Leigh Dole wears many hats – mum, entrepreneur and the queen of blowies. This powerhouse of a woman is unstoppable when it comes to growth and expansion in the world of bricks and mortar. While many businesses were shuttering during Covid-19, Leigh pushed ahead and launched Blow Bar Co in David Jones, Sydney. Retail Beauty chats with the savvy business woman about upscaling and business growth – regardless of a global pandemic.
When and why did you launch your first business?
I launched my very first salon when I was 17 years old in Woollahra. After a few years, I realised traditional cuts and colours (i.e. maintenance!) was not for me, so I took a break from the beauty industry to rediscover my passion. I knew I wanted to capture all of the special moments of a woman’s life and put them in one place – a feel good space. This became Blow Bar Co. It was launched in 2015. I’ve always loved human connection and making people feel and look good. I love sharing special moments with clients who become friends. Whether it’s a job interview, formal, first date, hen’s party, christening, wedding, or just a catch up on life with the weekday blow – I share their journey while making them look and feel beautiful. Our clients/friends always leave feeling empowered and confident and the joy I receive from watching them walk away with a spring in their step is absolutely wonderful – there’s no better feeling!
What were the key factors in deciding to expand?
I believe there should be a Blow Bar Co on every corner, in every state! One store was never enough. I always wanted to bring this amazing space and feeling to women everywhere. When we launched Blow Bar Co in 2015, we went from two staff to 25 staff in just eight weeks. Almost instantly we had offers from all over to expand and the most common comment was “You should open one in my suburb!” And this still continues today. At the moment, we have venues in Bronte, Balmain, Coogee (inside the Coogee Pavilion) and David Jones, Sydney CBD. Our community of women will travel far and wide to experience Blow Bar and I think it would be rude not to continue to keep expanding.
You launched Blow Bar Co into David Jones, Sydney, in October 2020, when Covid-19 restrictions were still in force – tell us about it?
This question almost brings me to tears… what a year! This was one of the hardest and most challenging times of my career – as I’m sure many people can relate to. People regularly questioned why I would open a salon during a pandemic? As you may know, events are a big part of our business and they were cancelled – weddings, birthdays, formals, hens parties etc. We also service corporate professionals – and many of these businesswomen were working from home.
With the entire world facing such a challenging time, it was a hard time to remain positive and keep motivated while trying to launch a new business. We opened Blow Bar David Jones without being able to do makeup services, which was heartbreaking, as it’s a big part of our concept. However, when makeup services resumed, we were thrilled to announce our new makeup partnership with the incredible Givenchy Beauty. Partnering with Australia’s leading department store and launching Blow Bar David Jones is undoubtedly one of my proudest moments. David Jones is a part of Australian history and to be part of it with or without Covid-19 is incredible.
How did you secure Givenchy as your exclusive makeup partner in DJs?
Givenchy Beauty is an incredible brand partner and we were kindly introduced through the David Jones team. We have learnt so much about the brand – from the history, the story, how it was born and how it continues to innovate. It is a brand like no other.
Can you share some of the successes and challenges that you have faced through the journey of upscaling your business?
Business can be so rewarding yet hard at the same time. My successes lie in the partnerships I’ve gained and the relationships I’ve made along the way. I’ve had the opportunity to meet many amazing people throughout my career, who I feel privileged and honoured to know. As my gorgeous team continues to grow, it’s such a lovely experience to be able to be a part of their lives, just as they’re a part of mine! Not to mention our gorgeous clients, who we share our day to day with – we’re all a big family. We’ve partnered with so many powerful brands – from Givenchy Beauty and David Jones to Merivale [we have a venue inside the Coogee Pavilion], NAK Hair, SWIISH Wellness and a group of various charities and corporate initiatives – the list goes on. Together, we keep learning and growing and that’s what’s really important. While the relationships we’ve built along the way are extremely rewarding, at times, it can also be challenging. I feel this deeply when staff – who I call family – leave the nest. Many of them do venture back, even if it’s just as a guest appearance. I feel so blessed that I am able to form these kinds of relationships with my staff and that I get to be a part of their journey and career nonetheless.
Another challenging aspect of operating an original idea that you’re so passionate about is when I see our concept being replicated by other businesses, however I have come to learn that imitation is the finest form of flattery.
What are your thoughts – should you wait to grow organically or engage investors? Why?
I think both. I believe it’s important to never scale too soon as you can lose key ingredients for a successful business. At some point, however, you may need investors to help you grow.
How do you ‘juggle it all’? Any secret tips and/or tricks you can share?
If I can recommend anything… early mornings, learn to love them! The world can be so chaotic – between phone calls, social media, emails, work meetings and events… there is a golden hour (for me hours) somewhere between 3-5am where the world is still. I plan my day during this time – it’s important to take a moment to list your jobs and prioritise. Use a good task management app so you can always revert back to see where you’re at.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known earlier?
Follow your heart and trust your gut. I used to doubt myself and what I was doing… but trust yourself! Everything starts somewhere and you might just be that someone who starts it.