‘We used the downturn to our advantage’

Inside Track Q&A: Dylan Bradshaw of Dylan Bradshaw hair salon

Dylan Bradshaw: “While most people were cutting back, we didn’t want to dilute our brand so we upped the service.”

Dylan Bradshaw: “While most people were cutting back, we didn’t want to dilute our brand so we upped the service.”

Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 01:00

Dylan Bradshaw’s eponymous hair salon in South William Street, Dublin, employs 45 people and incorporates a make-up and nail service. Last year Bradshaw opened the DB Academy, a training college for aspiring and qualified hair stylists.

What sets your business apart from the competition? We hope that our salon is driven by the quality of service but also by how the space lends itself to the experience of the client. We have invested a lot of time, money and energy into getting it right. While most people were cutting back in the recession, we didn’t want to dilute our brand so we upped the service so that the client gets more for their buck.

What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? My mum always said: “Be a leader, not a follower.” None of us really knew what she meant as kids but I think it’s something I have taken into the business. I don’t worry about what other businesses are doing, I just focus on how our own business can develop and provide a better service.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business? I think that anyone who is in business, if they’re honest, will tell you they make mistakes every day but it’s about learning from them and making better decisions the next time.

I’m not an academic so I have learned through hard knocks about what has cost me money or put my business under pressure. We had a Blow Dry Bar in Dublin Airport. It didn’t work out so we pulled it after a year. I don’t look at mistakes like that as defining the brand, I say to myself, “Okay, it didn’t work, move on.” It’s what you do with the mistake and how you move forward that counts.

And your major success to date? We’ve won every award going in the business, including the L’Oréal Colour Trophy three times, the Schwarzkopf Best New Business and Best Business award a number of times.

Some weeks back we opened the L’Oréal Colour Trophy in London – it’s like the Oscars of the hairdressing industry with the best global hairdressers in attendance. No other Irish company has ever opened this show.

Who do you most admire in business and why? Without sounding corny, I really admire my wife Charlotte Bradshaw who is the other half of the business. She is a very smart businesswoman who is great at controlling the costs and accounts. She also handled the move from a salon of 1,500 square feet to 10,000 square feet at the height of recession four years ago, working with the banks, landlords and builders around budgets and using the downturn as an advantage to our business. She’s a very smart woman.

Based on your experience in the downturn, are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs? I think if you went in with a balaclava and a shotgun you still wouldn’t get any money out of them. I think it’s okay for start-ups who require small loans but I think that for a small business like mine, if you want to go to the next level, you don’t get much support. A lot of businesses I know had overdraft facilities which were taken away and changed into short-term loans. The overdraft facility helps small businesses to get by and I know from speaking to people that pulling overdrafts has led to people shutting up shop.

What one piece of advice would you give to the Government to help stimulate the economy? Small businesses should be given a break and supported a bit more by Government. Rates have gone up. I’ve expensive rates and now I also have to pay a lot extra to a refuse collection company. We seem to be shaken down for more costs all the time.

What’s been the biggest challenge you have had to face? The biggest challenge is pushing ourselves – we just keep pushing forward and upwards. The recession has been bad for everyone but hopefully we will be able to take the foot off the gas just a little and not have to work seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day.

How do you see the short-term future for your business? I see it as good. It’s going in the right direction. We have never had a bad year. We have increased our turnover and expanded year-on-year despite the recession.

What’s your business worth and would you sell it? It’s a private business so I have never even thought about it until now. And would I sell it? No. It’s my life and my livelihood. I’m only 41 so I am planning to stay around doing this for a lot longer!


In conversation with Ruth O’Connor

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