My career in this incredible industry started in 1985, in fact, my journey started 2 years before that when I was privileged enough to be employed by L’Oréal professional, as a sales consultant. After servicing more than 350 salons a month for 2 years, I knew that I wanted to become a stylist myself. This prompted me to head off to London and Paris to work and train at the prestigious schools and salons of Jingles London, Sanrizz, Toni and Guy, Formulae Paris, L’Oréal London and L’Oréal Paris. After returning from this life-changing experience, I worked for my stepfather at Hair by Kelly for 2 years. It was during this time that I knew I had to carve out my own path by opening my first salon, Inter Hair Design.
In 1997, a client told me about ISO 9000, an international standards organization that all big businesses aspired to. With limited capital at the time, I asked her whether there was a salon anywhere in the world that had ISO listing. She confirmed that there wasn’t, so I set out to become the first ISO 9000 salon in the world. In 1999 this dream was realised.
By incorporating processes and systems, I soon realised that there was so much potential in this industry. I started to differentiate our salon experience from the rest by always ensuring that we did things differently.
In 2001, together with L’Oréal, I started training salon professionals in South Africa. In 2008 the hard work and dedication paid off when I was asked to join the L’Oréal world business team. I was only one of 6 salon professionals from around the world to be awarded this accolade. I travelled extensively over the next few years, teaching, motivating and inspiring a change in the perception of the industry and those who work in it. One highlight was helping L’Oréal launch Kerastase into India, a once in a lifetime experience!
The name Inter Hair Design changed to Gary Rom Hairdressing in 2003, when I opened in the Brooklyn Mall. We currently have 13 salons across Pretoria, Centurion, Johannesburg, and the Western Cape. I have an incredible support team, as well as franchisees who all share the same passion!
The one aspect that sets us apart is an uncompromised stance on the condition of your hair. When condition and care are compromised, hair becomes a challenge. If the condition of your hair is at its finest, then you will always have great natural colour, shine, and manageability. When you step out of a salon, that’s generally the look that you’ll have for the next 6 to 8 weeks, so hair condition has to take priority in order for you to feel and look your best. This is of the utmost importance to us!
In 2008, I had a client whose husband, unbeknown to me at the time, was the owner of a manufacturing company in Johannesburg making products for Woolworths and Nimue, amongst others. I received a call from him asking whether I would consider having my own range – of course, I said yes! The brief was simple – I wanted a haircare brand that could compete, if not be better than the big international brands.
Many hours were spent on careful salon testing, using brands such as Kerastase, Redken, Schwarzkopf and L’Oréal professional as our barometer. Proudly, on the 11th of May 2012, the first products were launched, 4 years after the idea began.
This is a proudly South African brand, crafted with the South African climate in mind and with active ingredients such as the oil of the fruit of the Baobab tree. 35 years of passion, dedication and perseverance have gone into this range.
My son Calvin, and his colleague and friend Mike approached me a year and a half ago with the idea of leveraging off the Gary Rom unisex brand and launched the concept to me of Gary Rom Man – Signature barber. This idea and brainchild have proven to be an instant hit. Unrivalled experiences such as single malt whiskey, complimentary shoeshine, beer on tap, to name a few. The Man brand has proven so popular that Gary Rom Double Black skin care products were formulated and launched 2 months ago. In my opinion, there will be more of the Man brand stores in 5 years’ time than there are unisex.