Having a small business is a tough gig - no matter how long you have been doing it. Melissa Bell of Mayko Hair sure makes it look easy though. From becoming a Telstra Business Woman Of The Year Finalist to going from strength to strength with her hair salon, Mel and Mayko Hair are one of the powerhouse small business on the Mornington Peninsula.
What is Mayko Hair and what services do you provide?
Mayko Hair is a hair salon, we provide everything hair related from colour, cutting and we’re also moving into scalp care and hair loss. 2 out of 3 of our clients deal with hair loss, and so we’re working with an Italian company and a scalp doctor in coming in once every couple of months, and we go through and look at our clients that are experiencing whether its psoriasis, hair loss or anything like that, we go through and put a plan together for a detox or treatment. So, it’s not just creating a look for a client - it’s about the scalp health too, which I’m really passionate about. That’s just being introduced to the business.
Why did you start Mayko Hair?
I love the fact that I get to make people feel good about themselves every single day and at the time, its almost a decade now, that as a stylist, the pay was terrible and I thought if I’m not going to earn a lot of money then I wanted to do it because I love it and I want to do it my way. And I wanted to bring my own philosophy to what I do. I could feel that passion getting taken away from me, and it was something so driven on targets, obviously we have those but I have a totally different way to motivate my team. Not you’ve got to make this certain amount of money by the end of the week. Then you’re selling clients things they don’t really need because you’ve got to meet your target. For me, I walk in the door every day because I get to make people feel good about themselves, and there’s not a lot of people that can do that. That’s my main focus of the business, keeping the consistency and the heart is why I started it.
What does a typical day in the salon look like?
There are so many people in one space, it’s a very energetic culture and every day is exciting. It’s always fun. It’s like a family. It’s the vibe and friendly nature, every girl knows every person’s name when they walk in the door, its like walking into your friend’s house.
The beauty industry has a bad rep for promoting bad body images, what’s your thoughts on this?
I think that the media and celebrities really do dictate a lot of what goes on in the industry, whether its beauty or hair related. But everyone who walks in the door has a story, a reason why they’ve come, and it’s change. It might be they’ve broken up with they’re partner, they’ve got kids at home and have no time, for us its problem solving why people come in here. I’ve never really found it based around self-image, I think because we’re that little niche giving people confidence. Never underestimate why someone’s in your chair to begin with. Everyone has their own reason to why they want to look a little bit different.
What do you think is the best thing about running your own business and the hardest?
The best thing is bringing your own passion alive, I live and breathe my passion every single day. It was easy in a way because I love what I do so much, it’s a piece of cake. Everything else in between is just a learning curve. If you’re prepared to work hard then it’s always going to work. The hardest thing is managing people and your leadership skills, that’s my biggest learning curve in my business. And the other thing is staying consistent with how you manage people, your own personality, with your own professional development, at the end of the day you’re at the top of the pyramid, so if you’re lacking in any of those qualities, that’s going to feed through the team, business and culture and ultimately your clients. Consistency is massive.
Do you have any role models in your life?
I have role models all across the board! I have the most amazing parents, local industry mentors and national and international industry mentors. I’ve never been afraid to be resourceful and communicate with people, no matter what the situation is, I have no problem with reaching out to people to pick their brains. So, I’m finding role models all the time.
You were a Telstra Business Woman of the Year finalist, talk us through that journey.
I nearly lost my fiancé in that *laughs*. Basically, I was nominated for that, then I went through a 50-question business submission and it was across the board on everything. My business, my ethics, my finances, me personally, community spirit, everything. It was one of the most rewarding and hardest things I’ve ever done. It’s a massive process of self-reflection. It makes you look at every facet of yourself. Then I received a phone call that I was short listed, and they fly the judges out for one day each state. I had a 45-minute interview with a panel of judges, and I’d had cervical cancer surgery the day before. I had incredible business women read my submission, I emailed it off to 5 or 6 different people, asking for feedback, it literally consumed my life for 10-12 weeks. The submission itself when through so many different avenues of people looking at it, editing it. I went to a lot of Commonwealth Women in Business network events, met a lot of the other finalists who I’m still friends with now, and I collaborate with them all the time. They’re the most amazing finalists I’ve met, the sort of stuff they were doing was next level. I had to do a 3-minute elevator pitch in front of all the Telstra and Commonwealth Bank people, which was terrifying. But you just grow so much from the experience. I didn’t win the finalist position for Victoria, but I felt like a winner when I went up there to get my award. It was recognition for all the hard work I had done. It’s hard to hold onto your belief structure when you run a small business and thinking ‘am I doing the right thing?’, and then emotionally going through all the cervical cancer stuff I put myself under so much stress. Everything I sacrificed in my twenties, it made it worth it.
Have you found much support for women in business?
Locally, I think there’s an opening down here for something a little bit more humbled, and more about supporting each other. I haven’t really found anything down here like that, but I think you just have to search a little harder down here.
Do you have any advice for women wanting to join the hairdressing industry?
It’s an easy industry to get into, but it is one that you need heart and soul, and you need to love what you do to make it a complete career. It is a physically and mentally demanding occupation.
Do you have any advice for women in business in general?
If you’re not feeling uncomfortable, you’re not learning. It’s good to feel nerves, it’s good to feel pressure, and experience those things because it means you’re evolving, and you’re reflecting and self-aware. And love what you do. Make sure your business is your passion.
You can find out more about Mel and Mayko Hair here.