In issue one of littlewren magazine we had a trim and a chinwag with Alice Star, the former owner of hairdressing salon Scrap Studio. Since writing this article Alice has pulled up stumps in Highgate Hill and moved out to the country to start her own organic farm. We spoke to her about what it was like starting her own business…
Alice started running the salon on her own out of the front room of an old Queenslander house, with the occasional help from her dad’s pooch Archie. She still cuts hair out on her little patch of land in Samford, in between tending to her plot. Before she moved we got chatting about what it’s like to own your own business and why going the traditional career route isn’t always the answer for everyone.
Can you tell me a little about Scrap Studio?
It’s a little hairdressing salon. It’s nice and bright and colourful. The business started over in Paddington, I was just renting a chair in another salon at the time. I started it off in the salon so that it was all a bit easier and cheaper and not as much pressure when starting out a business. I was there for about a year and a half and then I looked at bringing it to West End so that it was closer to home. I’ve always lived over this side of town. It’s fun to be able to do whatever you want in a space. And not have to fit in with what everyone else is doing. I look at other hairdressing salons and I cringe most of the time because they’re sterile and white and boring and have no character at all. But if you have your own space you can be creative and do something a bit different.
How did you decide what you wanted it to look like and where is the furniture from?
I don’t think I ever really had a plan. When I first opened the shop, I think on the first day I had clients in, there was a mirror and a chair and a basin and lots of bunches of flowers everywhere. Other than that it was completely empty. So I’ve sort of just acquired things over the last year or so. It’s all second hand, old stuff. Every wall in Scrap Studio is a different colour. And my house is like that as well. I think I got that from my parents. My mum is an artist and she did most of the paintings in here. I love it. It has character.
Where did the name come from?
Scrap studio, as a name, came to me a very long time ago – probably when I was still at school actually. I’ve just always resonated with the word scrap. I think that I’ve sort of got a bit of an all-over-the-place personality and I’ve got little things coming from everywhere. I love power tools and I love plants but I’m a hairdresser. I’ve got crazy colours everywhere in the shop and little scraps of all different things all coming together in my own personality. I think that’s pretty much where it came from, but I also just like the word.
How did you get into hairdressing?
I’ve always had the idea that I wanted to work for myself. I don’t love working for other people so much – I think I’m a little controlling in that way. But I never really thought that it would be hairdressing. When I was in grade ten I needed a job in the school holidays. I just happened to get a job as a Tea and Tidy at a little hairdressing salon in Paddington called Fil-A-Bolus. And it just looked like a little fairy-house, which is nothing like most hair salons. I was instantly drawn to it. I was doing Tea and Tidy work on the weekends and after school and after awhile they told me I had a bit of a knack for cutting hair and they asked me if I had ever considered a career in hairdressing. And I hadn’t really, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was in grade ten and I had to decide what subjects to do in grade eleven and twelve. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I started a school-based traineeship in hairdressing. I took off one day of school every week and worked at the salon and I went to college on my school holidays, which wasn’t that much. I got it done quickly, which meant that I was almost qualified by the time I finished school. Once I finished school I went straight into a full-time apprenticeship and finished it all off and then opened the business. I just fell into it. Even if I hadn’t continued with hairdressing it would have been a great thing to do because doing the traineeship during school gives you experience in the workforce and it gives you experience with people and money and all of that stuff that employees really look for. So even if I never continued on with hairdressing it would have been a good thing to do anyway.
What do you love about owning and running your own hair studio?
Being able to do something different to what other people are doing and having creative licence to do things is really great. Even though I wasn’t originally drawn to hairdressing it’s great because I get to be creative and I get to make people feel good about themselves. I get to hang out with people all day and it’s good having that connection to the community as well.
What is difficult about starting and running your own business?
I guess financially it’s not always completely constant. It was especially difficult when I started–before I had a large clientele base. I was sort of going week to week with money and you don’t have any consistency because nobody is paying you. Owning your own business, you’re literally relying on having clients come in. It’s tricky not having definite income all the time, but other than that I guess you have to make sure you’re up to date with your paperwork and tax and all of that. There are all of those boring things that are involved, but other than that it’s all good. I really love it.
Did you rely on word of mouth when you started?
Absolutely, I’ve never really done any advertising. I think word-of-mouth advertising is much better really, because your clients are like a walking billboard for you. People trust their friends more than they would trust an advertisement somewhere. I’ve never had to do anything so that was really easy for me.
Do you have any tips for hairstyling at home?
The best thing is to not try too hard. Go with what your hair naturally does and work with it a bit more. Don’t try to do anything too crazy, go with what works.