Sam James talks team culture, enhancing the client experience with piiq and why she decided to open her own salon.

She’s an award winning hairdresser, educator and all round creative who’s more than making her mark on the hairdressing scene.

Now, South Australia’s own Sam James is adding salon ownership to her already flourishing list of credentials, setting up her very own namesake salon inside the burgeoning suburb of Prospect in Adelaide.

We caught up with the bubbly stylist for a glimpse inside her new establishment.

TJ: What’s new in the world of Sam James?

SJ: Too much (ha!). I’ve just opened my own salon, SJ Establishment and we’re [already] so busy thanks to our clients. I’m currently hiring and training, which is amazing but hectic! I’ve joined the epic MATRIX Design Team and love working with them. I’ve also had some exciting Hair Expo award wins and am planning some big art collaborations. Definitely not getting away anytime soon…

TJ: Talk us through your new salon, SJ Establishment. What inspired you to set up your own space?

SJ: I designed SJ’s with the ultimate client journey in mind. [From the] time-poor professional or busy mother to the cool young fashionista; my clientele is quite varied but their needs have a common theme. The goal is simple: to give our clients the rest and nurturing they deserve whilst making them look their best and feel rejuvenated. It’s been a while in the making but finding the right space and location for this concept was key. I really wanted to connect with my brand on another level and I think the only way to do that is to build it yourself. Experiencing the highs and the lows and feeling like it’s yourbaby.

TJ: Where is it located?

SJ: The salon is located in Prospect, a recently revamped suburb on the outskirts of the city. Over the last few years its seen the opening of some very cool boutiques, cafes and unique businesses – so I knew it was the right fit for both my brand and my clients. Since arriving, the community and other businesses have been so supportive and excited about our arrival. It’s a great area and we are loving the street.

TJ: Run us briefly through the vibe and aesthetic. Any prominent design features? (We heard there’s a Zen colour table…?)

SJ: The basin area was a huge focus as so many clients have shared that it’s their favourite part of a salon. [There’s] darker lighting, beautiful scents, soft sheers and blankets teamed with ultra-comfy reclining chairs – to ensure our clients never want to leave! It’s exclusively for cleansing and treatments – solely for the relaxation part of service. The stations are roomy but cosy with blankets and homey touches.

The window artwork (which I love!) features copper pipe and tan leather alongside my winning collection and the salon campaign. Everybody loves the colour table… and taking pictures with it. [This area] was designed to feel more homey, for those wanting down-time in the salon to read, have a coffee and cake or catch or catch up on work and emails. I don’t believe anyone needs to look at themselves while their colours is doing its thing.

TJ: What is one thing you’ve learnt about salon/business ownership during the set up process? 

SJ: You need to have the right people around your clients and yourself; people who believe in your vision and want to help you succeed in your achievements – it’s paramount. I’ve been very lucky to have started with two beautiful girls (with another about to join); all of whom have watched my journey and have been excited to be a part of it. Team culture is everything.

TJ: The new salon brings with it yet another exciting development… tell us about your decision to incorporate piiq into your salon service. 

SJ: We are super excited about piiq… our clients even more so! One of the biggest reasons I receive new client referrals is that I always talk face shape and suitability; it’s how I’ve grown such a loyal clientele. To have these aspects built into a consultation tool has been brilliant for my stylists; it creates that ‘wow-factor’ every time for each of our clients, and ensures we can communicate about home haircare and educate on styling.

TJ: In your opinion, how does piiq enhance the client experience?

Well the statistics are shocking for how many clients do not receive a consultation, and I think most clients can feel intimidated buy being ‘told’ what to have.  PIIQ makes the consultation exciting not scary, by making it feel personal and educational. It’s definitely a talking point away from the salon were finding.

TJ: What was your first thought upon experiencing piiq for the very first time?

SJ: I love consistency in the salon, especially when it comes to important aspects such as consultation. With piiq, we have consistency in our approach across all our stylists and clients. When I first experienced piiq, it was right on the money with my matches and I just imagined the ‘a-ha’ moments our clients could have.

How many pods will your salon host?

SJ: We’ve started with one and will be adding another eventually. The staff are so excited and our clients are seeing all of the new possibilities. Clients have more confidence to try new things that are being recommended to them. It’s a great experience watching this too… whilst at your Zen colour table.

TJ: What do you love most about piiq and its integrated software?

SJ: It’s a great reminder that one of the biggest reasons people change hairstylists is because they weren’t offered change. Consultation is key to keeping that relationship fresh and alive. The integration is great; they’ve thought of so much! Its helped assist my team to perform great services, ensuring each client has a memorable, personable experience.

TJ: In your opinion, what is the key to creating a memorable salon and consultation experience?

SJ: I think I sound like a parrot now, but consistency is key. It’s easy for people to get it right the first time (generally), but when you deliver time and time again… it’s the consistency that’s creates that ‘wow’. It keeps them coming back and recommending you, [even] after they’ve seen you for years.

TJ: Any words of advice that have inspired your approach to work?

SJ: Some advice from a dear friend that has helped me a lot during the last few months: comparison is the thief of evil. With so much change and so many new beginnings, it’s been important for me to remember to keep looking forward; to concentrate on what I’m doing now and the goals I want to achieve both for my team and myself.

TJ: What’s next for Sam James?

SJ: Mmmmm a holiday… (lol) I wish… Many more 1am finishes with all the behind the scenes aspects of the business, a very exciting opening even in August in conjunction with the Sala Festival, where we will reveal some exciting news about our Adelaide Artists collaborations to come. Lots more beautiful moments with my clients and training my new team members… oh and some MATRIX education workshops, Lil off The top fun, Brissy Hair and Beauty Expo and new collections to shoot! So, not much…