Virgin StartUp of the week: Hairport

Our lives are busier than ever, and often we need things in a hurry - and this includes hairstyles! Introducing Hairport, an innovative take on the classic mobile hairdresser model. With both mobile salons and a soon-to-be-opened permanent base in West Quays shopping centre in Southampton, the premise is simple;  convenient, luxurious hairstyling in locations that are convenient for you. Lauded by celebrities including Pixie Lott, it's a whole new era of hairstyling!

We choose one Virgin StartUp company to be featured on each week. We ask our startups of the week to deliver the ultimate elevator pitch. What would they say if they had one minute in a lift with Sir Richard Branson? Pease answer the questions below, keeping each answer to five sentences max.

Richard B in lift

Ground to floor 1 – Explain what your business does

Hairport UK is the UK's first branded team of professional mobile hairdressers. We also specialise in festivals and event hairdressing with our pop-up blowdry bars. We’re just about to launch our first permanent blowdry bar (thanks to Virgin StartUp), offering an express service where clients can have their hair styled in around 15-20 minutes, meet our mobile stylists, and discover our full range of mobile services for hair on the go. Our clients don't need to visit a salon ever again! We go to them for cuts, styling and colouring, or they come to us for a quick blow-dry.

Floor 1 to 2 - Where are you based?

Our first blowdry bar will be opening on the 17th of November in the premier shopping mall at West Quay, Southampton.

Floor 2 to 3 – What’s the business model?

Our blowdry bar will be a kiosk style, rather than a salon shop unit, and will have hints of an airport cocktail bar environment as opposed to a clinical salon environment. We have taken away the unsociable mirrors that separate each section in a salon – this makes our clients feel less self conscious about 'being on display' in a busy shopping mall, and encourages them to interact and socialise either with each other or online. Clients can enjoy a hot coffee or a glass of bubbles at our bar whilst having their hair styled and they can come to West Quay, buy their outfit, get their hair and makeup done, and go straight out!

Floor 3 to 4 – Who are your competitors?

For mobile our competition is limited - we are the only brand of mobile hairdressers in the UK. However, there are tens of thousands of freelance hairdressers trading in the UK to various levels of quality. We want to unite these freelancers under one brand and provide all the services they require to work mobile professionally and safely. Services include advertising, client bookings, social media, accountancy, insurance, products and equipment.

For blowdry bars, there are a few popping up around London, such as Hershesons and Blow.

Floor 4 to 5 – What’s your USP?

The problem most other blowdry bars have with their business model is their staff. They have a high turnaround of staff, for a few simple reasons. Fully qualified stylists get bored of just styling hair all day and need more and in turn decide to leave for a salon, or they are using trainee stylists who haven't qualified in cutting yet and want the experience. However, when they do qualify, they leave to work for a salon.

Our stylists understand that they will be working in the blowdry bar to meet new clients and potentially book those clients for their mobile services. Our stylists will work 2/3 days a week in the bar and the rest mobile. They will eventually get to a point where they wish to work only mobile, as it's more profitable - which is fine as it creates a space for a new stylist to join the team.

Floor 5 to 6 – Where did the idea come from?

I trained and worked in a high street salon for 4 years and felt very strongly about how I'd like to improve the industry. I was fortunate enough to gain sponsorship from the Prince’s Trust and I left the salon to start working mobile. I worked independently for 4 years discovering the gap in the market. I found working independently a struggle, as clients have no trust in your work until they have met you and tried you.

So the idea of a brand to bring professional mobile hairdressers together came naturally. It means clients can trust our team, pay a fraction of the price charged in a salon, and our team stand out from the average mobile hairdresser.

Floor 6 to 7 – How much funding did you receive from Virgin StartUp?

We received £10,000.

Floor 7 to 8 – How are you going to use it to grow your business?

The money loaned from Startup is being used to pay deposits and our first month’s rent on our premises in West Quay.

Floor 8 to 9 - What’s your workspace like?

 hairport workplace

Floor 9 to 10 – where will your business be in 12 month’s time?

We aim to have our first blowdry bar running smoothly and our second blowdry bar launched. We will also have our Hairport Bus on tour around the UK, visiting festivals, events, airports, colleges & universities.

We hope to have considerably grown our mobile team of stylists, so we’re covering all major cities in the UK.

To find out more about Hairport visit their website, or connect on Twitter and Facebook. Hairport are based in Chichester and worked with our partner Enterprise First to qualify for funding.