Women Who: Sarah Simpson-Davies the entrepreneur behind ethical hair salon Puro
Sarah Simpson-Davies is founder of Birmingham based hair salon Puro. The young entrepreneur shares her journey from starting out to becoming an award winning salon.
Before I started Puro I’d been a hairdresser for thirteen years; from 1996- 2002 I trained in one of Leicester’s award winning salons and from 2002-2004 I continued to hairdress from home and gained a large client base. Up until 2007 I ran a property developing business and continued to hairdress in the evening, until the recession hit and the business slowed down.
In 2008 my boyfriend got a new job in Birmingham and I moved with him, and started to develop a business plan for Puro. I had started to worry about the amount of chemicals used in hairdressing and how pretentious and unwelcoming salons can be, so I knew there was a gap in the market for a salon like Puro, with the potential to grow into the first Organic chain of salons in the UK.
What inspired you to start your own business?
My Dad has run many different businesses so it was in my blood. I also have a personal interest in Yoga and Buddhism which made me want to create an ethical business which would create something better and safer for my clients and staff.
My interests in Yoga and Buddhism have made me a more conscious person. I feel we should be as ethical as we possibly can in life regarding recycling, the environment and the use as natural products, because with many small changes we make can make a huge difference. At Puro, we use disposable/recycled towels, recycle most of our waste, donate our hair cuttings to an eco farm and donate long hair to a wig making company who make wigs for sick children and we are continually adding more and more green ideas to the salon.
I didn’t really know much about social enterprises before we opened, but would have loved Puro to be a social enterprise as my intention has always been for my staff and clients to feel they are an important part of the company and to create a welcoming, almost community feel, involving lots of similar businesses to ours. I also would like to develop the company into working with hospitals to help with hair loss sufferers. Hopefully there may be social enterprise options when we expand.
What sort of start up support did you receive, if any?
I was awarded a £10,000 loan from Birmingham retail development program which helped the fit out of the salon.
What is unique about your products and services?
Our colours and products are 96% natural, and are paraben and ammonia free which makes them safer and better for you hair. Every client has a personal hair analysis and is prescribed what the hair needs from the inside. Our shampoo area is relaxed with sofa seating and all of our products are organic, vegan, against animal testing and are all made in recyclable packaging with natural plant based extracts.
Developing our customer service and staff skills to ensure we are the most professional salon in Birmingham city centre. Also, it’s been tough convincing potential clients that our colours give just as amazing results as chemical products as well as being safer and better for the hair- we’ve discovered that people are scared to change from the less safe alternatives.
What’s the hardest thing about being in business?
The quiet days. When the weather is bad people don’t seem to want to get their hair done and we can’t predict the weather!
What have been some of the highlights so far?
Winning 5 stars in good salon guide. Winning SBS and meeting Theo Papthitis. Small Business Sunday shortened to the hashtag #SBS on Twitter, was created by Theo Paphitis in October 2010. Also any day when we have a full salon and happy staff and clients and reading our reviews on the internet.
Describe a typical day for you?
It is never the same, but I’m usually up at 6.30am and have either a quick gym session or yoga. I’ll get into salon at 8am, and spend the first hour before we open reading emails and updating our social media sites. Then the rest of day can be spent doing anything from doing client’s hair, networking and attending meetings, as well as working in the salon; answering the phone, welcoming clients or staff appraisals. We close at 8pm most nights so I usually stay until then.
Huge! Facebook and Twitter have helped us gain clients from reviews and recommendations, found us media contacts and helped with our website product sales massively.
What’s next for Sarah and Puro?
Two open a second salon by the end of this year in the Midlands. We are currently developing our health and wellness website by introducing other organic natural products that our customers will be able to buy from our store and in salon. We have also introduced Botanical skincare and beauty treatments and would like to include a lot more.