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Barrie Blogs Flashback Part One – The Humble Beginnings of the Barrie Stephen Brand

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When I started Barrie Stephen 17 years ago, I saved all the money I made and gave it my lovely Nan who kept it safe for me in a money tin so that one day I could open my dream salon.

I thought this was the perfect opportunity to share some of my earliest memories of setting up, taking you through the highs and lows as well as taking the time to thank those who proudly acknowledge those who backed me from the very start.

Knowing What I Wanted from Day Dot

I knew I wanted to be a hairdresser from a really young age. I hated school, academia was never my thing. In fact, I can remember a teacher saying to my mum that “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”. Nice! I saw her eight years later at a wedding having opened my salon at Anstey and I loved that I could proudly tell her I was employing 40 people and we were the number one salon group in the area.

When I was 15, I was out shopping with my mum in the city. I flew up a flight of stairs at a local salon, approached the receptionist and ask if they had any Saturday jobs. I loved hair and I experimented on friends and family. My first guinea pig was my Nana – she was the only one who loved me enough to let me practice! But then it was time to get some proper training!

I know we all moan about money – but I started off earning £27.30 a week in the first year, £33 the next. Even back then that was a really low wage.

Learning to Back My Winners and Move Away from My Losers

Starting out on my own wasn’t easy. I remember approaching one bank manager and he turned down my application for a loan with a flat refusal. It was humiliating. He came to see me six months after opening Anstey – it was a bit like that scene in Pretty Woman “Big mistake, huge!” I had already achieved a level of success. It was here I first learned the importance of BACKING MY WINNERS AND MOVING AWAY FROM MY LOSERS!

I had a lot of people trying to put me off setting up my business. 99.9% of them said “don’t do it, you’ll fall flat on your face – you’ll fail miserably!” And of course there were lots of moments when I doubted myself and wondered if I’d lose everything, but I surrounded myself with people who were there for me and who were my backers.

Let’s remember something: If I’d listened to that 99.9% of people who said I’d fail, I wouldn’t be where I am today. If you’re in the process of trying to make a dream a reality, it’s a really important lesson to learn.

Joachim, my Mum, my Uncle and my Nan supported me along with the Thomas White Loan Charity here in Leicester. They all guaranteed a substantial amount of money towards the business. It’s humbling when people do that kind of thing because they believe in you and I can promise you, when they support you like that, you don’t want to let them down!

Taking on a Dilapidated Butcher’s Shop!

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My friend Debbie and I opened with four sections in Anstey on the 4th November 1996. I can remember every detail of that day: the retail arriving, the excitement and when the Barrie Stephen Hair sign was switched on, it was very emotional. I remember standing on the island.

Getting on the Property Ladder: Buying the Anstey Salon

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Six months into the move the guy who owned the Anstey property died and it went on sale. My bank manager at the time said to me you don’t want to buy the building (don’t you just LOVE his positivity!) It was time for him to go and we brought in HSBC. They funded the loan of the sale. I put a flight of stairs up and turned it into a London-style salon and that’s where Barrie Stephen Hair all started.

Picture the scene; we were tucked away in sleepy old Anstey, with a population of 7,000 people – nobody outside really knew Anstey and certainly didn’t know us. But we quickly put the village and our brand on the map.

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