Three salon owners smile at camera while sitting on chairs.

In Conversation with Dylan, Jen & Laurie // Shampoo Hair Bar

Name: Dylan Jennings, Jennifer Kirwin & Laurie Biyak
Shop: Shampoo Hair Bar
Address: 1272 May St & 541 Johnson St, Victoria, Canada 
IG handle: @shampoohairbar & @shampoohairbardowntown

A line-up of Bumble and bumble products along the sinks.

What is Shampoo? Can you tell us about the name?

Shampoo Hair Bar is just a great place to hang out and get your hair done! Really the name was suggested by a friend, and has its roots in the movie “Shampoo” from the 70s showcasing salon culture at that time. Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn! Wow.

The three of you have been business partners for over 10 years. Can you tell us about your backgrounds and partnership? How did the partnership come about?

We actually all met when Jen started as Laurie’s client a long time ago (’96!). Dylan followed along, so for a time Laurie did both of our hair. Essentially Laurie inspired Jen to get into the hair industry, which she then did, and soon after they worked together at Fish. We’ve all been friends ever since, and together we all founded Shampoo in Fairfield in 2006.

View of salon chairs.
The interior of the downtown salon.

You recently purchased a second salon downtown and have gone through a full remodel. How did that purchase come about? Can you tell us about that? What are some of the changes you’ve made?

We had thought about opening another salon or branching out in some way when this salon space on Johnson Street became available for purchase. We did some minor renovations and updates, but mostly just changed the existing culture to Shampoo’s.

How would you describe your salon to someone who hasn’t seen it? How have you evolved over the years?

Fun, friendly and fashionable … and a bit eclectic. We strongly believe in continuing education, and we have constantly evolved as stylists in this manner. Not to brag, but our stylists have a lot of advanced education under their belts (and are also pretty awesome).

Can you tell us a bit about your personal style and aesthetic? How does the salon and the products you carry fit into that aesthetic?

Comfortable, with something for everyone. A bit fun and cheeky. Bumble and bumble products fit so well into this, and their education is unmatched. The colour line, La Biosthetique, is a family-run European company that treats us like we’re a part of their family; they also provide us with fantastic education.

Desk at a hair salon with hair products lining the shelves.
Products behind the counter.

Inspiration is all around us. What or who inspires you?  How does that inspiration add to what you do?

My team! They’re what motivates us every day, and inspires us to keep on improving.

Each year represents new trends. How do you keep up with the latest trends in colour and styles? Do you find that it’s more challenging these days to keep up as everything seems to move at a faster pace?

I think most people naturally grow with the trends a bit. There are also the basic skills that need to be perfected in order to unleash the potential of the “newest, hottest, latest (TM)” thing. Instagram is both a blessing and a curse! I think it’s best to tune out some of the noise though, honestly. Our focus on continuing education also allows stylists to keep an open mind and to incorporate new techniques and trends.

What do you see happening with your industry in the future?

I worry that our industry has been dealt a fairly severe blow with Covid-19. It’s possible that the level of service will be impacted for some time, as we are forced to accommodate extra cleaning and distancing precautions.

Bottles of hair colour in a shelf at a salon in Victoria, BC.
Shampoo’s colour system.

How do you use technology in running your business? Have you run into any obstacles?

Technology has mostly helped, at least with the front desk tasks. It’s made booking and reaching out to clients a little bit easier. There are obstacles of course, since online booking removes some of the personal nature of the interaction and makes it more difficult to ensure clients are booked appropriately.

What are some of the hardest lessons you’ve had starting your business? How have you overcome them?

It’s been a really long time since we started! Shampoo opened in 2006, so I’m not sure what those mistakes and lessons were any longer. Perhaps the hardest has been to learn to delegate and trust other people to help carry the load.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to open up a salon today? What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t! Haha. But honestly, it’s probably not a great time until this pandemic thing is behind us. Once it is, however, I’d probably recommend that you not hire for the sake of hiring. Your culture is the most important thing in the salon environment, as our main product is ourselves and the services we provide.

Hair products on a shelf in a salon.
Products for sale.

We are in a pandemic. Have you made any hard decisions to get you through this difficult time? Where are you finding strength these days to make decisions?

It’s been really hard, to be honest. The decision to take on debt in order to stay in business has been a tough one, especially since we have never had to carry any debt with the business before this. We have also decided to sell our products online, which is brand new to us. Not too sure how it will all work out! Looking forward to the time on the other side of this. Some of us are finding different strengths for sure. Dylan just compartmentalizes and tucks the bad stuff away, whereas Jen creates lists and tasks to complete to help get through these tough times.

As we navigate our new reality, what advice would you give to your fellow shop owners on what keeps you moving forward? Any helpful tips?

Reach out to other business owners or salons. I think it’s really helped us to talk to others about their experiences, and to see that we are all coping in various ways and likely all struggling a bit too.

If you were looking back to this moment in time, what do you hope to gain in personal and business growth? What is the future of the retail market? What 3 words best describe what you’re feeling today?

I suppose that we have already gained an appreciation for how good things were before, and I hope that the experience will allow us to let the annoying things go more easily and appreciate the good things more. Retail is unknown — what will the economy look like? Will all things return to pre-pandemic, or is this the beginning of a long and painful recovery? Our ability to return to the same level and volume of services will likely be restricted for quite some time, so I believe that we are going to see a sizable reduction in business over the next couple of years.  Basically, we hope to survive this downturn and thrive once we return to normal in the future.

Three words? Hopeful and anxious! It’s only two and really just different sides of the same emotional coin.

The view through salon windows to a rainy street.
Looking out to Johnson Street.