SALON: ALCHEMY HAIR AND MAKEUP, TRARALGON

Our goal has always been for our clients to feel comfortable. We like to call ourselves universal hairdressing specialists because we do pretty much everything! Every team member has has their own area of expertise – something they love!

Rebecca Snow

Meet Rebecca Snow: Victorian hairdresser, creative and founder of Alchemy Hair and Makeup.

Having honed her unique vision, service acumen and hairdressing skillset over the course of her professional career, the self-motivated creative was in prime position to set up her own salon space. A dream she actualised in 2015.

Enter Alchemy Hair and Makeup; a bright and welcoming salon in the heart of Victoria’s Traralgon region.

Drawing cues from its diverse, urban surroundings, the salon boasts a clean, monochromatic palette; ornamented with chic modern details – and plenty of (natural) greenery for good measure. Did we mention the #inspo wall?

Helmed by a team of passionate professionals (and with a growing client base), Alchemy Hair and Makeup has fast established itself as a salon to watch; lauded for an amicable yet professional approach to service and positive ambience.

Fresh off the announcement of her second salon site (woohoo!), Rebecca talks personal and professional goals, how social media has enhanced her business and the importance of cultivating a positive and welcoming salon environment for staff and clients.

Over to you, Bec!

TJ: Tell us about yourself and your salon.

RS: Where to begin? I’ve been a hairdresser for ten years now and have [owned and operated] Alchemy Hair and Makeup for five of those.

I would describe myself as a creative hairdresser, with a deep passion for hairdressing – and of course, my business. I have big goals for the salon, myself and my career; from global Fashion Weeks through to shoots and session styling.

At Alchemy, we like to call ourselves universal hairdressing specialists because we do pretty much everything! While we tend to attract a lot of blonde and balayage clients, everyone in the team has their own area of expertise – an area they love.

TJ: You’ve had some exposure to the worlds of Fashion Week and Session Styling. What first sparked your interest in these facets of hairdressing?

RS: As an apprentice, I’d always look through trade magazines and found myself drawn to the editorial shoots. I didn’t quite know how I’d get there, but I knew this was something I wanted to be involved with.

During the first year of opening Alchemy, I was invited (along with another staff member) to assist backstage at New York Fashion Week with O&M. This was my first-time working backstage at Fashion Week – and I fell in love!

I learnt so much working backstage and was lucky to be invited back for another three trips. I’ve also assisted backstage for MBFWA in Sydney and each year, I’ve been so lucky to meet so many different people and to pick up new styling tricks along the way.

This year I also applied for the Australian FAME Team, and I’m hoping to spend more time assisting other creatives on set and backstage. Thankfully I’m in a place where my salon doesn’t require me 24/7 – I’d love to use the rest of this year to try and learn the trade that bit more!

TJ: What ultimately inspired you to set up your own salon business?

RS: I’ve always wanted to have my own business – I guess I’ve never considered [otherwise]! I’ve always had my own distinct style and ways of doing things – and I always loved being involved in the [workings of] the business when I was an apprentice.

During my time as an apprentice, I was lucky to see and learn so much; I also noticed little things here and there that I could [adapt] in my own way.

TJ: What was the inspiration behind the salon’s name?

RS: It was actually our graphic designer who came up with the Alchemy name! At the time, I was so full of ideas (and had everything else planned out!) but I was stumped on the name. Alchemy [as a practice] is all about transformation – and that’s exactly what we do in the salon – transforming everyday things into something extra special!

TJ: What might clients find upon visiting Alchemy Hair and Makeup for the first time?

RS: One of our biggest [drawcards], or something we receive the most feedback about is our open, friendly atmosphere. We’re all best friends – in and out of work – and I think that energy translates through the salon. Clients feel like they’re part of the Alchemy team and culture when they visit.

Our goal has always been for clients to feel comfortable; never anxious nor scared to ask questions. It can sometimes be intimidating for clients to walk into a busy salon (with a massive team of people). I didn’t want people to feel uncomfortable in any way; it’s an open space!

TJ: Tell us about the team at Alchemy Hair and Makeup.

RS: My team is amazing! They are – literally – my family; I love them very much. We’re so lucky to have a really diverse team.

We’ve just welcomed two new girls, so [at present] we have four apprentices as well as reception staff. We also have a brow stylist! The team very much makeup what Alchemy is – there’s no way that I could do all of this without them!

TJ: Outside of hair, what other services are offered on site?

RS: While we’re primarily hair focused; we do offer makeup services – some of our hairdressers are also professional makeup artists. Our brow stylist specialises in brows, and also offers lash lifts.

Our clients always commented that they wished they could get their brows done at the same time as their hair. So, we found the right person… and made it happen!

TJ: On the subject of finding the right people; how do you go about sourcing staff who will fit in with your team culture?

RS: I’m very much about attitude – and why it is that you want to be part of our team. So many people are drawn to the salon because they can see we’re all friends and that we all have a lot of fun!

On the other hand, we’re also incredibly hard working. Business is still business, and at the end of the day, when there’s work to be done I know my team will knuckle down and deliver.

For me, it’s important to find people who fit in with our culture; people who are friendly, positive and willing to get the job done. Absolutely no drama (ever!). It starts with the right attitude, everything else can be taught as we go.

As with everything, you have to be in it for the right reasons. And if you wan’t something badly enough, you can make it happen… but you’ve got to put in the work.

TJ: How have you navigated salon operation during the Covid-19 pandemic?

RS: As soon as we heard there would be [an enforced] lockdown, we decided to shut the salon almost immediately. With a full week of services booked, we tried to fit in as many of our booked clients as we could across two days of service.

We made the decision to temporarily shut shop as we didn’t feel it would be safe for ourselves or our clients to [be in such close proximity] during that time. We were also incredibly conscious of not spreading Covid-19 within our community.

After closing for a month, we’ve gradually begun re-introducing our hours. We had a bit of a working bee in the salon for the first week – cleaning etc., before gradually increasing hour working hours, more and more.

TJ: As a business owner, how did you manage the difficult decision with your staff?

RS: It was definitely a difficult period as no one really knew what exactly was going to happen. I didn’t have all of the answers, but I knew I just had to make the call based on what was best for our team and clients – that for me was the most important thing. Everything else could be put to the side.

The team was really happy and respectful [to oblige]; I know that many of them didn’t want to be working but they also didn’t want to disrupt or disappoint me. In the end, it all went quite smoothly, and we were all in agreement.

TJ: How have such social platforms as Instagram enhanced your business?

RS: I look at Instagram as an online portfolio; it’s the number one place that clients look to when sourcing their new salon or stylist. We put a lot of time and energy into creating new and engaging content – that showcases what we can do. So many of our clients have engaged our services through social media – which proves its importance.

Social media has also been implemented as part of our weekly salon targets. Each team member has their own Instagram page and is encouraged to post/repost twice a week.

We also have monthly challenges that involve social media. At the moment, we’re having all team members create a video to promote a particular product or service in salon. We try to keep things fresh and to make sure we always offer something new and different.

TJ: What have been some of the most challenging aspects of owning/operating a business?

RS: When I started the business, I didn’t know what I was getting into. Everything has been a learning curve. I didn’t formally study business so I had to learn everything as I went. Finding the right team members is a huge thing – and there are so many lessons to be learnt with that.

I don’t tend to look at things as mistakes or challenges per se, because there’s always something new to learn – and you can only get better!

TJ: Any words of advice for those looking to enter into salon ownership?

RS: I always like to tell people… if you’re thinking about it – and you have ideas – then do it! Something I’ve learned is to stop listening to advice from people who haven’t done it themselves…

TJ: And finally – what’s next? We’ve heard there’s something exciting in the pipelines…?

RS: I’m actually opening up a second salon location in Collingwood!

We’ve only just announced it, but we’re all so excited! One of my girls from Traralgon is moving to Melbourne – and we’re always in Melbourne for so many different things! – so it’s something that was in the cards for a while.

I’m excited to be splitting my time across both salons and heading up a new team in Melbourne. It’s a little bit scary… but all the good things are!

Want a spot on the Alchemy Hair and Makeup team? Applications for the new Melbourne salon are now open. Send through your cover letter and resume to [email protected] to be considered. 

To keep up to date with all things Alchemy Hair and Makeup, follow @alchemyhairandmakeup.