Grooming hair for a great look is one thing, but grooming young people for a great future quite another.
For the past 23 years, Picton woman Rochelle Stevenson has been using her Beyond the Fringe hair salons to do both.
"I love employing the rough diamonds I see the potential in. They remind me of myself really."
Her desire to "buck the boundaries" resulted in her being asked to leave school at the age of 15, and joining her mother, big sister and cousins in their profession as hairdressers.
Thirty-three years later, her three Marlborough salons employ 18 staff, train around six apprentices at any one time, and are held up as exemplary employers.
Miss Stevenson did an apprenticeship straight out of school, travelled with her trade, then returned to Picton and set up her first salon in 1989, aged just 25, followed by one in Blenheim in 1999 and another in Redwoodtown in 2009.
"I never thought I'd have three of them. Two was always a plan," she says, explaining that the last location grew out of a cream bun purchase at the Redwoodtown Bakery with her children.
An empty shop got her thinking, and, within a few months, it was a gleaming hair salon.
Where once upon a time she spent six-plus days on the floor, these days she has just two, working in Picton and training apprentices, with the rest taken up with business matters.
"I love doing people's hair. And I still do weddings. I love weddings."
Hairdressing is a tough industry and her success has been down to passion and determination, as well as a partner who gave up work to care for their three children so she could expand, she says.
The president of the Nelson Marlborough Hairdressing Association says another key to success is in giving back to the industry.
One way she does that is in taking on her rough diamonds - "the kids that need a second chance" - over the years.
"I get a real buzz out of watching them grow, watching them qualify and watching them move on overseas, knowing they have a trade behind them."
Her passion for helping her staff has not gone unrecognised, and Beyond the Fringe is a finalist in the Telecom Employer of Choice Award at this month's National Kitomba NZARH Awards.
When it comes to keeping up with trends over a three-decade career, she says the trick is in knowing that everything comes around again.
"You don't reinvent the wheel, you just change it slightly."
The winners of the business awards will be announced at a gala dinner on November 16.
- The Marlborough Express
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