Any hairdresser can do a cut and colour, but an award-winning Thorndon salon has turned the experience into an indulgence, gaining loyal customers.
Founded six years ago by Holly Cartmell, So You offers hair spa services where a customer will have a silk robe draped around their shoulders, and be given a glass of bubbly, a 20-minute head massage, and hair treatment.
Hairdressing in Wellington can be a small and competitive industry but Cartmell said people kept coming back for good service.
So You looks after its customers with small touches such as giving them a hot towel and hand cream while their hair is coloured, and offering free fringe trims in between appointments for regulars. "It's about building good relationships. Clients love to watch you grow as well.
"I have a lot of clients I've been doing for a very long time and I wouldn't be here without them."
Cartmell, who started working as a hairdresser at the age of 16, set out to establish So You in 2006, taking over the lease of a small shop in Tinakori Rd.
After eight months of hard work, she was able to hire a part-timer. The business has grown each year since and she now has a staff of four and has expanded the floor space by taking over an adjacent shop to create a 106-square-metre salon.
"When I started the business I basically just went on a bit of a whim, took a bit of a risk and just jumped in, gung ho, and didn't really think about it too much until I actually got in here and started it up," Cartmell said.
For the first four years she hired business coaches from hair industry experts Karen David - an organisation she is about to start consulting for as a coach herself, having come full circle from a small business starting out to an established salon.
"The coaches were just totally irreplaceable and that's probably where my passion for business got ignited. I knew what I wanted to do but they helped me figure out how to go about it, and told me the importance of having a business plan and a marketing plan."
At the 2012 Kitomba New Zealand Association of Registered Hairdressers Business Awards, So You was named overall winner.
Kitomba chief executive Tom Murphy said it was the best all-round entrant. "Nominated as a finalist in an impressive five categories and winner of Shock Consult Classic Salon of the Year, So You demonstrated outstanding business performance, strong growth in a mature business, consistent marketing and a clear workplace culture."
Cartmell said the award meant a lot to her, after being named a finalist for four consecutive years.
So You was rebranded this year with new signage. "Being in the industry for as long as I have, working on clients is always fun and you love it but you have to keep yourself motivated as a business owner as well. I'm one of those people who just keeps moving and is always thinking about what I want to do next."
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