Among the new businesses setting up locally in the past few months, one deserves special recognition.
Mariano Ruiz came ‘down from London’ last summer and took No. 3 Horsbridge Road, Whitstable, as a hair salon.
It was a big open space with lots of chairs and mirrors and few customers. But in a few short months he’s built up a loyal following for Flow & Co. and as a result taken on two stylists, two apprentices, a Saturday help and a receptionist.
Along with cafes and restaurants, hairdressing is among the most crowded of markets. You have to stand out from the crowd to make it. And Mariano has done that.
For a start, he has no opening or closing times: He’s there when a client wants him to be there – morning, noon or night.
And then there’s the customer service. Recently my friend was having a hairdo, and so I settled in to wait an hour. Rather than being treated as a nuisance I was given a glass of fine wine. It changed the entire experience.
The trick is listening to what people really want from your business and – for a service business like hairdressing – creating a community.
One of Mariano’s customers, Amanda Gerrard, manages a charity project to plant trees in a region of Kenya to help beat hunger and deforestation. Mariano decided to donate £1 to fund the planting of a tree by teams of women in the Meru district of Kenya every time a client has a full colour service. Clients have the chance to plant a second tree by matching the donation if they wish and pop a sticker on a map of Kenya. The goal of the project is to plant 3,000 trees through these donations and other events at the salon.
The charity is both global and local, being managed from the University of Kent in Canterbury. The result has been over 600 trees planted, helping women in one of the poorest regions in the world impacted by HIV and desertion to support themselves.
I call that giving back to the community. It’s an inspiration for us all. Get involved: Seeds For Africa www.flowandco.co.uk
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