Perhaps offering quick, inner-city blow-dries for the busy, smart, modern woman isn't a new concept. But perhaps if you infuse womens empowerment in every single brush stroke and back comb and confidence and collaboration into every spritz of hair spray - you can offer something more unique. And perhaps if you can surprise and delight your customers with every single element of your service, from your people to your products to your brand’s personality, you can start a movement. A hair cult, if you will.
At what point do you realise you've somehow outsmarted your detractors ("it won't work", "it won't make money", "there are enough hair salons in Australia") and outperformed your competitors (there are currently over 66,000 hairdressers in Australia)? Is it when Australia's ex-Prime Minister comes in for a blow dry? Or when your Blow Dry bar is visited by the country's most influential models and beauty editors? Or perhaps you know you're onto a good thing when SEPHORA Australia offers you the incredibly prestigious and never- before- offered opportunity to install your blow dry bars INSIDE their SEPHORA stores to bring your BLOW service, your products and your people, to the masses.
Phoebe Simmonds is so much more than a good Blow Dry. While this fairy-tale journey for her 18 month old business might look like an incredible opportunity that fell into her lap, after abit of hard work and abit of luck, this is far from the truth. The beauty Marketer and Entrepreneur had positioned this strategic Sephora partnership as a fundamental part of her business strategy from the get-go and it was firmly in her sight from day one…So of course, we couldn’t wait to quiz The Blow Australia’s brilliant leading lady on all things beauty, business, blow dries and beyond.
So, Phoebe! What is in your Louisa bag right now?
Anything and everything! Benefit Fake Up, Ultra Violette Sheen Screen, Advil, Choose Jonny, Moxie Tampons, Sephora Nail Polish Remover Wipes, Uluna Nuture Intention Blend, Go-To Super Handy, a stack of cards from Kikki K for all my friends who just announced engagements and or babies, Raybans, my laptop, a Daily Edited notebook, Airpods, my phone and a charger, Oscar Wylie reading glasses, my journal, the book Generation F by Virginia Trioli… and an umbrella because, Melbourne.
Phoebe and her VESTIRSI Louisa Bag
After over a decade working for some of the biggest names in beauty, I’d love to know your favourite beauty tip?
Double cleanse (my preference is oil) before bed and always always use an eye cream. I’ve been loving the Zove Beauty Rose Quartz Roller and Gua Sha to boost my circulation and make sure everything absorbs beautifully in the evenings. It makes my skin glow.
What is the one product, you buy over and over again? (If you buy it more than once, you know it’s a goodie!)
Benefit Hoola bronzer. ICONIC.
You spent many years working in beauty marketing, including the coveted role as Marketing Director at Benefit. I like to talk about the importance of "brand" a lot – as it’s a pivotal element of building a successful business that can be sometimes overlooked. It’s a huge question I know but how was Benefit (over many years of course) able to position themselves as the "Ultimate Brow Brand" within a hugely competitive and saturated billion-dollar beauty market?
Through total focus on world domination. Benefit already had credibility in the brow category through their irreverent Brow Bars, then with the extension of a complete brow product offering just when the brow trend was getting attention really solidified things. They focused on shades for every girl, transformations, and quick and easy application techniques that anyone could follow along with at home. Pair that with a company obsession with dominating the category across all marketing channels and retail sales, and putting resources in the right places (think National Brow Artists in every country and strong relationships with influencers) and the rest is history.
Why did you decide to leave the comfort of this fast-paced, creative, interesting role and when did you decide to launch THE BLOW?
I could have very easily stayed at Benefit my whole life. I love the brand and the people. But I was ready for a new challenge and I couldn’t believe that no-one had delivered what I believe Australian women deserve and need, a fast and effortless Blow Dry experience that is consistent, in a convenient location, at a competitive price and in a super cool space that lifts women up.
The Blow, 146 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, Australia
There’s a huge amount of risk involved in any new venture. How did you get past the fear and self-doubt and take the plunge and commit to your first Melbourne store?
I never saw it as a risk, truly! I had seen the trend in services in the US with brows and nails coming to Australia and I knew Blow Drys were next. Someone with a focus on brand just had to do it here. I believed I had the network as well as the brand, marketing and retail experience to bring my vision to life.
What makes THE BLOW different other hair salon blow-dries?
The BLOW to me is so much more than a salon. I wanted to create a brand and a space that means something to women. In my professional and personal life, I’ve learnt that if you don’t stand for something, you won’t stand out at all. Yes, we serve up fast and effortless Blow Drys, but anyone with experience, a passion and a hair dryer can do this. What I’m more interested in is building emotional connections with our guests and the broader community, creating positive experiences to help women feel like they can conquer their day with confidence. We empower our guests with beautiful hair, through events that bring women together socially and professionally, and through our support of Share The Dignity, to help them end period poverty and fight for the safety and support of domestic violence victims. That’s a lifestyle any woman can feel good about.
VESTIRSI Founder Monica discovering how "Good Hair Takes You Good Places" first hand at The Blow
Why did you decide to layer women’s empowerment as a core value into the business?
Because of our guest. She’s busy. She’s intelligent. She’s electric. She has opinions. And she uses hair to feel powerful. We work with our guests hair and their personal style to make them feel fresh, polished and invincible. And because feeling strong and empowered is so much more than how a woman looks, we focus on transformations, emotional and physical. Our mission is to create a community of women who lift each other up. We do that by not taking hair too seriously, by hiring staff who are fun and approachable, through our design and comms, and through events that bring people together who share our values.
THE BLOW has had an incredible 18 months and has grown month on month via influencers, word of mouth, events and activations. What has been the most effective initiative that has helped The BLOW cut through and win over women Melbourne wide?
It’s been a ride! We’ve had so many great moments, one in particular that stands out is our International Women’s Day initiative last year. We opened 6am-9pm and gave away free Blow Drys all day, asking instead for guests to make a donation to Share The Dignity, our charity partner. The community rallied and it was wonderful to have the boutique buzzing with women wanting to support other women, everything The BLOW is all about. We did over 90 Blow Drys and raised $5820 for Share The Dignity, to help them in their efforts to provide sanitary items to homeless women and protect victims of domestic violence. Since we opened, we’ve donated almost $18,000 to Share The Dignity. As a small business, I think it’s important we use our voice and our funds to try to make a small difference to the lives of women who need our support the most. And this seems to resonate with our guests and the Melbourne community at large.
What is the most challenging thing about running The Blow business?
Building resilience, staying nimble, making time for myself and keeping my team focused and motivated.
You recently launched The Memo – a finely curated online selection of super helpful baby items and essentials, the things women actually need for their new child. Where did the inspiration for this site come from, and why did you decide to take on another project, with your hands still very much full with The Blow?
Because my friend Kate had such a great idea I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been done, and knew I had to get involved! When Kate was pregnant, she and a lot of her friends were overwhelmed with the amount of choice, the number of opinions and the amount of things she thought she had to buy. So she came to me with the idea of the memo- a feel good baby and maternity edit to help make those big decisions easy- and not being a parent myself I couldn’t believe how this industry was being marketed. Bumps, cooing babies, heavy discounting and unattainable ‘boho-chic’ crowds the space with zero focus on the needs or concerns of the actual parent. Pair that with way too much choice (and opinions) leads to many expectant parents feeling jaded and confused by the whole process. Our customer gets weekly blow drys, goes to pilates and shops on Net-A-Porter. Yet before the memo, when she became pregnant, all of a sudden she’s marketed to in a completely off putting way- the options are endless but unclear. Life is already changing so much, we wanted to deliver an experience that was feel good and left her feeling the same person- in control, just more invincible.
With sisterhood and women’s empowerment close to your heart and visible throughout all elements of The Blow, it’s no surprise the tone of voice for The Memo is kind, caring, honest and very much feels like a friend that’s “got your back” – how intentional was this choice?
Very! With the tone and built in trust of a close friend and the credibility of an industry insider, the memo exists to help expectant parents feel good about building a happy home life with their baby, genuinely advising and selling them the stuff they actually need. No fuss, no crap, we give it to you straight!
What methods do your practice to manage your mental health and remain happy, grateful and present?
I practice yoga most mornings and follow it with some pretty solid gratitude journalling. It’s a really effective tool to help me set up my day and stay focused on what’s important.
And with all that you have on your plate (The Blow, the Memo, managing staff, publicity, interviews and events, as well as managing a busy social life and family commitments) you’re an incredibly busy lady. How do you manage your stress levels and prevent overwhelm?
Some days I do better at this than others. It’s really important to my mental health to maintain a clean inbox. Nothing outstanding before bed! I’m also pretty good at delegating and knowing my limits. When I need time out, I take it. I just had my first instagram ban on Saturday which was pretty daunting considering I manage three accounts. But at the end of the day, it’s a luxury… and I needed the break.
What advice would you have for young women who are wanting to start their own business, but are not sure where to even begin?
Do it. But know thyself. Lean into your strengths then lean on experts for anything you can’t do confidently. Create a brand DNA that you can refer to, to help guide your decisions, everything you do or don’t do comes down to who you are and what you stand for uniquely in the market.
What’s next for The Blow and The Memo and what needs to happen in the next 12 months for you to consider the year a success?
The BLOW is expanding across Sephora from April with The BLOW On-The-Go Dry Style Boutiques, which will be taking up a lot of my focus as we aim to serve up fast and effortless styling to more Australian women. the memo is all about building on what we’ve just started. More learnings, more partnerships, more community activations.
2020 will be a success if I’m able to build and maintain a team of happy stylists committed to lifting their guests up. Quality not quantity! And if I can keep meeting interesting and dynamic women like you Mon!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given in the past year?
Be comfortable with the uncomfortable.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve been given, that you didn’t follow but wish you did?
I don’t do regrets. Everything is a lesson.
If you could go back to young Phoebe, at say 18 or 21, and give yourself 1 piece of advice, what would it be?
Enjoy it all! We’re pretty lucky to be li