance between colour and cut… we see a lot of colour on long hair, so I’m trying to work out different ways that we can incorporate colours on short haircuts. If – or rather when – haircuts come back in a big way, I want stylists to feel ready and fully armed to be able to offer something new. It’s all about provoking thoughts, that’s how I like to educate.

Image: Matthew’s creations for SELF/STYLED Sunday for L’Oréal Professionnel Paris

Break out of your box and discover L’Oréal Professionnel Paris’ extensive  education options. From Matthew’s Find Your Niche course, to colour advice for all levels, and insight into L’Oréal’s game-changing innovations such as Metal Detox, there’s always something new to discover.

Visit or for more information.

Set yourself apart with more SELF/RESPECT content >> 

Sign up for FREE access to the Salon Smart HUB

Creative HEAD on Instagram