“Hairdressers are talented artists and need to be recognised as such”

Having suffered from hair loss herself, Simone Thomas became a qualified hair loss and wig practitioner. Her M.W.A.H and Hair Loss Bournemouth salons have outgrown their premises in just two years. Her new premises will be called ‘Simone Thomas’. 

How did you come to specialise in wigs and hair loss?

I started losing my hair due to stress. I was working as a TV presenter and model and my mother was unwell. Having cheap extensions didn’t help either! I took a new direction and qualified as a hairdresser specialising in alopecia (hair loss) and wigs. 

According to the NHS, an estimated 8 million women in the UK have hair loss, and it can lead to loss of self-confidence and heightened self-consciousness. Hair loss is a well-known side effect of chemotherapy, and around 50% of women lose more hair than usual after they've given birth. 

I saw a gap in the local market for hair loss advice, wigs and wig cutting and incorporated this into my Bournemouth salon.

What are your goals for the future?

It’s going very well and two years on we have outgrown our current premises. I am now negotiating the lease of a four story building opposite House of Fraser. There will be a Wella salon, an entire floor dedicated to hair loss and a training academy. I also plan to open hair loss centres across the UK and an online wig shop.

What are the biggest business challenges you face?

Finding time for myself is a key challenge. It’s very full-on opening a new salon. Also, it can be hard to attract staff. If someone is ill, it can be a huge issue.

As far as the industry is concerned, I think hairdressing could do with an image make-over. Hairdressers are talented artists and need to be recognised as such.

To what do you owe your success?

A lot of hard work, drive, passion and proactively seeking out the opportunities. My differentiator is hair loss. I go out to local hospices and charities to make sure they know we exist.

Losing your hair can really knock your confidence. We focus a lot on the emotional side of hair loss and have councillors, a horse whisperer and hypnotherapist on board. The atmosphere is warm and I am very selective about who I take on.

How has being an NHF member helped your business?

I recently went to an NHF seminar on building a successful salon and it was phenomenal. Not only did I come away with excellent new ideas for enhancing my business, it also showed me what I was doing right.

The facilitators gave us brilliant tips about branding and pricing. Some people in the room realised they were drastically underselling themselves.

A key change I made as a result of the event was to encourage my stylists to specialise in specific areas, rather than being generalists. It has given them so much more confidence and they have become much more proactive, which is great for business.

I also worked on our image. The team now all wear black, which looks much smarter and I give all new juniors a detailed induction handbook so they fully buy into the brand before they even meet a client.

In terms of marketing, the seminar has helped me plan six months ahead. A useful tip was to create separate social media accounts to target different audiences. For example, my hair loss clients don’t want to hear about colour treatments and vice versa, so I create Facebook and Twitter accounts relevant to each group.

Overall NHF is an excellent source of guidance. I joined because some of my chair renters wanted to move onto PAYE and I needed a way to navigate the rules and regulations. My accountant isn’t a hair and beauty expert, so she doesn’t always have the access to the latest industry rules. NHF provides that vital missing information.

My new premises will have 20 staff, so I’ll be relying on NHF’s services even more!