On the up · 5 October 2015

ShortCuts: Winning over parents and kids alike with its fun-focused salon

David O'Neal's ShortCuts salon has car salon chairs to keep children entertained
David O’Neal’s ShortCuts salon has car salon chairs to keep children entertained

The founder of children’s salon, ShortCuts, told Business Advice about his franchise ambitions and the difficulties of retaining staff within the hairdressing industry.

Some people know from an early stage they want to become entrepreneurs. David O’Neal is one of those people – as he always struggled to work as someone else’s employee and hankered to be his own boss. As a father of two young boys, he noted their impatience and inability to sit still when getting haircuts, and began to keep their attention through computer games and iPads while he trimmed their hair himself.

It was this that led to O’Neal’s idea to create a children’s hairdressing salon with entertainment and toys to make it a fun experience for kids. With the help of a £15,000 Start Up Loan, he turned his efforts towards transforming an empty retail unit “that had nothing but dirt and mould” into a busy salon – ShortCuts. Now it has hundreds of people a week visiting, and O’Neal said he never would have felt the pride in setting up shop successfully had he worked for someone else.

With his second salon set to open next month, and the eventual aim of opening a chain or franchising the brand, O’Neal spoke to Business Advice about his success.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

My name is David O’Neal, I am 30-years-old, married with two children and I am the owner of ShortCuts Children’s Salon. ShortCuts is a salon for children which aims to make the haircut experience a fun one for both kids and their parents.

(2) How long have you been around for?

We have been open since June 2014 and we are due to open our second salon in November 2015.

(3) How do/will you make money?

We make money by maintaining good quality haircuts.

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?

Unlike most generic hair salons, ShortCuts has been designed with children in mind.

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

The key thing to us was sticking and continuously reviewing our business plan. As a startup it’s very easy to forget the basics.

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Being selected as a business to feature in the Start Up Loans TV campaign.

(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

Staffing has been one of our most difficult tasks. I was never under any illusion that finding hairdressers that would want to cut children’s hair for a living, was going to be an easy job. I didn’t know how difficult it was to retain hairdressers. In my opinion, it’s one of the most difficult industries to retain employees – the reason being that hairdressers don’t need references.

They can leave a job with no notice and walk into another job having put “mobile hairdresser” for previous experience, which makes it more difficult to retain staff. 
 
I have worked to overcome this by improving on my employee engagement and ensuring that all employees are happy in their job. I have also brought in an HR advisor to help me set up efficient employment contracts along with an employee handbook for each member of staff. Since I have had this all in place I have seen a great improvement in retaining key members of staff.

(8) In five years’ time, I will be…

The proud owner of a national brand of children’s hair salons, with the aim of expanding globally with a successful franchise model.

(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?

Never live life saying “coulda, woulda, shoulda”.

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

My father has always inspired me to be a business owner as he has always been one himself. He always had the flexibility in life to collect us from school or support us with our sporting activities – all down to having the flexibility from running his own business.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

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