As a hairstylist and mentor, I’ve always believed in giving back and making sure that every space I create is inclusive and diverse for all. I believe that when likeminded people collaborate, so much can be achieved.
Meet Joan Dellavelle: Perth based hairdresser, mentor and founder of Ebony + Ivory Hair and Beauty; a thriving salon space in Perth’s CBD.
Migrating from Zambia to Perth in 2001, Joan first set her sights on the dazzling world of fashion; a dream the young creative sought to actualise by enrolling in design college.
Prior to commencement however (and, noticing an apparent lack of prospects in the design field), Joan soon found herself drawn to the study of business. A decision that has made all the difference.
Armed with a solid understanding of business management and practices, a heartfelt need to empower clients, and a desire to shake up the industry status quo, Joan embarked on her greatest project yet…
A diverse, and client-focused hair and beauty hub; aptly staffed and professionally equipped for all clients, hair types and texture needs.
Enter Ebony + Ivory Hair and Beauty; a space delivering an array of hair and beauty services in a relaxed, modern (and friendly!) environment.
A community favourite, Ebony + Ivory hosts a diverse array of clients; priding itself on an inviting atmosphere, a diverse service set and an overarching ethos of inclusivity.
Here, Joan reflects on her inspiring journey to salon success, her hopes for the industry’s future, and the importance of cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment for staff and clients alike – both in salon and on a global scale.
Over to you, Joan!
TJ: Tell us about yourself and your career to date. What first inspired you to pursue your passion for hairdressing?
JD: I first noticed a lack of diversity in Australian salons after struggling to find a salon (for my own hair) during a 2001 trip to Sydney.
After spending much time talking with a hairdresser who was about to style my hair, I soon realised she had very little experience with African hair, [having received minimal learning] from an African woman in her community.
At that time, making the decision to visit a salon (and pay $350) meant that the service had to be amazing. Unfortunately, this hairdresser (along with the other stylists in the salon) had no knowledge of how to wash my hair.
[Moreover], she had not received [formal] hairdressing education in Australia and was an international student who was just working to make an income – with no intention of pursuing hairdressing [as a career].
I remember stepping out of the salon, determined to change this narrative. A few months later, I experienced something similar – or worse. In a salon of five stylists, not one of them knew how to service my hair. I felt so sad – for them and for me.
I knew then, that I had to do something positive. This experience gave me the courage to use my savings to study – and to one day open a salon that was inclusive for all clients.
TJ: …and the rest is, history? What ultimately prompted you to set up Ebony + Ivory?
JD: I continued my college studies, supporting myself through assorted cleaning and nursing home jobs.
In 2003, I began creating braids for clients from home (I had learnt how to do this from my African elders in Zambia). Next, I moved into a 14 square metre shop in Fremantle – with barely enough funds for hairdressing education.
In 2005, I began my 4 year apprentice, while building my salon business and around 2007-8, I moved our salon to a central location on Barrack Street in Perth’s CBD.
I’ve traveled to the USA a number of times, to gain additional education on curly and afro hair textures. I’ve been blessed to be mentored by Kim Kimble (Beyoncé’s hairstylist) and so many other phenomenal, US based hairstylists.
Over the years, I’ve continued to teach my self as much as I can about all hair types and textures.
TJ: Tell us about the salon’s vibe and culture. How important is fostering a fun and welcoming environment for your clients and staff?
JD: The second you walk into our space… you notice the diversity and inclusivity. This is our story, and what makes Ebony + Ivory us! Our space is welcoming to all, and our culture is inclusive. It’s been so important to remain true to who we are.
We are only a small group, and it’s so important that we all feel at home – as we spend more time at the salon than our own homes! This is how we want to feel, and it’s important for us to make sure our clients feel the same.
Ebony + Ivory has been blessed to have so many wonderful people walk through its doors.
All of these people have reminded me how connected we all are, especially in making this world a better place. We are passionate but diversity and inclusion – and we know so much work still needs to be done
Talk us through your key service offerings. Who is the target client?
JD: As mentioned, our clientele is incredibly diverse. We have a lot of different hair textures coming through our doors. Due to my previous experiences, I made it a MUST for all of our stylists to be able to cater to all hair types.
Even if this just means learning how to wash every single hair texture. Yes, we work with a lot of women, men, girls and boys with curly and afro hair textures – but our salon is open to all!
TJ: Outside of hair, what other services are offered on site – specifically in the beauty realm?
JD: Outside of hair, we also offer makeup services for all tones. That and a good listening ear (lol!). You know what they say… hairstylists are good listeners!
TJ: Outside of hairdressing, we’ve heard you’re also involved in a host of other initiatives geared at giving back to the community – from life coaching through to volunteer work. Can you tell us more about these?
JD: As a hairstylist and mentor, I’ve always believed in giving back and making sure that every space I create is inclusive and diverse for all.
I use our salon as a force for good, by providing free and paid life skills workshops for young women from diverse backgrounds. I also give back to the community by providing makeovers for individuals – with some of the most inspiring stories.
I lost my father during the early 90s and had to find ways to navigate through life at a very young age.
I’ve used this strength to run my business while helping others find their own purposes and to become survivors. You can’t walk away from such a journey without learning how to give back.
In 2019, Ebony + Ivory hosted a private movie viewing for 200 kids and some parents as part of a diversity and inclusion program.
I believe that when likeminded people collaborate, so much can be achieved. I am a big believer in diversity and inclusion – and how it enhances our wellbeing.
TJ: In your opinion, how can salon owners and hairdressing professionals foster inclusivity in their businesses?
JD: My advice is to be honest with yourself [about your intentions]. Do you want to be part of the change to make this world a better, more inclusive place for all? Or do you want to be part of a trend.
[I believe that you should] never do something because it’s on trend, [but rather] because it’s the right and honest thing to do.
TJ: With regards to the hairdressing world at large, what do you hope to see more of as the industry evolves?
JD: We all know this will take time and that patience is key. But, as we wait, charity begins at our own spaces and platforms. We can all teach, and be part of the sustainable, lasting changes we want to see in our industry.
Bringing diverse education to our industry is one thing – but seeing and inviting hairstylists to the party is another thing. People who are passionate about seeing that these changes remain for generations to come.
First things first: We must learn to celebrate hairstylists, brands and organisations that are within our countries and communities; people who are passionate about true change, not just keeping with the trends.
We need to first acknowledge why something like this doesn’t have to be a trend [but rather] something that occurs without explanation.
We also need to acknowledge a small group of black hairstylists, hairstylists working with curly and afro hair, and those who are passionate about this type of change. We live in a society in which social media controls so much of what we do.
It’s up to our industry, and those who believe in this positive change, to create a powerful and positive support network for hairstylists, brands and organisations that are truly here for this change to stay.
TJ: What is one thing you wish you knew about salon/business ownership before embarking on your journey?
JD: Embarking on this journey, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Looking back, I would have loved to have a mentor from the start. I did know that every experience and person I would meet along the way would give me the courage to keep on going.
The only advice I would give to someone embarking on this journey is: be open to completing a short business course. Having a mentor in this industry also helps; just don’t go signing the lease without first getting advice from someone you trust.
Also, don’t do it for the money. Do it with purpose and to be of service. To any African or Black hairstylist – or any one who feels different – know that you may not be accepted in some industry spaces… but its’ going to be okay.
TJ: What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way, and how were these overcome?
JD: We all know that our industry is not easy, but having a firm grasp of my purpose – and why I choose this industry – has helped me overcome any challenges.
As a Black hairstylist and business owner, I’ve definitely faced some challenges – specifically with proving myself among my peers in Australia. These challenges however, go beyond hairdressing.
I am so grateful we have such a supportive clientele – but the road is not easy. You have to be strong to succeed in this industry.
Covid has brought about its own challenges – but we have no control over this. The only control we do have is how we positively react to our new normal. Also, remembering that this too will come to pass.
TJ: What have been some of your career highlights to date?
JD: In 2011, I was awarded Business Woman of the Year at the Belmont Small Business Awards. Likewise, in 2019, I was awarded a ‘Woman Making This World For All’ by the Women’s Economy Forum.
In 2015, I was lucky enough to meet my biggest inspiration: Oprah Winfrey. This encounter reminded me to always remain authentic – and that my service goes beyond the salon.