Interview with Scout Hair – winners of the Sustainable Salon of the Year award

How does it feel to have won Sustainable Salon of the Year for the second year in a row?

It feels really good, we were so nervous, there was so much great competition so we weren’t sure if we were going to win. We were so excited when we did. It also helps reinforce what we’re doing. All of the things we did leading up to last year’s award were an accumulation of 5 years consideration. Coming away from those awards gave us more inspiration and drive. It made me think about what needs to change and what we need to work on, not only for the salon, but for the clients and the community.

We did a lot of brainstorming straight after the 2018 awards thinking about what’s next, and what can help us win again. One of our clients was working for the Sustainable Business Network, she has been fantastic. Having someone who’s equally as motivated to be sustainable and solve every problem has been so helpful, I’ve rung her in tears before, she totally gets it. She’s always saying ‘be the change’ and to implement the changes that we want to see in the industry. So for example, last year after realising the level of recycling being stockpiled we decided to become plastic-free. We set the goal and went about working out the ‘how’. And it feels so good to do that, set the goal and get there!


What has made you so successful when it comes to sustainability?

I think the fact that it’s honest and it’s really close to our clients’ hearts too. I think if you’re not 100% consciously behind it and not doing it for the right reasons your clients see that. When they’re on that journey with you, they get involved, they get talking, and it becomes a real underlying ethos. It becomes who we are and what we strive for. It’s at the ground level for what’s important to us and you feel it in the space we’ve created. People also love watching us work through challenges, they get involved in what we do – like what do we do with our old brushes – they get involved because they’re interested and they have a similar ethos and we all work it out together. This also helps us get new clients because they see our brand, they see what we do and they want to pursue this ethos as well.

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Are clients who are looking for a sustainable option now seeking you out?

Yeah definitely. I send out a survey within 24 hours from when a new client has been in and one of the questions is “What did you like most?”. Sustainability features a lot in the responses. We were also approached by Te Papa to be filmed for their nature exhibition “Te Taioa”, they have looped videos of community groups doing work for the environment. They have a lot of cool groups in there, like folks that go around and put LED lights into sports club rooms. We have had quite a lot of clients come to us from that which is amazing! It was helpful to get our name out there and it also makes people aware that you can be sustainable in a salon.


How do you ensure your staff embrace the same sustainable vision as you?

It’s a mixture of ways. We spend a lot of time trying to find the right fit for everybody. We have a really small group of four at the moment and we’re in a tiny space. There’s nowhere to go so the team has to understand and know each other really well. Mel has been alongside me for 5 years now, when she first started it was more about the fact that we were both really into what we were doing, and super caring and honest. That created a lovely, calm and homely environment. Then when I had my son, my care for the planet increased a billion percent. Mel has been on the ride from when my interest started really peaking, and we’ve just kept learning together. That happens with staff members a lot though – you learn new techniques and share knowledge, somehow by osmosis, then that influences your identity, your ethos, your kaupapa. Our other stylist Marrs sought us out online. She owned a sustainable salon in California, so she was already working sustainably. She’s a great source of knowledge, inspiration and support. So yeah, It’s been through a process of osmosis, education and kaupapa that ensures we share the same vision.

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Where do you get your inspiration and ideas for improving sustainability from?

It’s hard to say exactly! We have so many amazing conversations with clients, and we’re lucky to have so many amazing people that we get to share time with while doing their hair. Everyone has all these ideas and you just share them. Folks arrive with information and you learn. It’s not only that though – it’s Instagram, or the likes of Sophie Handford and Kowtow – it’s everyone else who’s on a similar path sharing ideas, you gravitate towards people that give you more info. I’ve spent so many years with anxiety which has made it hard for me to approach people, so the information I was gathering tended to be from people I was in contact with through Scout. But now because I’m more eager to learn, share knowledge and get more education out there for salons, I’ve realised I’ve got to be able to push myself out there and seek out people to work with.


Do you feel like people were always very open?

People are definitely more open now, when I first started it was very different! I’ve been hairdressing for 25 years now, when I first started there was this feeling of competition, and that we had to guard what we were doing. I see people sharing a lot more now as an industry, which is vital. We need to share sustainability knowledge and ideas, and learn from each other rather than using it as leverage against competing businesses, or having to learn by ourselves which wastes time that we don’t have. If we can all share our ideas we can learn and implement change much faster!

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If there’s another salon, spa or clinic wanting to reduce their effect on the environment, what are some sustainable practices you think they could easily integrate that could make the biggest impact?

The biggest thing you can do is change your mindset. You can do a lot of small things that hand the responsibility over to others, like implementing waste systems or getting someone to take your recycling. But if you consider everything that’s coming into your salon, you instantly decrease how much is going out. If you’re conscious of your impact at every point, you can’t help but change.

There’s always a way to solve the problems that come up. It’s about thinking outside the square, chatting to others and doing some research. For example, it was really tricky to do refills of products initially, then we decided that was too important to take no for an answer and we would just do it. Now, a year later we work with a super supportive brand ‘Oway’ who totally back refilling, so our clients can bring in their own container or use our small glass bottles and jars. Our clients can take home as much or as little as they like. It means they can take home little samples to try and then they can reuse the glass bottle if they want to try something different. This is especially handy as some of our products retail at $53 for 250ml. So by offering our clients choice, we can sell them as much as they would like, it’s cheaper, and they can just try it out! They also get 20% off the retail cost because they’re doing a refill, which is is an added incentive to refilling. Solving problems when trying to be sustainable has opened us up to retail and it has ended up benefiting us without expecting it to!

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What does the future look like for Scout?

Essentially we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, I’ve got so many goals for next year! I’d like to get more staff and grow within our small space. I want to figure out how to share knowledge better between salons that use different brands. I want to make it not about competition but about sharing knowledge for the sake of the environment. This might be through creating a platform, but for now I’m not sure what that’s going to look like! I just have an absolute fire for this. It gets hard to organise all these ideas but I just focus on one thing at a time! I’ve got notes written down everywhere. Half the time I’ll leave them at home and have to get my partner to send through photos for me. The people around me are all passionate about this as well so we’re constantly discussing ideas, whether it’s on the 40-minute commute to work or when I’m looking after my son at home. I’m busy, but it’s so freaking awesome! I just really want to make change – it’s what is most important to me at the moment.

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Would you recommend entering The Industry Awards, and why?

Definitely. It helps you focus on what you’re doing, and pinpoint what you’re great at. For us it helped us focus on pulling together the best entry we could. It’s inspiring and helps you grow.


What advice would you give to other salons, spas and clinics about the entry process?

Presentation, I think one of the main reasons we did so well Is because of the way we presented it. We were perfectionists in making it look exactly how we wanted it to. Pull together all the people you know who can help you, because they can make it so much easier. Everyone has contacts – you can find someone who knows someone. And if you don’t – pay for help. It’s really important to get your ideas across concisely and make them look how you want them to look.

Entering the awards last year made me realise you have to really read what they’re asking of you. When I first started on my application for the awards last year I was making all of these crazy notes, and then I showed my friend, who does this sort of thing for a living, and she completely reworked what I was saying. Without her, it would have been a mess. Which I guess goes to show that getting help from your community is really valuable.

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Is there anything else you’d like to share?

One final thing I want to say is that I would love for people to reach out to me. I really do believe that community is super important. I’ve spent so long being so scared to approach people, but I’ve come to realise that it’s needed to be able to learn, share and grow. People think that sustainability is hard but it’s really not, small changes are super easy and they grow on themselves! The hair and beauty industry in NZ is worth approx 2.3 billion per year, if we can start to redirect that to green conscious companies, we can be the change we need to be for our industry.

If you want to get in contact with Annabel Kinley, owner of Scout Hair, feel free to email her here: anniescouthair@gmail.com

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