It started when I was 17 years old. I was in year 12 and had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. All my friends were applying for University and TAFE and I remember thinking to myself; there’s absolutely no way I want to go to Uni and study all over again. One, I didn’t enjoy it and two, it wasn’t fun. I enjoyed connection and the social side of things. I remember my best memories were lunch times. I could chat and get to know people through the stories we shared. I really enjoyed being a support to others, teaching them and giving them advice when they were stuck. One of my sister’s friends dropped out of school to peruse a career in hairdressing. I remember one day she asked me to be a hair model for the new girl at her salon. I loved being in a salon. The vibe, the smell of the products, the chats, I loved it all. The girl asked me what I wanted done to my hair. I remember saying to her, “I’m thinking a few light bits and just a trim on my ends, I don’t want to cut much because my formal is coming up and I want to have it long.” She said “no worries” and got started. After sitting in the chair for a few hours, waiting anxiously to see the ends result, she had finally finished. She had blow dried it and sent me on my way to the front counter. My sister’s friend Alex greeted me there and said to me “do you like it?” I remember holding back my tears as my lip quivered and responded “its ok thank you.” I walked down the busy street to get to my mum’s car. There were loud noises everywhere but it kept me distracted as I tried to hold the tears back from my eyes. I got in the car and uncontrollably cried. I hated it, I hated it so much. I had never felt so unheard by someone in my life. I said to mum as I wiped my tears from my eyes, “if I was hair dresser, I would never do that to someone.”
A few days later I sat on my bed, nervous, wondering what I was going to actually do with my life. That day I asked my mum to help me rewrite my resume. I printed out 10 copies and I drove around Adelaide dropping them in to hair salons that looked nice and upbeat. I got rejected, not once, not twice but 4 times. They didn’t even want to look at me because I had no experience. I sat at home after I had been driving around all day, completely defeated and felt like giving up. I remember thinking, I need this to work and I want this to work more than anything. The phone rang; it was the owner of the last salon I put my resume in. She wanted me to go in for an interview the next day. I was ecstatic! My prayers had been answered. How soon can you start, she asked me ‘Right now?’ I replied. That’s when the journey really began.
My apprenticeship was the most intense and demanding 3.5 years of my life. I was pushed around, I came home crying every night and I wanted to quit so many times. I also wanted to be the best and serve my clients the best I knew how and not let them down. They were the ones that got me through all the hard times. I use to come to work not knowing what mood my boss would be in that day. Would I get a smile today or would I want to hide all day and focus on not making eye contact with her. She used to play my sister and I against each other. Tell me she had said things behind my back that wasn’t true. That’s when my sister and my bond got so much stronger. We knew that if we were going to survive this, we only had each other and that’s all that we needed.
The one question I always used to get asked was, are you going to own your own salon one day? My reply was always the same. “Yes of course I will! I will own it with my sister, my younger sister will work for us, my mum will do the books and my dad will be the handy man. I said it so many times it became my reality. I lived out my apprenticeship and worked so hard to be the best. I would come in and train on my days off and have races at the dinner table with my sister who could foil the fastest and compete against each other.
Although it felt like a horrible place to work, we also learnt some of our most valuable lessons in those salons. We learnt how to not treat people, how to be good leaders and most importantly the power of education and connection.
I had had enough after my apprenticeship and I needed to escape and get away. I packed my bags after my 21st birthday and went to explore the world. I travelled on my own for 6 months. I left everything behind in the pursuit to find happiness across the globe. No mater how I tried to avoid it I always came back to hair. I cut peoples hair for money, which then paid for my nights out. I had the time of my life but I had this pull to go back home and start my life. Start to get serious about being an adult. So I made my way home.
I had one hundred dollars to my name and I had my trade that was it. My partners mum at the time worked for centrelink. She told us to go on centrelink and have a break while we looked for jobs. I remember thinking I will find a job if it’s the last thing that I do. Three days later I became a manager at a hair salon where I was taught how to run a team, how to work out figures and how to manage a store. I put in a good word for my sister who was at the time working from home and she also became a manager at one of the stores. It taught us all the right things to do, how to treat people and how to really love and be inspired by hair. Our boss at the time asked us what our 5 year plan was and we told her it was to one day have our own salon. Knowing this, she taught us everything we needed to know about running a business.
A year had passed of owning our salon and we felt on top of the world. We were living our purpose; we were serving people in hope to change the hair industry once and for all. I was 23 and Alicia was 24, we worked all day and all night there was no set hours. Then it happened. Our clients started to get allergic reactions to our colour range and the products we were using. To top it off Alicia also started suffering from irritated eyes that would sting constantly. We couldn’t keep living like this. The thought of the damage it was doing to our health and our client’s hair was frightening. That’s when we had an epiphany. We needed to make a change; we decided to turn our salon into a clean air salon. Although it was the best option, it didn’t stop us from feeling sick to our stomachs at the thought of what we needed to do. We had a stressful time working out the logistics and seeing if financially the cost would come back and even out.
That’s when we developed a plan, a plan to find out as much as we could about this new venture while we spent hours of our time researching and making phone calls. That’s when we finally found what we were looking for. It was a gamble but we were all in, it was all or nothing for us. It took some time to find the best company that fit but we finally found someone who could fulfil our vision and purpose of the Bode brand.
Everything was great, we had a fully operating team of eight, we moved to a bigger premises and life seemed good. We learnt a lot about each other, ourselves and other people. Although it was great It was tough; a lot of ups and downs, hiring people, firing people and the lessons were never ending. Just when things were looking up Alicia had decided to then move to Melbourne to be with her partner. At first I was fine, masking my feelings and not allowing myself to fully feel what I needed to feel because I was too scared of what was on the other side.
Three months had passed and it started to really sink in. I’d lost my best friend, my business partner and my sister all at once. We use to spend all our time together and had this bond that no one understood that ran so deep you couldn’t explain it you could only feel it. That’s when I went into a deep depression. I was sad, not for a day not for one week but for months. I couldn’t shake it; there was nothing I could do to get me out of this feeling of being in a deep black hole with no light. I tried journaling, meditation and gratitude every day but nothing worked. That’s when I decided to finally do something I’ve never done and go and get help. I spoke to a lady called Lin. On our first session she asked me, “so why are you here? What do you want to talk about?” I was ashamed and I shrugged it off and replied with “I’m not sure?” She started to ask me about my life, the questions got deeper and deeper to the point that I finally broke down. It all came out. It was like someone had opened the floodgates to my eyes. I was drained emotionally and I just wanted to feel back to myself again.
Time had passed and I continued to see Lin. My depression started to disappear and I finally started to feel like myself again. The sun looked brighter, the grass looked greener but when I looked to the business there was still this deep undiscovered feeling that something was missing. I remember thinking, how are we going to turn this around and finally get our purpose and message out there to the world? How will we educate people on the health of their hair and why it’s so important? There has to be a way to make this work. Months passed and we felt like we were just floating and not in a good way. We felt stagnant; we had spent thousands of dollars on business courses hoping that we would find the magic formula to take us to the next level. We felt that our team wasn’t on board and that we had lost our vision because all we focused on was trying to make them happy. We felt completely lost and got to the point that we wanted to sell, give it away and wipe our hands of the debt we’d accumulated and what we had created within our brand. We sat there one night talking and I remember us saying, “I just want to start again, just reset and start again.”
Eventually we got what we asked for. My world came crumbling down, so I thought. Our entire team quit in one week. We were left with my sister, myself and one other stylist; Michelle. It was like feeling as if I was losing everything; my life, my mind, my time and my faith. We were run off our feet and didn’t know how we would survive.
I flew to Melbourne that weekend, sat down with my sister and we planned. We planned all day and all night, it was the only thing on our minds. There were so many tears and so much emotion knowing that what we had built for the past 9 years may have been for nothing as was slowly collapsing around us. Knowing the team we had built betrayed us after years of putting our heart and souls into training them all from the bottom up. It was like someone had gotten a dagger and stabbed it into my heart, like the feeling of finding out your partner of 5 years was lying, stealing and cheating on you all at once. It was the second hardest moment of my life. I felt like I had lived a lifetime of ups and downs all in the space of a year. It was the most testing year of my life but I learnt how strong I was as a person and how all those years of personal development had finally been put to good use.
So we sat there, in Melbourne and we stripped the business right back. Back so far that we eventually reminded ourselves what it had always been about. About health and educating people how they can have the best hair possible in hope for it to transfer into their lives.
This moment of fear, the unknown and almost rock bottom allowed us to fall in love with our brand again. It reminded ourselves of why we started this crazy journey.
This is what led me to creating our ‘Inside healthy hair secrets’ video series. It is 15 years of accumulated knowledge by making mistakes, educating ourselves and really getting to know the industry intimately. It is everything someone would need to transform their hair and their life forever, the beginning of something that will touch hundreds if not millions of people around the globe.