Writer’s note: A version of this article was first published in Grapeshot Magazine Issue 2, 2013: Money.
Students gathered in the Central Courtyard to watch hair-styling demos by Hairtalks. The new hairdressing outlet opened doors to visitors during O-Week. Located in a prime position opposite PieFace the salon features spaces for both beauty and hairdressing. Owner Bill Hammoud says, “It’s a great central location and the students are always walking past.” Hammoud is the owner of multiple franchises including Broadway, Bankstown, Rhodes and Shellharbour. He believes the investment at Macquarie University will be a great business opportunity.
Two weeks on and things are a little slower than expected. One morning the stylists are discussing braiding techniques in front of the wall-length mirror. Hairdressing manager Najay Touma says, “It’s been a bit quiet in the mornings but it’s been really good in the evenings.
There’s actually been quite a few who are still surprised. They say, ‘Oh I didn’t know we had a hairdresser.” Kris Gilmour, a male student, says, “When I first heard there would be a hairdresser on campus I had the impression that it would be targeted to females. But after seeing them [Hairtalks] at work I would probably get my hair done there. Depending on the price of course. I’d be willing to pay 15 dollars perhaps.”
It seems that a number of male students agree. “We get a lot of David Beckham requests,” says Touma, “A lot of males want the newest styles and they like to follow their favourite celebs. Females want to go lighter so lots of highlights. Everyone wants to be blonde.”
One stylist, Sam, believes the key to developing business lies in brand identity, “We just need to develop our customer base.” He says that the salon will be able to attract a larger crowd when more people become aware of the brand.
Developing a customer base is exactly what the business has been pushing for since it started. During the recent O-Week festivities staff demonstrated a range of services on offer. These included hair colouring, clipping and even a spray tanning display which was performed on muscular volunteer models. “We want to do as much as we can to get our name out to the students,” says Hammoud.
In addition to the live demos Hammoud invited good friends, Tigers player Benji Marshall and Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes, to get a hair cut. Taking a break from training Marshall was more than happy to assist his ‘Main-man.’ “No-one else cuts my hair but Bill. Did you know that?” says Marshall. Since popping into a HairTalks outlet eight years ago Marshall has been a loyal customer. “To be honest I don’t ask for a particular cut or anything. He just does what he wants. He’s the best cutter I’ve ever seen.”
Touma hopes that these and other strategies will be able to make the brand more well known. “Word of mouth I’d say is the most important. From one person to the next. There’s lots of people to call out to here.”