Sharp idea scoops awards

JOHN ANTHONY
Last updated 08:01 03/12/2012
tdn dad stand
ANDY JACKSON
Rebecca Bruce, owner of Dads and Lads, won a Chamber of Commerce Business Award

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Capturing a strictly male market requires a different line of thinking, according to Dads and Lads Gentlemen's Barbers owner Rebecca Bruce.

In less than five years the Scottish expat took a United Kingdom barber concept, transplanted it into New Plymouth's the Richmond Centre, and created one of the busiest barbers in Taranaki.

Bruce's success was recognised in spades at the 2012 Westpac Taranaki Chamber of Business Awards in November.

Dads and Lads Gentlemen's Barbers took out the Brand, Marketing, Design and Technology Excellence Award, the Employer of Choice Excellence Award and the Medium Business Excellence Award.

The men's only barber had targeted its market by thinking laterally, she said.

"You've got to think outside the box sometimes with men."

For Dads and Lads that included such tricks as offering cut throat shaves, automotive themed male beauty therapy and driving a "blinged out" branded Toyota Hilux ute.

"You've got to put something out there which gets their attention," she said.

Bruce said the employer of choice award meant the most because she had worked extremely hard on getting the right procedures and systems in place, she said.

Her employees were disappointed they didn't get to meet the Chamber of Commerce judging team this year because the process was "dragons den" style.

So Dads and Lads staff did something about it and wrote references about Bruce for the judges.

Bruce largely attributed Dads and Lads' success to her employees, saying she only hired staff with great charisma and customer skills.

"You can teach anyone how to cut good hair but you can't teach someone to be a people person."

Bruce, 31, started working as a barber in Scotland when she was 15 years old.

"I've only ever cut mens hair."

In the United Kingdom men's barbers were big businesses with high staff numbers, she said.

Bruce opened Dads and Lads because she felt there was a need for barbers in New Zealand which were exclusively for men.

"I felt if it works in the UK then it'll work here."

Little did she know how popular the concept would be in New Zealand.

"I didn't expect to take off so quickly and become so big."

She knew the business had a good year but didn't expect it to take out three awards.

She was up on stage so often she regretted not preparing an acceptance speech, she said.

"It was just unbelievable. I wish I had written a speech because I felt a bit silly standing up there."

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Each year of entering the awards Bruce had taken on board the judges' feedback and tried to improve on areas identified, she said.

The Dads and Lads concept had proven so successful it was now being turned into a franchise, she said.

"So we're hoping to see our brand all over New Zealand."

A second Dads and Lads had already opened in Stratford to see if it would work and so far so good, she said. A fully-fledged franchise could take time because the manuals alone took years to develop, she said.

- Taranaki Daily News

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