Dionne Smith is a renowned, award winning hair stylist and entrepreneur who runs two thriving businesses; she is founder of the hair salon De’Chars (formerly known as Dionne Smith Hair & Beauty) and she recently launched BD Management, a full service creative agency.
She loves working with leading brands such as Mizani, Goldwell and KeraCare.
Her amazing work is currently featured on the cover of the June/July issue of Blackhair magazine!
As usual, I was keen to get the low down on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur! Here is what Dionne had to share.
BPL: What inspired you to start your business?
DS: I had never aspired to become a full time hairdresser because at that time I thought it was a profession that didn’t command much respect…in fact I wanted to be a lawyer at one point! I tried to run away from hairdressing and took on a variety of jobs; I did childcare, I was a bus driver, I even owned a pub – but I would always have a few hair clients on the side! One day, a neighbour said that she has been watching me as I was working and had seen the beautiful creations coming from my house and asked me to do her hair. Our relationship grew over time and it was this neighbour that insisted that I should open a salon, she was convinced that I would do really well. She offered me £10,000 to open up my first salon. I couldn’t believe it! I thought she was joking! But she wasn’t – and I slept on it and decided to go for it.
BPL: What have been the challenges you have faced in running and growing your business?
DS: One of the main challenges was having to do everything by myself in the early stages of setting up my business, because I couldn’t afford to take on any staff at the beginning – this was a very strenuous stage, but I was determined to persevere. When I was in the position to finally take on staff, it did take a few years to find a solid, reliable team, so one should not underestimate the time the hiring process can take. Be patient and persistent and you will develop a high performing team. Lastly I quickly learned that I had to be prepared to deal with the unexpected – for example it can be very stressful if your boiler packs up on a Saturday and the appointment book is full but you have no HOT WATER! You have to be prepared for the very worse and learn how to manage these situations.
BPL: What advice would you give to other women of colour who are aspiring to start a hair or beauty business?
DS: Make sure you know the job inside out. If you want to open a salon, consider working from home or renting a chair at another salon to build up a clientele before taking on a premises of your own.
Take the time to write a solid business plan because it really helps you to manage the business and it gives the business a greater chance of surviving past the dreaded 3 year mark. I encourage anyone who has a dream to stick at it and follow it through, believe in yourself and push push push!
De’Chars can be found at 35 Meeting House Lane Peckham London SE15. Tel: 020 7635 2400
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