Without small business, we’re nothing. TheLatch— and GoDaddy have teamed up to rally behind local businesses and entrepreneurs during this unprecedented time of change.
We’re speaking to small businesses and entrepreneurs across the country to better understand how they’re adapting to stay open, how they’re keeping their community safe, and how we can support them now during this time, and beyond. We’re focused on keeping Australia open for business, even if doors are closed. #OpenWeStand
While the majority of the beauty industry has been closed since March, hairdressers were still able to work under the Australian Government’s restrictions. One of these operating salons is BLOW BAR CO — a blow-dry and hairstyling salon that has three locations across Sydney in Balmain, Bronte and Coogee.
The concept of BLOW BAR CO came to founder Leigh Dole roughly seven years ago and she has since perfected the luxe hairdressing treatment.
“No cuts or colours, we’re all about hairstyling and makeup in a chic New York bar (yes, you can enjoy a glass of bubbles or cheese plate while getting your hair and makeup done!)” Dole told TheLatch—.
While the team at BLOW BAR CO have still been able to provide hairstyling services, the health crisis has changed the way they work.
“We’ve had to change the staff roster and reduce staff hours given the social distancing requirements coupled with the decline in business,” Dole said. “My team is my family and to personally see the impact on each and every one of my staff has been so incredibly hard.”
During this time, Dole and her team have implemented an initiative to give back to the local community.
“Called ‘BBC Gives Back’ the idea is that rather than paying traditional pricing for a wash and blow, we’re inviting our local community to pay only what they can afford,” Dole said. “I think during these times we must remember the importance of mental health. Our BBC Gives Back campaign is a simple way to remind our clients how a little ‘me time’ can change everything.”
We spoke to Leigh Dole about the experience of working at BLOW BAR CO during the pandemic and what she has planned for the future of her business.
Alexandra McCarthy: Hi, Leigh! Thanks for chatting with us today. Could you please tell me a little bit about BLOW BAR CO?
Leigh Dole: BLOW BAR CO is Australia’s original blow-dry bar. No cuts or colours, we’re all about hairstyling and makeup in a chic New York bar (yes, you can enjoy a glass of bubbles or cheese plate while getting your hair and makeup done!)
The concept came about as at the time, over seven years ago, I was a little lost in life. I was going in and out of the industry (I’d been in beauty and fashion since the ripe age of 13!) I was trialling new things and after various setbacks and challenges in varying industries, it brought me back to my two true passions — fashion/beauty and hospitality. This, coupled with my desire to help women look good and feel good led to the launch of BLOW BAR CO in November 2015.
With venues now open in Bronte, Balmain and Coogee (with other venues to open shortly!), BLOW BAR CO is a female sanctuary; it’s a home away from home for women to have fun and feel beautiful, confident and empowered.
AM: How long have you worked in the hairdressing industry?
LD: I’ve been in the hair industry for over 20 years, starting at the ripe old age of 13! My first foot in the door was as an apprentice at Toni&Guy. I worked my way up in the organisation for four years before being invited to become a franchisee at 17-years-old.
Following my time at Toni&Guy, I launched an at-home hairstyling service and it was apparent how much women love to get together, have a bottle of bubbles and share these special moments and milestones with their stylist and their girlfriends.
“I worked my way up in the organisation for four years before being invited to become a franchisee at 17-years-old.”
AM: What are a few highlights you’ve experienced in your career?
LD: Opening my first BLOW BAR CO in Bronte (Nov 2015) is absolutely the greatest career highlight. From creating the concept to opening the doors was 12 months in the making.
We are Australia’s original blow-dry bar — so there were many ‘firsts’ along the way — ie. first blow-dry bar to obtain a liquor licence, council restrictions etc. With this territory came several setbacks and challenges, however, when the shop officially opened it was the most amazing sense of achievement and accomplishment.
Since then, other career highlights have included the opening of our second bar in Balmain three years ago. We’ve also established a wonderful partnership with Merivale through our BLOW BAR CO pop up inside the Coogee Pavilion.
And there’s the next venue we’re currently working on which is on track to open in the coming months. Stay tuned on this… plus more!
“Opening my first BLOW BAR CO in Bronte is absolutely the greatest career highlight.”
AM: Can you please tell me a little about your digital presence. Has having an online presence helped your business?
LD: We’re present across blowbarco.com.au, on social media (@blowbarco), EDMs and via our free Blow Bar Co App. Essentially, [our] digital [presence] allows us to be available 24-7 and enables us to keep our prices low and affordable without having the additional wage costs.
Digital is, and always has been, a powerful driver for clients to book and manage appointments but to also purchase gifts and products. Mother’s Day is a wonderful example of how we utilised our digital platforms to communicate and promote our offering during the hardship of COVID-19.
AM: When did BLOW BAR CO first start to feel the effects of COVID-19?
LD: We felt the effects of COVID-19 in late March. As social distancing regulations were implemented, it meant fewer clients in-store and we had to employ less staff on a day-to-day basis.
The cancellation of makeup services meant this service was paused — and is continued to be paused until the phase three restrictions are lifted in NSW.
As the COVID-19 isolation regulations came into play, it meant there were tighter restrictions on events/functions and gatherings and when a large percentage of our clientele are coming to us for their pre-party prep (i.e weddings, hens parties, engagements, work functions etc!), you can see this has an enormous impact on our business.
AM: What does it mean for you now?
LD: During this time we are strictly abiding by the Australian Government regulations. The health and safety of our teams and our clients is the utmost priority. We’re continuing to offer hair services for our clients (with a glass of bubbles too!).
Makeup is on hold and we won’t be offering these services until we’re permitted to do so. With big events and functions postponed, our large group bookings and in-store and on-location events are also paused.
We understand it’s not just us that’s impacted by this pandemic and as such, we launched an incentive whereby we’re giving back to the local community. Called ‘BBC Gives Back’ the idea is that rather than paying traditional pricing for a wash and blow, we’re inviting our local community to pay only what they can afford.
I think during these times we must remember the importance of mental health. Our BBC Gives Back campaign is a simple way to remind our clients how a little ‘me time’ can change everything. Hence we tried to open the service to everyone, no matter their financial situation. BBC Gives Back has portrayed a real sense of love and support; the community banning together has been incredibly heartwarming and to know we tried to brighten someone’s day is important to us at BBC.
Feedback has been that a 30-minute blow-dry is a wonderful refresh and escape for our clients — it’s a simple gesture to brighten a woman’s day.
With restrictions starting to ease from this Saturday [in NSW], we’re inviting girls to book in for a blow, bubbles and catch up with their besties. Limited to groups of four — you can enjoy four wash and blows and a bottle of Moet & Chandon for only $300. Or why not pop in with your husband or partner for a pre-dinner date night with bubbles, blows, beers and a pamper!
I know we’ll come out stronger on the other side, we’ve learned so much during these past weeks — both individually and as a team. We see this time as an opportunity to focus on our systems and processes to ensure we’re on track and they are the best they can be, ready for when society returns to ‘normal’.
“We understand it’s not just us that’s impacted by this pandemic and as such, we launched an incentive whereby we’re giving back to the local community.”
AM: Have you had to change the way you work?
LD: Absolutely we’ve had to pivot. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have a viable business. We’ve had to change the staff roster and reduce staff hours given the social distancing requirements coupled with the decline in business.
Traditionally we were reluctant to offer discounts as we’re already positioned as the home of affordable beauty. As we entered this unprecedented time, however, we had to adapt and step out of what would traditionally be the ‘norm’. We launched BBC Gives Back (as above) and we also launched discount packs (i.e. five blows for $200). The uptake was really positive and a way to keep the cash flow coming into the business so we could continue to pay wages and cover operating costs.
AM: Has it been hard to make those changes?
LD: My team is my family and to personally see the impact on each and every one of my staff (whether it is standing down some of my staff or reducing staff hours) has been so incredibly hard. I personally felt an enormous sense of responsibility to each and every staff member, of which there were over 40. This has definitely been the greatest challenge for me during COVID.
AM: How can customers support your business in the short term?
LD: Our clients have been amazing throughout this time. We are very grateful and appreciative to have a loyal customer base and we want to say thank you for their ongoing support.
Our stylists find joy in making their clients look and feel good! If you’re needing a quick pick-me-up, we’d love to see you for a blow, bubbles and a chat — our door is always open!
“We are very grateful and appreciative to have a loyal customer base and we want to say thank you for their ongoing support.”
AM: Do you think the way you operate your business will be changed for good?
LD: I am confident it will bounce back, it’s just a matter of when. That’s the million-dollar question!
AM: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
LD: My advice is to make the most of this time! Now is the perfect time to get on top of your homework — review any outdated systems, update software, make sure the right suppliers are in place for when we come out the other side.
And remember to continue to keep communicating with your community — not necessarily focusing on the sales side of things, but checking in to make sure they’re doing OK through these unprecedented times. We’re all in this together and supporting each other is crucial.
AM: What do you think we will all learn from this experience?
LD: Personally I think we’ll be reminded of the importance of quality time and moments together with those we love. I know I won’t take it for granted when I can go to the local bar for a sneaky wine and meal with friends and family. We learn how important these moments are in our lives and the importance of supporting small business in the local community.
Book in for a blow-dry and glass of bubbles at one of BLOW BAR CO’s three locations in Bronte, Balmain or Coogee.