Our 5 Year Story - Part 1
Opening our doors, the team and our first award wins.
Recently, Samantha Elizabeth passed its five-year anniversary, so I thought I’d write a little bit about each year to celebrate and bring back memories for our clients and our team.
As clients may know, it had always been my ambition to own my own salon by the time I was 30. Before Samantha Elizabeth, I joint owned a salon in Haywards Heath - Salon 46 – with my business partner Jimmy Phillipou. When I was 29, circumstances arose that meant we would have to move out of our premises, so I took the chance to open my own salon, style it my way and be the business boss. I got the keys to 17b South Road just two weeks before my 30th birthday. It was the start of an exciting and at times, a roller coaster ride!
The salon opened its doors on 29 November 2016. I had 9 team members and me. Kate, Kim, Heather, Esta, Ella, Sophie, Olivia, Lois and Melissa. I’d offered the team at Salon 46 the option to come with me if they wanted and I’m pleased to say all of them did.
Our opening day was about welcoming new clients and pre-existing clients from Salon 46 with teas, coffees and nibbles. I brought in a photographer to take pictures of the team and the salon for the website.
Having a salon on South Road was fantastic as people could see us as they went by and our reputation as a new salon grew so that during this year we saw the salon clientele increase exponentially.
We decided to have a full-on Christmas party, which was a burlesque evening in Brighton, after gathering in the salon early to get our hair done and have a few pre-drinks.
I was proud to have started my own business and have my team with me. It was a whirlwind of a year and not without its challenges. During our first three months there was a problem with the water supply to South Road, which South East Water worked hard to repair but it meant we had no water for the salon! My dad, bless him, came to the rescue, filling huge buckets of water at home and bringing them to the salon every hour so we could continue washing our clients’ hair. While it was a stressful day, I remember the clients and the team thinking how great it was that I had a father who was able to support us, so we could continue our day as normal as possible – even if we were tipping water over clients’ heads from a jug!
That first year was a great start to our journey. During the year, while we were sad to see two stylists leave us, Heather went back home to America – where she has since set up her own very successful salon – and Olivia, also moved out of the area, we also welcomed Claire and Francesca to our team.
In our second year (November 2017- November 2018), Esta joined us on the salon floor after passing her NVQ Level 2. She continued at college to receive her NVQ Level 3, while working on the salon floor, gaining more skills and perfecting her craft.
To celebrate our second birthday, in November 2018, we all dressed up in 80s theme and closed the salon for the afternoon, so we could have a tea party and play a few games.
Our Christmas party was at the Ardingly Showground and was circus themed. That was a good night and thoroughly enjoyed by all.
In 2018, we won the first of our awards – the Muddy Stilettos Best Salon in Sussex award. It was incredible to win the award as we were nominated and voted for by our clients. It gave the team a real boost and also me as a business owner, knowing we were doing a great job for our clients.
Also that year, I was put forward for the Business Women Excellence awards in the Start-up Business category. I was runner up in Sussex. Although I didn’t win the award, it meant a lot to me because when you start a business, you’re a little bit like a rabbit in headlights. I think other business owners will relate to that – there’s a lot to deal with!
What the award hosts didn’t tell me was that I’d have to go onstage and give a speech. I was completely unprepared – but it was a learning experience!
The team attended Salon International in 2018, a huge professional hairdressing show, which gave us all inspiration and ideas to bring back to the salon.
Being part of a busy salon, while we work as a team, not everyone works on the same days and when we are together we don’t have much time to talk to one another. So, to bring the whole team together, we had a night out in Brighton, which was fun.
We entered the Salon Awards for Sussex and the whole team attended the event as we were finalists for three awards: Best Salon Team, Best Salon in Sussex and Best Customer Experience. While we were bridesmaids not brides this time, we had a great team night out, dancing on the dance-floor and having fun.
In our third year (November 2018 - November 2019), we welcomed Ella onto the floor, who was previously our apprentice. Like Esta, she also continued to go to college to achieve her NVQ Level 3.
We decided we quite liked dressing up to celebrate our anniversaries, so for our third year we chose Disney as our theme. And not everyone dressed up as their favourite Disney princess!
For our Christmas party, we went to The Limes in Lindfield, where we had a lovely meal and some of us went on afterwards to the Red Lion, where there was karaoke and we all had a little singsong.
We also had a few team days, one being at Lois’s house, where she put on nibbles and drinks and we played games. We went also to Jump In, in Burgess Hill, a place with giant inflatables, on one of their adult evenings, which was brilliant fun. With what was around the corner, in 2020, I’m glad we had these fun evenings together.
We introduced our new bookings system, Phorest, which lets clients book through our App (moving with the times!) The team also kept on training and finding inspiration by attending hairdressing courses in London.
This year at the Salon Awards we won Best Salon Team! This award gave us all such a huge boost. Unfortunately, not all the team were able to attend this event which was a shame. But we all shared in winning it.
Also, I decided to start building on my business knowledge. So Kate and I attended the Wella business event BNL 2019, which was spread over two days in Birmingham. There we listened to various speakers talk about salon business to inspire and motivate us. Read more in Part Two!