The business feature this month is Leaha Stephens, whom I’ve watched and noticed in Women in Business columns, particularly because as a young business owner, with two businesses and a family, I admire what she has created.
Leaha is inspirational with the businesses she’s grown, and it’s great to see someone who has such a positive attitude and makes it look so effortless, even though I know she has put in the hard yards!
When did you start in business?
I started Leaha’s Hair Studio in April 2009. I was working in the salon in Tuncurry, when the owner decided to sell and it was offered to me. I was pregnant with my first child at the time, so it was a big decision. The salon was well established by the time I went off to have my baby. It had existing staff who worked there while I was off.
Can you tell us more about Leaha’s Hair Studios?
Leaha’s Hair Studios are professional hairdressing salons. We specialise in creative cutting, colouring, foiling, ballayage, perming, tape hair extensions, Keratin straightening, deluxe hair treatments, blow dries, sets, head massages, spray tans, facial waxing, facial tinting and bridal hair and makeup; we offer a FREE mobile service to weddings in the Manning Valley.
The girls and I are constantly doing training in and out of the salon, to make sure we are up to date with the latest trends. We are off to Sydney in June this year to attend the 2015 Day with Keune and the Sydney Hair Expo, where we will see new products and techniques to bring back to our salons for our clients.
Our salons are fun to be in. We have a great rapport with our clients. My staff are very supportive and hardworking; we are more like a family.
Our Tuncurry salon is open Monday to Saturday, with late nights by appointment, and Our Old bar salon is open Tuesday to Saturday, with late nights by appointment.
When you first started, did you think of it more as a “job”?
I started hairdressing when I was 16 years old. I was put on as an apprentice in a salon in Tuncurry. I always wanted to be a hairdresser and when I finally found an apprenticeship, I was so excited, as they are not easy come by. Hairdressing is what I wanted to do, so I never thought of it as just a job. In our industry (I say this to my apprentices now) hairdressing is not just a job – you have to want it. We work long hours on our feet all day, and you really have to have a passion for the industry, otherwise you won’t survive.
When I started, it was a four year apprenticeship and two years, one day a week training at port Macquarie TAFE. Hairdressing isn’t an industry you can learn overnight; you need to put in a lot of hard work and time. Our industry is constantly changing, with different trends and looks.
How have you transitioned to owning two businesses?
We had been offered the Old Bar salon a few times, but it just wasn’t the right time for me. The Old Bar shop was always in the back of my mind, and I knew when the time was right I would open up my second salon there.
We had a lot of clients from Taree, Old Bar and Harrington who used to travel to our salon in Tuncurry, so having the salon in Old Bar has made it easier for our clients. We use the same products in both salons. The stylists work in both salons, so that helps our clients too.
We have recently moved our Tuncurry salon into a bigger shop and absolutely love our new salon, and so do our clients.
Is creating a work/life balance a challenge for you?
I am a very organised person. I work five days a week and I have two children, so life does get hectic – especially when my husband is away a lot with his job. We have our set routine, and my boys are great. I have fantastic staff, so it makes my life a lot more manageable; I couldn’t do it without my girls in the salons. I get a lot of support from family too, so that helps me more than they know.
We also take family holidays each year.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
I love making clients feel good; seeing a smile on their face is enough for me. I love the diversity with our industry; no day is the same. I don’t just love one thing; I really love my job.
I personally am a colour specialist. I’ve travelled as far as Amsterdam to learn new techniques and try new products. I have a huge colour clientele.
What do you believe are the most important ingredients in a successful business?
In our industry, customer service is just as important as doing great hair. It’s important to build a great rapport with our clients, being helpful and listening to what our clients want, and always being professional. It is our aim to always create a great image that our clients are happy with and make our clients feel comfortable.
We make it a priority to listen to our clients – ask them if they would like something new, and give them some options that we think may suit. Everybody likes to have a change now and then.
We train monthly, which helps create a fresh approach and keeps the fun in our salon. We are always learning new techniques and trying new products.
Having a great team who are good at their job and have a passion for the industry is hard to find. I have one of the best teams I have had in years.
Thanks so much, Leaha, and all the best with your businesses in the coming years!
Interview by Lynda Bryant from www.thephotographyhub.com.au
This article was from issue 101 of Manning-Great Lakes Focus