Diana and Ashley are two friends who have proven false the idea that friends should never double up as business partners. The two of them have also gone to show that it is possible to pursue your passions, while juggling other very important commitments such as a professional day job and two toddlers. With all this talk about what it means to have more women in the work force and also in the self-employed and start-up scene, these two lovely ladies show just how possible it is for women to indeed, as they say, have it all.
1. So Blow+Bar was born out of a belief that women should not only be well groomed, but they should feel good too. Plus, if they can make it time to either unwind or catch up with friends, it’s an added bonus. Is that an accurate summary?
D: Blow+Bar was inspired by the fact that women look and feel their best after they step out of a salon. Years ago, when I first started working, I got into the habit of having regular hair-washes at salons. Call it an indulgence, but I found that as life got busier with work commitments, family commitments, and social appointments to keep, it was tough to wash, dry and style my own hair on such a tight schedule. Having my hair done was the one time when I could completely kick back and just relax, have some time to myself and unwind. I loved the scalp massages that I could not replicate at home (I am a strong believer that a great 10 minute massage is all you need to feel completely rejuvenated), and the perfectly-tressed hair that took far too long to do on my own.
So I suppose you could say that Blow+Bar was a way for busy working women to have a chance to unwind (with a glass of wine), catch up with friends, but also get the necessities out of the way. Having good hair (all the time) not only makes up the biggest part of first impressions, but getting your hair done is the only beauty service that makes you look good and feel even better immediately. Think about it, facials make you look horrible and body massages feel great but do nothing for how you look.
A: This is how Blow+Bar is conceptualised. Our desire is to get people to change their habits about hair and grooming, as we believe it will make a positive change in their lives. It can’t just be about IT bags, expensive face creams, and a closet full of clothes from the latest season – to look good you have to have the whole package and that includes having great hair. Beyond that, Blow+Bar is also about more than just looking good, it’s about feeling good as well. That’s why we place so much emphasis on the scalp massage and hair rejuvenation.
In a time-starved era like ours, we want to give women a way to get as many of their grooming needs out of the way while enjoying their time alone or with a group of girl friends. Though we specialise in blow outs, we also offer perms, cut, colour, treatment and mani/pedi services.
I suppose Martin Luther’s quote would speak directly to your main audience:
The hair is the richest ornament of women.
A+D: It is, as they say, our crowning glory! We should give it due care.
2. I understand that both of you used to work in FMCG companies specializing in skin and hair care products – did this prior life help you two get to where you are today?
A: Combined, I think Diana and I have more than 15 years’ experience in the hair care industry. You don’t work that long without getting a lot of insight into how the industry functions. Before Blow+Bar, I worked with L’Oreal to create some of the most innovative hair services, set seasonal trends and launch new products into the market. That experience put me in close proximity with leading industry insiders from hair stylists to business owners, it helped me identify a sure gap in the market for hair care services, and showed me what could and could not work in Singapore. It was invaluable in setting up Blow+Bar.
That experience with hair products, tools and industry insiders gave me a very clear idea of what Blow+Bar should be in terms of the service offering, quality and client experience. At Blow+Bar, we designed the entire customer experience from the time they make the appointment to when they walk out the door, we even follow up with them to see how their hair is faring a few days in. Our customers really appreciate the care and attention we pay to the five senses, and we want to continually strive to make sure we deliver not only a great product, but an excellent experience.
The industry experience also means we are able to stay abreast of what is happening in the market (fed to us by the veterans we used to work with), and always offer the latest and greatest in terms of product. I am also extremely well versed in hair and scalp science, and can provide our customers with a very professional and detailed consultation.
D: As a marketer for Procter & Gamble (where I once handled the prestigious skincare brand SK-II), I learned quickly that you can’t just have the best product or service, you have to have the best brand. I worked in the global team in SK-II developing strategy, positioning, defending market leader positions, fighting competition, launching new products, sustaining hero products, making commercials, and creating great ad campaigns. So that’s where my experience comes in – I want to build Blow+Bar into a brand that delivers on the promise to be the ultimate urban lifestyle remedy for busy people.
It seems you both are quite the dynamic duo, Ashley comes with product and Diana comes with positioning – sounds like a fairly fabulous pairing between friends.
4. My next question then would be this: What’s it like to have a friend, another female, for your business partner? Do you think that women-run businesses can help to make life better for women in general?
A: I think it is great to partner with another woman, but it is important to find a partner who can accept you and complement your strengths and weakness. Women understand what other women want so yes, women-run businesses do play a part in making life easier and better for other women. That's ultimately what Blow+Bar is all about, offering a great place for multiple services for busy women.
D: Some people will say that partnering with a friend might ruin friendships, and everyone knows at least one instance in which this has happened. Like Ashley said, it is about finding a partner who can accept you for who you are and complement you. Women are naturally more understanding and sensitive to the needs of others, not to mention a lot more supportive. They understand the complexity and magnitude of different roles all women play in their lives and naturally I believe that makes us so much more tolerant and understanding. It is never just good times in a business, everyone has differing views and a different take on how they want to do things. Ashley and I are always completely honest with each other, and we are both open to criticism of how we can improve and do better.
3. You both have other full time commitments (Diana works a day-job as a brand consultant, and Ashley is a full-time mother of two), how has running your own show made this easier/harder?
A: It’s both better and worse. I work full time at Blow+Bar, managing the day to day operations of the business as well as a family with 2 young boys (Isaac is 4 & Abel is 1). It isn’t easy, people don’t tell you often enough that life is much tougher when you’re the boss. The corporate world offers annual leave, public holidays and weekends off, running your own show is 24/7 – almost like having a third child. But these things aside, there is a lot more flexibility in how I structure my work schedule (not being in the office at 9am is a wonderful, and I also get to put my boys to bed every night) and the satisfaction I derive from it cannot be described.
D: Someone once told me – people who want to start their own businesses are maniacs or will become one. I laughed, but now I understand. Having your own business fully consumes you. You think about it 24/7 even when you don’t have to. So essentially, I have two jobs now – my day job in brand consulting and the rest-of-my-time job as Brand Director of Blow+Bar. It works for me because my passion lies in marketing and brand creation, so while the work load is heavy, I have to say I enjoy almost every minute of it. I love that Ashley and I are pioneers in lifestyle grooming in Singapore, and I love that we did it on our own and from scratch. It’s been a great experience so far.
5. Any tips and tricks to maintain a good head of hair?
D: Regular grooming and treatment. Just like how you need facials, exfoliating scrubs and masks for your face, your hair and scalp need it too. Daily care is really important. Most people would put 6-9 steps of skincare on their faces but none on their hair. It’s a shame.
A: Use good quality salon grade products, even at home. If you have never had a professional hair consult, get one done immediately. It will really help to address any issues you have, or prevent future ones from happening. After all, it is not just about having a great stylist, but having the proper after-care to maintain the results of a color, cut or perm.
6. Finally, one piece of advice for would-be entrepreneurs?
A: Focus and stick to your goals, but be flexible when you need to make changes to your original plan.
D: Always have a purpose in mind, think of the bigger picture and don’t be afraid to rough it out.
Blow+Bar is located at 7 Rodyk Street, Robertson Quay, right by Kith Cafe! Pop in for a blow out, glass of wine, fabulous scalp massage, or simply to meet one of these two (or if you're lucky, both!) lovely ladies pursuing their passions and combining their talents to form a purpose they are both very proud of.