It’s now middle 2012 & the Ipswich building works are underway. The premises we chose were a first & second floor of some 3,300 square feet with an entrance between two ground floor shops. It was basically a derelict building & the landlord had to make a decision regarding the kind of tenant he would let to. Our needs were completely different to that of office users, his original target tenants, but after weeks & weeks of negotiation, he finally agreed to completely rebuild the site literally from the roof downwards to our specification.

Prior to agreeing the building works we negotiated what we thought at the time was a very fair rental deal; the usual rent free period whilst the works were carried out & then the fit-out by REM. What we considered a fair rent was based on our experience of trading in London & the suburbs. What we failed to take into account was that at the time East Anglia was severely affected by the down-turn in property prices caused by the financial crisis of 2009 onwards & our lack of local knowledge with regard to the hairdressing industry in Essex, Suffolk & Norfolk.

Whilst we had lots of salons training with us from the Essex suburbs of London, rural East Anglia was very different as we soon found out. Here we were, the (in our opinion) well known training organisation from London & we were going to make a clean sweep of the hundreds of salons based in & around the Ipswich area. What we initially failed to realise was that the community spirit that is so often spoken about really does exist in East Anglia & what we urgently needed was to gain the trust of local employers. Not an easy or immediate thing to achieve!

I suppose some of you reading this would say it’s obvious that locally you have to approach business differently from being in Central London. To those I would say “hindsight is an exact science”. Looking back now, the rent we were paying was huge for a 1st & 2nd floor property in a secondary position in a fairly depressed town. Having said all of the above, we got to know some really great hairdressers & salon owners & without their support we would never have survived those first couple of years.

The most challenging thing was to make the local salons aware of us. Alan d was a name that wasn’t well known in East Anglia at the time & we had a big marketing & pr campaign to get us started. We did all.

The things your business gurus tell you to do, knock on doors offering your services, letting people know who you are, getting the local press involved. Eventually it started to come together & we now have a thriving business. Would we do it again? Not unless we had a partner who knew the nuances of the area. For example, in East Anglia people consider themselves entirely separate from the rest of us. They generally feel neglected by government & consider their future lies in their own hands. It’s only now that recovery from the financial crisis is being felt, reflected in property prices rising faster than any other area in the country. Hopefully, this will benefit hairdressing generally throughout the region leading to further expansion of salons & barbershops which in turn leads to more trainees for our business.

And then there was our re-location from our existing site in Central London to new premises in trendy Farringdon, centre of the Crossrail project that’s been going on for years & isn’t due to be finished until 2019. We’ll see!

Read on for all the gory details of the re-location…