The organic personal care industry is valued at more than £7billion. Here in Brum, entrepreneur Sarah Simpson-Davies is leading the way with her rapidly expanding business
Five years ago, Sarah Simpson-Davies launched Puro Hair Organic. Having worked as a hair stylist for more than a decade, she was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the industry she once loved. “I was fortunate to work for one of the very best hair salons in the Midlands and while the standard of the hair dressing was exceptionally high it felt like we were really lacking in the customer service department,” recalls Sarah. “And I don’t think we were unique. Across the industry, salons were shiny and bling but also really intimidating and frankly a bit cold. I was convinced there was an opportunity to do so much more.” A move to Brum coupled with a burgeoning passion for yoga and Buddhism further fuelled Sarah’s desire to start her own salon, one that committed to both the highest hairdressing standards but also to the lifestyle principles that were increasingly important to her.
“I wanted to innovate the hairdressing industry and create a new experience. I lost my grandmother to brain cancer and I’m convinced that a life-long use of chemical hair colouring was a major factor, so my aim was to use safe and more natural products in a welcoming and relaxed environment.” Sarah found a location in a then under-developed part of Birmingham. “The rent was cheap but at the time the area wasn’t great with virtually no footfall.” With a small team of three, she threw open the doors for business in 2010. “I remember turning to Danny, who’s still a massive part of the business and saying ‘Now what?’” From inception the salon used only the most natural hair colours and products available, free from nasty-sounding chemicals and never tested on animals. As well the products, the furniture and fittings in the salon are also vegan-friendly – and the refreshments are organic too, of course.
A period of sustained growth saw Puro expand to a team of 15 and Sarah collected a raft of awards, including the coveted #SBS created by Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis and a 5-star accreditation from the Good Salon Guide. Among Sarah’s toughest challenges has been recruiting the right staff. “A real turning point was when I was accepted to be one of the students for the Goldman Sachs’s 10,000 Small Business course,” she said. The scheme selects a handful of small businesses that can demonstrate potential for rapid growth and then embarks on a six-month training and education course run through Aston University. This provided access to some fantastic business planning and mentoring expertise which has been invaluable to Sarah.
“I realised that in order to change the industry I needed to start from the bottom, so at the end of last year we launched our own Organic NVQ Training Academy,” she explained. The training has been enthusiastically received and has already helped develop half-a-dozen talented apprentices and Sarah hopes to expand this to 50 by the end of next year. Ambitious Sarah is now gearing up for the next phase of expansion. Next month sees Puro move to new larger premises off Corporation Street with separate floors for hairdressing and training. There are also plans for a second salon towards the end of the year followed by a launch of an own-brand organic hair product range. Sarah then hopes to extend the Puro brand across the country with a franchising programme. “We want to be the first organic hairdressing salon chain in the UK,” she said. “I’m so excited for the future and I’d love to see some of our amazing team grow into running their own salons within the Puro chain.”