Wednesday 20 June 2018

The straight edge: no cuts at Ireland's top hairdressing academy

Cutting it: Dylan Bradshaw at his academy on Dublin’s South William Street
Cutting it: Dylan Bradshaw at his academy on Dublin’s South William Street
Joanna Kiernan

Joanna Kiernan

Dylan Bradshaw has been one of Ireland's top hairdressers for more than two decades.

The Dublin-born coiffeur and businessman is known around the world for his dedication, determination and perfectionism when it comes to his craft - so it was no huge surprise when, in 2012, he set up the Dylan Bradshaw Academy.

"We wanted to create Dylan Bradshaw-educated hairdressers so that people have a really higher standard of education by the time they leave," says Dylan. "Not just to a basic skill standard, but to an advanced level, teaching students the Dylan Bradshaw ethos, which means they are the best in the business going out into the industry when they qualify.

"We are trying to get more people aware that third-level education is not all about academia and going to college. We are trying to give people other options."

The Dylan Bradshaw Academy offers a number of different part-time and short-term courses as well as an 18-month diploma course, which accepts only 10 students each year.

"We don't take any more than that, because we just want to build it gently," says Dylan. "Then we also educate existing hairdressers in the industry and do a number of one to three-day courses with them to allow them to up-skill. There are over 3,000 salons around Ireland, and they all have teams and need to send those teams for education and inspiration from time to time."

The Academy was also set up so that instead of Dylan having to travel as much as he did in his educational role, students could travel to him.

"Basically, rather than me travelling all over the world, we now have a lot of people coming here to learn," he says. "A lot of people will train people in their salon, they'll put somebody in a chair, sit them at the end of the room and check on them every so often. We wanted to create a proper classroom environment and reinforce the fact that this is a serious business, so the academy is fitted out to a really high-end standard to let people know that this is the way Dylan Bradshaw does it.

"Students learn in a really beautiful space, and psychologically that inspires them and gives them the drive to strive for that standard once they leave us. We are the real deal. We are not some dirty room in a back street that does cheap hairdressing. We want to get people to really believe in what they are doing."

The DB Academy diploma is an 18-month City & Guilds-approved qualification in hairdressing.

"I see the standard in hairdressing around the world and it's not great," says Dylan. "Ireland and the UK's hairdressers are very good, and some places in Europe aren't too bad, but internationally speaking, the standard is quite weak, so it's important that we get our work and our message out there and showcase our work a lot."

Dylan credits his mother, Linda, who ran a coffee shop on Dorset Street for 15 years, with instilling in him a fierce work ethic.

"I started off just loving what I do, but as the business gets bigger you have to become more business-minded," says Dylan. "You really have to think about where you're putting your business in the next three to five years - what are your projections, and how can you grow your business? So you have to grow up business-wise and make a plan."

Dylan's credentials speak for themselves. He has worked with the likes of Vogue, Rolling Stone and MTV. He has won numerous international hairdressing accolades and was the first Irish hairdresser to be invited to judge the UK L'Oreal Colour Trophy Grand Final.

Dylan started out in hairdressing aged 15 in a part-time job before making the decision to pursue his craft full-time at 17. He trained with Peter Mark before travelling to New York to work at the infamous Bumble and Bumble salon once he had qualified. On his return to Ireland he worked in Reds on Dawson Street before making the decision to fly solo with the help of a few famous faces who had come to appreciate his work.

At the height of their fame, The Corrs - who had taken Dylan on tour with them around the world - agreed to open his new, relatively unknown salon which he remembers as being a "huge endorsement".

However, he doesn't flaunt his many high-profile connections - when the salon moved to its current premises six years ago, the launch, though well attended, was a low-key affair.

Dylan's wife, Charlotte, is an accountant and a key figure in the Dylan Bradshaw brand. He admits he is more of "an ideas person", while Charlotte figures out the financial viability of said ideas. However, Dylan is very much hands-on when it comes to the day-to-day running of the business.

"The fit-out for our academy over three floors cost several hundred grand," says Dylan. "I have to pay for that. I can't just pull the figure out of my head and do it. I have to repay that - so everything has to wipe its eye. I try and do everything the best we can and to the highest standard that we can.

"The way we do it is that every bit of profit that we make, we put it back into the business. That's the only way you can grow a business in a recession. For the five or six years of the recession we literally pumped everything back into the business, and we've taken on an extra 10,000 square foot of the building, which we expanded into floor by floor.

"We are a family business. We don't have investors. As much as is possible I try not to use the banks, because at the end of the day they weren't lending for a long time and you just get yourself into more pressure anyway, so we just run a really tight ship."

The stand-alone salon and academy now employ 55 people, and Dylan has no plans to dilute their offering by setting up satellite salons around the country.

"I don't think it would work," he says. "I would never say never, but we are really high-end and so the 32 counties travel to us, and that's the truth.

"Also, I like to be in control, in the sense that I don't really want to have a business where I can't know what's going on. It would be too messy."

Dylan is very keen to involve his staff in every aspect of the business, and is both brutally honest and loyal in return for their efforts.

"One of the most important parts of the business is looking after the team," he says. "All throughout the recession I told the team that I wasn't going to cut their wages, and I didn't.

"A lot of businesses did, in my industry especially. I told the team, 'Listen, I will promise you this, but you guys have to work a certain way for me in order for this to really work - we have to do this together as a team.' And we actually expanded our salon during the recession.

"So the proof is there - hard work, dedication, focus and having the backing of your team is what makes your business grow. In the five years of the recession, our business doubled."

Sunday Indo Business

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business