Interview with Kerry Anderson, founder of Brave Strong Beautiful

Find out how Kerry Anderson was inspired to launch Brave Strong Beautiful, a hair salon with a social mission.

What’s your career background?  

I have 25 years experience as a hairdresser, salon manager and salon owner and eight years experience of working in social care. Part of my role was supporting young people into employment. I am also a trained counsellor and have a diploma in counselling and psychology, and a mum to three amazing boys!

Where did the idea for your business come from?   

After I opened my own salon I became aware of a need for more services for young people. I was meeting school leavers who had left with poor exam results and who were coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, I was surprised at the volume of young people, especially young women who were leaving schools and didn’t have access to training or employment, and were keen to get into the hair and beauty industry.

I wanted to do something to help, which was when I started to look into setting up my own social enterprise. That is when the idea for Brave Strong Beautiful was born. 

How did you move from idea to actual business? 

I had come across social enterprises before and I felt that I would like to be involved with the community. I liked the idea of being a community interest company which allowed us the opportunity to invest our profits into the futures over young people.

I put my idea down on paper and contacted a social enterprise support company to talk about my idea. They were very supportive and have helped me on my journey, I accessed all the training programmes and accelerator programmes they provided which really helped me to align my social mission with our business strategy and from then the organisation organically evolved with supporting young people with employment, training and keeping good mental health at the heart of everything we do. 

What’s your USP?  

Our core values are compassion, collaboration and respect, and we treat all our staff and clients with the care and compassion we would our friends and family. Also, our clients feel part of our journey because they see the young people we work with evolve and develop into confident creative young people and feel part of their success.

Our young people are coming from seriously disadvantaged backgrounds and their success is because we all care about and are invested in their future.

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

The biggest obstacle for me to begin with was preparing cashflows, business plans and policies. Because we work with young people it is vital to have all the right documents in place, which has been a steep learning curve for me. I also feel that as we grow it is important to have a good HR structure so that all staff understand our values and what our goals are.

As the only social enterprise salon in Scotland, we work differently and it is important that our staff understand the company and what our mission is.

And your proudest moment so far?  

There are so many, from winning the Scottish Edge Social Enterprise category last year and getting on the Firstport Launch Me accelerator programme, to opening our second salon in the Edinburgh City Centre in May, and achieving this during a pandemic, we have also grown our staff from four to 10 during this time.

But I am most proud of supporting young people who would otherwise be lost in the system and watch them develop into very confident, creative young people who are so resilient and hardworking, and, with the right support and care, have managed to become very successful in world of hairdressing.

Why is work so important to you?  

I am passionate about making a difference in the world no matter how big or small, I have first-hand experience myself of growing up disadvantaged and living in poverty, I understand the importance of  having a mentor and someone to look up to and to know that someone cares and believes in you. It’s important for me to be that person. It’s what I live for. 

Who inspires you?  

Many big names inspire me, like, Richard Branson, Michelle Obama, Melinda Gates and Jameela Jamil. But the people who inspire me more than anything are the young people I work with, who face the difficulties in their lives that you wouldn’t even believe young people have to face in this day and age, and they still come to work every day and go about their work with a smile.

The young people I work with need to be encouraged to take their holiday entitlements because they would prefer to be at work than being at home. This is my passion in life, to be a guiding light for young people and teach them that, no matter what your background  is and how difficult life has been, you can still turn it around and create a beautiful successful future for yourself, you just need to be brave enough and stay strong while doing it. 

Find out more about Brave Strong Beautiful.