It’s hard to remember a time when the terms ‘recession’, ‘credit crunch’ and ‘tough economic climate’ weren’t bandied around on a daily basis. Claire Owen finds out why Benjamin Charles is bucking the trend.
It seems that tales of woe are everywhere – companies going into receivership, retail outlets shutting up shop and business owners going bankrupt. So it’s a wonder than any small firm has survived in this… well, tough economic climate.
But one company that’s keeping firmly afloat is Hair by Benjamin Charles. Launched in January 2010, the North Hill hairdressers have gone from strength to strength under the leadership of founder Benn Holbrook-Morris, who has enjoyed a 25 year career in the industry.
Father-of-one Benn explains that he can attribute the company’s success to one thing – customer service. He says: “We’re doing well because our clients trust us. We listen to their feedback and don’t take them for granted; every appointment is like the first time.”
He adds: “It’s also vital to have a strong team around you. I am lucky to have a team of extremely talented hairdressers who I trust implicitly. I’m so proud of them and will always make sure that I give them the respect they deserve.”
Not one to rest on his laurels, Benn is now expanding the business to include beauty treatments such as massages, manicures and facials in a converted space above the salon. He says: “Our plans have come from listening to customer feedback. We’re also hoping to offer eyelash tinting and spray tans as well as private hairdressing for women who can’t show their hair to men for cultural reasons.
“Some people say you should stick to what you know – but I know good customer service and that’s what will make a success of this side of the business.”
“I’ve always loved seeing women light up when they feel good about themselves. I find that absolutely magical.”
Benn certainly learned from the best when it comes to the trade. After starting his career at just 14 as a Saturday boy in a Westcliff-on-Sea salon, he followed the bright lights of London to train at Vidal Sassoon.
He says: “Working in Chelsea and Knightsbridge blew my mind. For the ladies who came in, the experience was about more than just a haircut – they wore their labels on their hair. I’ve always loved seeing women light up when they feel good about themselves. I find that absolutely magical.”
Benn’s career continued with a role at the Dorchester Hotel working for Charles Worthington – where former Irish president Mary Robinson asked for him personally on a state visit – as well as a stint in China teaching Western styles to local hairdressers.
His passion for the industry has never waned in his 25-year career – even during an extended holiday with wife Joanna: “We went around the world and I made sure I had my scissors everywhere I went. I cut hair in every single country we visited!”
Now, that passion has been translated to his own business. He says: “I am so pleased with the way the salon has progressed in just 18 months. A few Saturdays ago, it was buzzing with a client in every chair. The phones were ringing off the hook and everyone was happy. I took a moment to step back, look around and think, ‘We’ve done it’.”
With such dedication to his customers and the industry, it seems likely that Benn’s salon will thrive whatever any recession, credit crunch or tough economic climate can throw at it.
Hair by Benjamin Charles is located at 40 North Hill, Colchester. To book, call 01206 577764