‘Never give up’, is the motto of salon owner Di Stageman.
Di has run her own business for 18 years, so she’s got plenty of experience of surviving the highs and lows of running her own salon.
“I was just 8 years old when I decided I wanted to be a hairdresser”, she remembers. In fact, the high street and customer service are both in her blood. Her grandfather was a butcher, her grandmother ran a sweetshop and her father had a tv repair shop.
Di started out at 14 with a Saturday job in a barber’s and was manageress of a ladies’ salon at 21. Now she owns and runs the Headturners salon and barber’s shop in the historic town of Sandwich on the Kent coast. The salon occupies a listed house in the toiwn’s conservation area, with lots of atmospheric exposed beams, but “not much space to store stock and dry towels, unfortunately!”
“Sandwich is a very friendly, family town”, says Di, “and most of my customers are either related or know each other. And we also have second homers who bring a touch of the City to our quiet corner of Kent.”
The barber’s is on the ground floor, with the ladies are on top on the first floor. “The two complement each other”, says Di, “when we’re slow upstairs with our ladies, the barber’s is busier, and vice versa. And the men tend to have their hair cut more often anyway.”
Competition is a big issue for any salon owner, especially in a small, close-knit town. There are four salons in Sandwich and two barber’s. “Actually most of us know each other quite well. I’d say we’re friendly rivals – which is a lot nicer than being unfriendly!” she laughs.
One of the other big challenges for salon owners is finding and keeping good staff. Di has 6 part-timers, which she finds gives both her and the team lots of flexibility.
Reflecting on the changes to apprenticeships that are in the news right now, she isn’t a great fan of today’s professional training: “It’s not nearly as rigorous as when I was doing my apprenticeship. I’ve got a great team of girls now, but it can be hard to find young staff who are motivated and prepared for the real world of work.”
Di Stageman is very clear about what lies behind her continued success. “I’m a grafter. I’m very motivated. I set high standards for myself and my team. I’ve certainly had some tough times, but I’ve never stopped loving what I do, which is making my clients look and feel great.”