One of Australia’s best hairstylists – Natalie Anne has strong Western Sydney roots growing up in Punchbowl before moving to Moorebank and now living in Croydon where she can walk to work at her beautiful salon, where she employs 13 staff. We chatted about leaving school at a young age, working for free and where she see’s herself, five years from now.
The Westies: Things are looking pretty great for you right now, can you take us back to where it all began?
Natalie: I left school quite early. I was 14. I was in Year 9, and my parents were super supportive. I have hairdressers in my family, so they said, “As long as you get a job and an apprenticeship, we’ll support you.”
I went and got a job at Toni & Guy, which at the time was like the bees-knees of hair. I got a really good education through them. And I had an amazing mentor, who still to this day mentors me. I really wanted to go into fashion – it’s something that I love, I wanted to be a session stylist where I would do runways, photo shoots and fashion week. I found it really hard to financially survive though, because it was free work all the time, constantly. But I did it. I managed to work for free for three years.
Working for free led me to meet so many different hairdressers, make-up artists and photographers, who were then going into the bridal game. And one make-up artist in particular, her name is Susie Ayoub, she basically said “You’re such a talented hairdresser, if you feel like doing bridal hair, I’ll make sure it happens.” And lo and behold, within the week I needed to buy a diary and hire a receptionist, because my phone rang and rang and rang.
Close your eyes, pray and just work super, super, super hard.
The Westies: You’ve built are really great business, how did you learn your business management skills?
Natalie: That’s been really hard. When I first started, my phone just kept ringing and ringing and ringing. And I really didn’t know how to manage a salon because I’d only worked as a stylist, it was just myself and my books – I’d never been that busy before. I hired my cousin Robyn, who helped me. I was really fortunate that I had people around me that could mentor me. And be like, “Nat, don’t do it this way – do it this way.” Numbers and I don’t get along, so I don’t really focus on the financial side of the business probably as much as I should, but I’m passionate and I’m creative.
Also while I was testing and doing all that free work, I was working for a friend of mine in night clubs, doing Instagram and Facebook, helping drive traffic into the clubs. I used what I’d learnt in my part-time job to then mimic it for my own hairdressing business. We started on Facebook and Instagram in 2013 – today we have 1.4 million followers, which is pretty crazy.
Now I have a successful bridal business with three stylists on the road. I have a salon in Croydon with 10 staff, and we’re releasing a hair care range for professionals this month.
The Westies: What was it that made you want to get into hairdressing at such a young age?
Natalie: I think it was my step-mum and her mum. When I was younger I spent a lot of time in the salon. I was addicted to the perm smell. I loved the black and white tiles, it was very classic. We’d smoke in the salon. It felt like, at the time, every hairdresser who was a little bit older was still really hot as well. You know, they’d always look good and make you feel good and they were really fun.
At the time I didn’t realise everything that went into it, but I always wanted to be in that environment – music blaring all the time, super chilled dress code, not really regimented. It was creative and I realised that you change a person’s face with a haircut, and how they feel about themselves. You can make their day with a haircut, which is pretty empowering.
Girls just want to know how to make themselves feel beautiful. And I think that’s where we want to make sure that, not only are we cutting and colouring their hair, but we educate them to feel better. And that’s why I love educating as well, we started teaching around four years ago. We’ve got two different types of education within our business. The DIY content that goes on our social media. And then we have our seminar based trade education, where we teach other hairdressers how to grow their business, through social media and how to better themselves as stylists. When people share their stories with us, like, “Nat, thank you so much, this trick changed my life” – it’s really inspiring.
The Westies: What influence do you think Western Sydney has had on you?
Natalie: Work ethic. It’s probably the biggest. We are definitely passionate people. And when you grow up in the West you have this street smart way about yourself. And I think in order for me to grow my business to the capacity it is, I really needed to understand that. And that’s definitely one thing that I love about growing up in the West. And I love knowing that every single person around me that are entrepreneurs, were from the same suburb, if not same school. Also loyalty has been really important, especially with family – I employ six of them in the business.
The Westies: You seem like a person with a five year plan!
Natalie: Ha ha, yep! I want to be stocked internationally with our hair care. I would love to grow my team to 20 and I would love to take upstairs, where there would be a private colour room or a VIP area. Eventually a little warehouse where I can stock all of my Natalie Anne Haircare and I want to be in at least 500 salons in Australia and New Zealand. Then I would love a retail model where internationally we’d be stocked in the likes of ‘Sephora’ or ‘Mecca’
Thanks for the chat Nat, we are pretty sure you are going to smash that 5 year goal. If you want to find out more and book yourself in for a cut visit Natalie Anne here.
Interview: Katrina James
Photos: Katrina James