I like to think of Henry Lee as the epitome of a community barbershop. We really pride ourselves on being an inclusive service that also gives back to our community.

Lily Peddle

Lily Peddle (Image Supplied)
Henry Lee Barbershop (Image via @henrylee_barbershop)
Lily Peddle (Image Supplied)
Henry Lee Barbershop (Image via @henrylee_barbershop)

Meet Lily Peddle: Melbourne based creative and founder of hip Collingwood hair joint, Henry Lee Barbershop.

Having worked in a number of high profile salons over the course of a 20 year career, Lily was in perfect steed to open her own bespoke space amidst the hustle and bustle of Melbourne thriving city… a venture she ultimately made manifest in 2016.

Enter Henry Lee Barbershop; a space delivering elements of traditional barber work in a relaxed, modern (and pet friendly!) environment. A community favourite, Henry Lee services a diverse array of clients, priding itself on an inviting vibe, and overarching ethos of inclusivity.

Kudos for that!

Here founder Lily Peddle shares her personal career journey, business struggles and plans for the salon’s future.

TJ: For those not acquainted, who is Lily? Can you give us a brief snapshot of your career to date?

LP: I started hairdressing when I was 20, almost 20 years ago now! In the first few years of my career, I competed in numerous hairdressing competitions and actually placed really well in the divisions that I entered — I even secured the title of Junior of the Year in 2003. After I completed my apprenticeship on the south coast of NSW, I moved to Sydney to work in Bondi Junction at a super busy salon, where I specialised in cutting. The experiences I had in Sydney prompted me to further my career path by moving to London, where I had secured a position at one of the busiest salons in the East End. It was here I had the opportunity to work among some great stylists and colourists, which ultimately led me to the realisation that I wanted to cut exclusively from that point on.

I returned to Australia, moved to my favourite city (Melbourne), and started working in an established barbershop on the iconic Smith St in Fitzroy. Here I built a loyal clientele and came to the realisation that I had enough experience and ideas to build a business of my own. I was lucky enough to secure a premises, which was previously a local streetwear store owned by a friend, so I jumped in and got busy on the fit out. I opened the doors in 2016 and the rest is history.

TJ: Tell us about your time in London. Any unique experiences or learnings?

LP: London opened my eyes to a lot of different avenues I could take with my trade, I worked in a salon and also freelanced at a pop-up in a thriving bar on Brick Lane. London is a great city for the hairdressing industry, it was full of fashionable creative individuals that prided themselves on their appearance, and I loved it.

I was immersed in a world where I realised I could curate my own model of business to suit myself, and after seeing a pop-up barbershop set up at London Tattoo Convention, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. The barber was from Bristol, a city very similar to Melbourne, and the shop was an established business that was cool as hell — here I started to get a feel for what I wanted the future to look like for me.

When I returned home and moved to Melbourne, I went about fine-tuning my barbering skills until I was fully confident that I could open a shop that was not only specialising in precision barber cuts, but was also inclusive and welcoming of everyone.

TJ: What might first time clients find upon visiting Henry-Lee Barbershop?

LP: The main thing that we hope people notice is that Henry Lee Barbershop caters to everyone, not just men, we welcome everyone into the space and we’re also dog friendly.  It’s basically a “no bro zone”. The other thing that appeals to people is that we have a unique approach where we only charge for the work we do — we don’t have prices that are dictated by the gender of our clients.

TJ: What inspired the shop’s premise? Talk us through the Henry Lee approach and culture.

LP: I like to think of Henry Lee as the epitome of a community barbershop. We really pride ourselves on being an inclusive service that also gives back to our community. We work closely with local businesses and campaigns and support them as they support us. Getting to know our community is the best part of what we do and this definitely defines our culture and the people we attract — the staff we hire and our clientele.

The shop is also a warm haven of plants, art and good vibes. We love our clientele, and they give right back to us with their loyalty and constant referrals. We are always growing and we are happy to share the fun of our barbershop journey with our clients by creating a space that everyone feels welcome in.

I hope that now we have now created a space that inspires future barbers and entrepreneurs to open barbershops that don’t discriminate on gender and that recognise the link between inclusivity and the positive outcome it creates within a community.

TJ: Any unique/distinct features or details? We heard there’s an 80’s arcade…

LP: Absolutely, we do have an 80’s arcade game that doubles as a table when need be. It’s great for people waiting to take a step back in time to their childhood, or as a decoy to entertain kids that come along with their parents. It’s very popular, especially during our peak hour rushes when waiting times are a little longer.

In terms of aesthetics, our space is bright and engaging but at the same time one that is comfortable where clients can take a break from the crazy of their day-to-day lives and enjoy a cold tin of Bodriggy Brewing Co beer, have a chat with a neighbour, or maybe pat a dog or two.

TJ: Any unique tools or pieces of technology that assist with day to day running of the business?

LP: Of course, we couldn’t get by without it! We have a website with all of our contact and product info on it, and we try to spread the word about our services, clients, pop-ups and community campaigns through social media. We also use Square for payments and tracking sales. We started out using a bank terminal but found we needed a platform that did more than just payments so we switched everything over to Square.

The data-reporting dashboard that we get with them is a great way to track sales and see how busy we are at any given time. It’s really useful for me when I’m not in the shop because I can keep an eye on sales and inventory from a simple app on my phone. It’s brilliant for tracking how my staff is doing too, and can be of great assistance in helping us with staff incentive programs.

TJ: Where is the shop located? Why did you choose this location?

LP: The shop is located on Johnston Street in Collingwood, north of Melbourne. Collingwood is one of those suburbs right on the city limits that has taken on a cool personality of its own and become insanely popular for smaller retailers, bars and restaurants over the past decade.

Before it was a barbershop our space was a retail outlet for streetwear run by a friend of mine, so when the opportunity came up to take it over I thought it was the perfect location to start a shop of my own in a busy and budding entrepreneurial community. The location has definitely paid off for us, we regularly create initiatives or take part in incentive programs with other businesses in the area, which is a great way to spread awareness and boost referrals.

TJ: Tell us about your involvement in local philanthropic initiatives. How important is it for you to give back to your community?

LP: Community involvement is really important to us. One of the reasons our business community is thriving is because we all support each other. At Henry Lee we often chip in vouchers and product packages to locally run fundraiser events and we love to host parties and art exhibitions whenever we can.

We recently donated a prize pack to be won at the fundraiser for The Northside Bizarre in October where all proceeds went to JOY 94.9 and Thorne Harbour, two of Melbourne’s biggest LGBTI community organisations. We often also chip in prize packs for some of the local primary schools fetes, which is an annual thing come springtime.

TJ: Talk us through your key service offerings and payment structure.

LP: Our main services are haircuts and beard trims, and we have set price structure when it comes to charging our clients. We charge by length and work involved, rather than having gendered prices. This keeps it simple, everyone is on the same playing field — and of course no one is ever refused service.

We offer a range of extra services, from an express facial after your haircut, to a shampoo and conditioning massage prior, and we stock a range of premium hair products, Henry Lee Barbershop merch, and hot sauce just to cover all bases. We also love offering clients the opportunity to sign up to our digital loyalty program, which we run through our Square’s point-of-sale system so it’s super easy to add and redeem points, we added this recently and it’s been really well received.

TJ: What have been some of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in business ownership?

LP: I’m a creative person, so bringing creativity to my business wasn’t a challenge, it was learning to be proficient with operational programs like accounting software and staying up to date with bookkeeping. These tasks can be really time consuming, especially for a small business owner who is managing staff and also working in the business.

I quickly found that having the right business tools in place to take care of those back-end tasks was critical. For example, using Square to take payments is great because it integrates directly with my Xero accounting software, which means I don’t have to manually enter sales or double-handle any of my business data come tax time. This has been game-changing for me. The tools are all digital and they’re intuitive and easy to use, so staff have no problem picking them up. Having good systems in place makes my job as a fairly new small business owner much easier.

TJ: And triumphs?

LP: This year has been our busiest year so far, and we’re still growing. A major personal triumph within the business would have to be the successful visa sponsorship of our resident Brit, Steph, who has been an amazing addition to our team since our early days. The team we have built here is definitely my biggest triumph, and it will only get stronger and more diverse as we grow.

Having a diverse team is important to me because it enables us to reach new levels of success, finding different ways to collaborate with other labels, photographers, and brands to create new and exciting opportunities to showcase our work. We are coming up to ‘pop-up season’, where we’ll be doing various events such as Brewers Feast, the Duke st Block Party and Ability Fest. These events give us a chance to get out there into the community and support our friends and clients by doing haircuts in the sunshine!

This is another area where our mobile payments system has really paid off. We can take the show on the road and our Square card reader comes with us, which is great because it means we capture all the data from the services we’re providing outside of the shop. Having this wealth of information available to me at all times empowers me to take more informed decisions for which events and pop-ups make sense for us to invest staff and resources in.

TJ: Any secrets to maintaining staff satisfaction?

LP: Making sure that my staff are happy is of the utmost importance to me! Having open lines of communication is the only way to make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to business operations, we have regular staff meetings to discuss anything that’s on our minds, to regroup each day we also eat breakfast together and talk shop.

The customer may always be right, but your staff have to come first. We are lucky enough to have a tight-knit team that respect and trust each other, and also like each other a great deal, so being good to one another isn’t a hard task. We all work together really well, and our clients can see that and feed off our good vibes and relaxed attitudes.

TJ: Advice for those wishing you own/operate their own business?

LP: I would definitely advise any aspiring business owner to get familiar with accounting, bookkeeping and point-of-sale systems before you jump in head first. Take your time and learn the operational necessities before you open a shop, or you risk flying by the seat of your pants and not having full control or understanding of your finances.

It’s all well and good to be able to do your job, but owning a small business is about much more than the goods or services you provide. That being said, I think people should take a chance, stay true to themselves and be original. This journey has been the absolute best time of my life and I am truly happy to go to work every day.

TJ: What’s next for yourself and the team?

LP: The future for us looks bright. We are focussed on building the business up and doing more creative collaborations with our friends in the screenprinting, hospitality, brewing and design industries to give our brand a wider reach.

Our goal is to slowly take over Collingwood by giving everyone the best haircut and in-shop experience we possibly can when they visit. We are only just getting started and our third year is already looking to be our biggest and best one yet, with lots of parties, lots of community events and (of course) lots of good haircuts.