Ava & Harrison is a dedicated children’s hair salon in Old Swan founded by Sara Burgess and Jo McCormick. As the only salon in Liverpool catering exclusively for children in a child-friendly environment, they have created an inclusive family destination and a team of hairdressers specially trained in pampering young people with additional needs.
Sara and Jo have been friends since the 1990s. They trained together at Liverpool City College before going on to work at Children’s World, a children’s hairdressing chain that was eventually bought out, and the UK branches were closed.
Lacking the confidence at the time to go it alone, Sara and Jo trained as hairdressing tutors, and both embarked upon successful careers in their own right: Jo travelled the world on cruise ships as a hairdresser before operating salons for an international hairdressing company; Sara worked in salons in the USA, managed salons for a global brand, and worked as a trainer for hundreds of new stylists. Through their combined experience, they recognised how salons failed to properly cater for children, and so their business idea was born.
Sara and Jo knew of The Women’s Organisation long before they approached us themselves: as trainers, they regularly referred students for help in becoming self-employed, meaning they knew where help was when they needed support themselves in 2017.
As with many clients that work with The Women’s Organisation, Sara and Jo had a wealth of expertise in their field, but they lacked the business know-how to get their idea off the ground. With business advice provided through the Enterprise Hub programme, they created a business plan and cash flow forecast, which allowed them to overcome their biggest challenge of applying for a business loan.
Business advisers at The Women’s Organisation also supported them with selecting a location and finding premises – their Old Swan address makes them easy to access from most of the city, provides ample parking from nearby supermarkets, and is within a square mile of 19 schools, which provides most of their clientele.
Sara and Jo attended several training courses, including Bookkeeping and How to Succeed in Business courses, which they both agreed helped hugely in making them business-savvy. By sticking to their vision, following the advice they were given, and drawing on their plentiful experience, they have gone from strength to strength.
Ava & Harrison has undergone remarkable growth since setting up (and not just on their clients’ heads). The business has grown 50% since 2018, and they now employ five staff to help them run the salon. Ava & Harrison regularly gets 5* reviews on social media, and growing demand for their services means they have outgrown their original space.
Having invested in additional haircutting cars for the play area downstairs, the entire ground floor is now dedicated to 0-6 year-olds, with older children and teens catered for on the first floor.
Jo said: “Things are going really well so far; our team is organically growing, and we are taking more than our predicted forecast. By the end of week one we had to employ someone, and by our second week, another staff member!”
Since the beginning, Sara and Jo have made it their goal to cater for children with additional needs, such as ADHD and autism, as well as those who find haircuts particularly challenging. They aim to provide parents with a relaxed and calm space, and give the children extra time if they need it. To achieve this, Sara and Jo have given staff specialist training, bringing in parents, carers, experts, and local community groups who specialise in autism to help shape the experience.
Of course, setting up and running a successful business is never easy, and Sara and Jo have faced many challenges in both their personal and professional lives along the way. Responsibilities with children and parents make communication and organisation paramount, and all appointments are planned well in advance to ensure there are enough staff to cover. However, the hard work, long hours and sleepless nights have been well worth it.
“I feel we have established a name for ourselves. It is very exciting when people ask where you work, and they say: ‘Oh I have heard about you!’ or ‘We will not go anywhere else.’ We have parents who have had real hard times getting their children’s hair cut, and they have been known to cry.”
The pair already have their sights set on developing the brand and opening salons in other areas of the city. With the successes they have already achieved, we expect them to thrive whatever they do.
To find out more about Ava & Harrison or book an appointment, visit their website or contact them on 0151 345 3443.
Sara and Jo started their business with support from Enterprise Hub, the enterprise gateway for business start-up support in the Liverpool City Region offering expert advice to those who are thinking about starting a business. Enterprise Hub is funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
If you are based in the Liverpool City Region and thinking about starting a business, contact our team to find out how we can support you.