As the Strangeways salon celebrates 20 years in business, owner Martyn Holmes reflects on the journey so far while looking ahead to new a chapter
To make it to 20 years in business is no mean feat. It takes grit, determination, and above all it requires a hardworking team to keep the dream alive. From a run in with a royal coat of arms to surviving a pandemic and coming out stronger, Strangeways has done it all – and then some. Described as a “unique mix of personality that yields energy, while bringing ‘edgy’ to the ordinary,” it is this ethos which has kept the salon just as current today as when it launched back in 2002.
Located in Leigh-On-Sea in Essex, the salon is a cocktail of old, new, quirky and individual. Everything about the space and the team who work there screams vibrancy, and this is apparent from the moment salon owner Martyn starts the conversation. “I suppose 20 years is a long time!” he exclaims when congratulated over the phone.
With so much to reflect on, it’s immediately obvious how much Martyn has learnt from his time leading the helm at Strangeways. “People management is so important. As I’ve matured, so has the way I think,” he explains. “I’m an Essex boy through and through – I think quickly, deal with things quickly, and sometimes quite abruptly. But over the years I’ve learnt that there’s different ways to approach people and different ways to inspire people, because everyone is different.”
Members of the team at the anniversary party
It’s this approach which has seen the team dynamic thrive at Strangeways, with both the salon and its individual team members collecting many awards on a regional and national level. Most recently, Martyn was on stage for the Most Wanted Awards to collect the award for Education Expert with the Lee Stafford Education Foundation team. Others, such as colourist Sam Arnold, are part of the Wella GenNow Team for 2022, have finalised for the Wella TrendVision Award in previous years or been heavily involved with The Fellowship initiatives.
Always one to champion his team, Martyn is a firm believer that in order for a salon to grow, each of the individuals who work there should also be able to grow – both in and out of the salon. “My aim as a boss is to inspire all my team, and stretch their creative ability,” he says. “I want to give them opportunities to explore the many diverse avenues that hairdressing has to offer. They could be a hairdresser that is a session stylist, or they could work in television, or become an educator.”
With so much to shout about, it’s no wonder that the anniversary celebrations this year included a massive party in the summer, which lasted well into the early hours of the morning. After the past two years, Martyn felt it was more important than ever to bring together friends, family, and people from the wider area. “It’s giving back to the community because we invited all the local businesses. It was such a success that we’ve decided we’re going to have a Strangeways summer party every year! I think it’s a good way to give back to the clients, and just an excuse for a party,” he adds with a laugh.
While two decades in business has seen some massive highs for Strangeways, Martyn is the first to admit that there has been lows too. When the salon first opened, he says it was a “total blank canvas.” Though brilliant for really making the space their own, a year down the line the salon flooded because pipes hadn’t been soldered together properly when it was first renovated. “We had to shut the shop for at least three weeks as the whole floor came up – it was solid walnut, £17,000 flooring!”
Another instance involved a run in with the Royal Family over the Strangeways logo. Inspired by the royal crest, Martyn had hired a designer to create their own crest, with the use of barbed wire to symbolise the inspiration behind the salon name, which came from a prison in Manchester. Despite being told it was unique, five years later the legal team for the Royal Family were in touch as it was identical to the royal crest after all.
Hundreds of pounds, a new design and one iron sign later, Martyn had to send photographic evidence to Buckingham Palace to confirm changes had been made. “It’s funny now, but at the time it really annoyed me. I do have the letter from Buckingham Palace framed on the wall!” Reflecting on those moments, he says: “we all get knocked down. But like Chumbawamba said, I’ll get knocked down, but I’ll get back up again!”
Behind the scenes of the latest collection shoot
It’s this unwavering determination which has carried through all that Martyn does, including laying the foundations for the future of Strangeways. “Its time to let the younger staff lead the way because they are the future. I’ve had my time, and I was the future once but I’m not anymore. But I can be the man behind these guys; centralising them, giving them the tools and the education.” With two new directors – Laura Munday and Hannah Stoneham – leading the way, Martyn is more confident than ever that the future is bright. “They want to move the business forward, by doing more collections and being featured in publications like the Creative HEAD Christmas issue.”
So, what does Martyn think is the key to long-term success as a salon owner? “Running a business means you need to be a good all-rounder. You need to be be passionate, committed, and to arm yourself with knowledge through education,” he states. “I believe that education is the backbone to a successful career or successful business, because you never stop learning.” He adds: “Concentrate on doing something you enjoy, and then money will follow you. I’m richer than many friends outside of the industry, because I wake up in the morning excited to get up. If you chase money, you’ll never catch it. ”
Aside from the drive to do what he loves, Martyn also emphasises the importance of compassion. “Be compassionate; put out positive vibes. And deal with things as they happen,” he says. It’s this ending message which serves as a reminder to all business owners and managers – you are not alone. “If you’ve got a problem, share it. If you don’t know the answer, ask someone that might do. Don’t be scared to ask for help.”