Interview with Ayanda Soares, founder of House of Hair UK and the Business Building Academy

COVID-19, and the resulting lockdown, has hit many businesses hard, and even forced entire industries to shut down.

One profession that has been hit hard is hairdressing. Salon owners, like Ayanda Soares of House of Hair UK, have had to shut down – with no firm date for re-opening yet.

This was a particularly hard blow for Ayanda because she’d only just opened her business – she’d enjoyed a successful launch just three months earlier. Her popular salon has a lush, velvet crush interior enclosed with a free prosecco wall for waiting clients. The beauty salon has over four treatment rooms along with a luxury nail bar – none of which clients can currently visit.

Luckily, Ayanda has a secondary business that has enabled her to continue to earn during the lockdown – she teaches others how to make money online via her Business Building Academy, where she provides e-booklets on hair tutorials to business start-ups.

What’s your career background?

I have always done hair dressing, as a side hustle for family and friends but I worked full time in the care sector within children’s homes, mother and baby units but also with at risk families. I loved it but I knew I wanted to earn more money and invest in a business.

How did your career change after having children?

After having my children, I decided to turn my side hustle in hair into a full time hair extensions business and decided to open up my first salon. Having my children made me realise life was short and I should follow my passion. As mentioned before, I knew I wanted to build wealth for my kids, family and I thought by working for myself I could achieve that.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I never thought my hair passion would ever become a business that provides income for others, as in having staff, training upcoming stylists. 

I have always enjoyed doing hair but focused on my social work career for a few years but when an old friend on mine had hair extensions in a light bulb went off and I realised that I could do hair part time while working in a children’s home i quickly fell back in love with hairdressing and the business has just blossomed over the years. 

How did you move from idea to actual business?

For me, I think it was a case of turning the side hustle into a professional business.

This happened around six years into running the business when I was just offering a mobile service and a client of mine pulled out a wig that she has been wearing. It was her friends company and it was so well branded with branded bag, clothes bag inside the wig and a card detailing how to care for the wig.

I immediately went home and started planning how I could turn ReeKye Style (my old name) into professional brand and service and so I changed the name to House of Hair UK, I registered the company, opened a business account and began to do more and more research and training within the hair extensions industry. 

What’s your USP? 

Inclusion. We offer alternative/no traditional hair extensions solutions to woman with textured hair. For many years, hair extensions have been only available to those with straight hair.

We also offer straight hair extensions but we have partnered with amazing hair vendors that produce extensions such as tapes, micro rings, clip-ins etc for woman with curly wavy and cause textured hair. So we can use our extensions on five different hair types with over 10 hair extension methods which is our main USP!

Who’s your target audience? 

Ladies age 19-35yrs old who like modest but sexy looking hair they want additional volume and length with it everyone knowing it’s extensions. However we do still have the glamour ladies who live a good 26” head of hair but this is not who are business is targeted towards. 

How do you spread the word about what you do?

Back in the old days, we used Google, Facebook and Word of Mouth, and today it’s all social media, we simply post mini tutorials, before and after videos and photos and share this across our social media platforms. I only started to make this an important part of my weekly business marketing around 18 months ago and business has increased by 4x. We also work with a PR and Marketing agency to boost our credibility as a beauty business.

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy? 

Sponsored before and after videos on Instagram and also using larger Instagram pages to pay for promotional videos. 

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome? 

Securing funding to relocate my business to a larger space. Also being unprepared when I launched my online store forcing me to close it down for a few months due to insane demand for hair within the business and not having any systems in place to control stock (this is advise I give to student who are wanting to set up online stores, get all your back end and systems in place) 

And your proudest moment so far? 

Opening my new salon space in December, many of my clients have been with me from the days when I was a mobile stylist and they tell me all the time how proud they are of me, when we had a press event I would introduce myself as the salon owner and would love seeing how surprised people would look and say “wow your the owner, Congratulations” this was a nice feeling. 

Why is work so important to you?

I actually don’t think ‘work’ is important to me, I’d happily drink cocktails in the sun all day if I could hahaha but making people happy brings me so much happiness, the joy that a simple hair extensions fit can bring to a woman who is feeling low or having a difficult time or who has been disappointed by another stylist.

Also providing an income for others is why I work so hard it’s pressure but also pleasure. I also have very vivid memories of how my single mother struggled financially when I was growing up and so it motivates me to never have my children scared to ask me anything but also my work/business will allow my mum to retire early. 

Who inspires you? 

Both my sisters and my mum always. I’m the baby of the family even if only by four minutes (I have a twin sister) but they have always taken care of me, they are the strongest woman I know, they push through any situations they face with so much grace and strength. 

How do you balance your work with your family? 

Only god knows… Lol having an amazing husband and being clear with my time. This is a struggle during covid times but. My family and business comes first I don’t have much of a social life at the moment and I spend me free time working on my business growth because I love it and genuinely want to see just how big I can grow my brand.

Don’t get me wrong I sometimes feel a little burnt out and sometimes need to take a mini step back many block out my client days and let the girls do clients so I can focus on accounts, retail, education or marketing etc. One thing I do 100% do is wake up before anyone else in my house wakes up at least 1hr so that I have space to do nothing a little reading, medication, planning etc and this keeps me sane. 

What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

  1. Do it…. research as much as you can plan but always take action.
  2. Always know that you will figure it out. You will face difficult times, people won’t believe in you even you won’t believe in you sometimes but write as big as you can in every wall in your house I CAN AND WILL FIGURE IT OUT.
  3. Don’t me scared to fail. It has taken me a really long time to learn that failing is all part of the process and it helps you learn and get better this is the same for negative feedback it will hurt and feel personal but it helps you get better so don’t be scared of it.

Find out more at the Business Building Academy.