Last week we were invited to meet new business owner Lee Watts of Oliver & Lee Hair Design, who is more well known by his clientele as Oli at his new hairdressing premises in East Street, or the lower east side as the team has dubbed it.
Spending some time with Oli and it will be apparent to anyone that he is full of enthusiasm and obviously deeply passionate about what he does, which is summed up best by Oli himself who says, “I do what I do with love”.
He has lived in Sittingbourne all his life but recently made the leap from working as a senior stylist at Tiffs Hair Design in Chatham to opening his very own premises in Sittingbourne.
As I admire the décor, we both sit down with a nice cup of tea and biscuits and commence with the interview.
Is this the first business you have run?
It is, basically, I’ve been hairdressing for twenty years and for most of that twenty years apart from the occasional fantasy it wasn’t something necessarily that I felt to need to rush out and do. But then the march of time, getting older, growing up etc I was kind of at the point where I need to take the bull by the horns, as such and then this opportunity came up. I heard that the premises were available, so me and my wife came to see it, and we just thought I think this is it, I think this is our opportunity.
Was it a hairdresser before?
Yes, it was a hairdresser before, and it had been here for something like 28 or 29 years, so I knew of it, I’ve known about for a long time. I didn’t realise that it had been in the same ownership for all that time.
So, what makes you different?
It’s the fact that we listen, the quality of work we try to do is as high as we possibly can. You are only as good as how much you listen to someone, you could be the best hairdresser in the world but if you don’t listen to your client, you don’t understand the client and you don’t understand the brief as such.
So for me, everything comes down to the consultation, obviously you push your skills to get as higher level of craft as you can, but its all about communication, its about sitting with your client talking through issues with their hair, their personality, lifestyle, taste etc and getting to know all those things.
It’s about using my expertise and opinion and belief about what will work well for a haircut.
I see that your appointments are an hour long, is that normal?
I don’t think I can do a good haircut in less than an hour. I’ve always worked in an environment where I’ve had an hour. I’m about quality, not quantity, I want to do good haircuts that last well and perform well. It’s a luxury experience but not a frivolous luxury.
There have been times in my career where I think, maybe what I do is a bit superficial, but you talk to your next client and you realise they value what you do and how it makes them feel, how good they feel and not just for that day.
It’s sometimes difficult to recreate what your hairdresser creates once you get home.
We will work with someone’s hair to make it achievable for them to be able to do at home, without changing it in any dramatic way.
We are trying to create a haircut and a look that someone can do very well at home. We have an advantage and we have practice, skill, training and products, however, I believe that for my haircut to succeed or be appropriate it should respect how your hair wants to behave. Therefore, if I have understood your hair right, my haircut and your hair should do all the work for you.
The idea is that the haircut will work for you, that you shouldn’t do a haircut that you then have to blow dry in a really particular way to make it work. That is maybe ok for an event or special occasion, but on a daily basis, you should literally be able to wash it, let it fall into place and you should be able to hair dry easily.
So, do you do men’s and ladies hair?
Yes, ladies and men’s with cut and colour services.
What has the reaction been from your existing clientele?
Support from existing customers has been wonderful actually, you know it's been really heartening. When I first announced I was leaving Tiffs, the response I got was overwhelmingly positive.
I was at that point in my career where I wanted to grow. I have a family, two young kids and I wanted to be closer to home, so I can get to parent’s evenings, do the occasional school run etc. I realised that if I was going to do something I should do it in my hometown. I also didn’t want to compete with Tiffs because I don’t want to do them any harm. I have a great deal of respect for them and hopefully' we’ll still be friends.
I know it's not going to be easy, nothing worth doing ever is, but I believe in my principals, the passion for doing it well. I work really hard for my clients to try and get it right and hopefully that comes across in my work.
You should see the reviews we’ve had on our Facebook page, we have never at any point asked anyone to review us, I wouldn’t be comfortable asking that, and it really has touched me. Now I’ll always know that what I do, for the people I do it for meets with their approval. They are happy and without Facebook, I would probably have never heard that people will say thank you but to see those comments was quite emotional, it was quite a lovely thing.
As a business owner he hopes to create an environment to inspire young hairdressers to follow their passion and share his vision; to create a salon available to everyone who feels they deserve a quality experience.
I wish Oli and his team all the best in their new venture and if you want to find out more then its worth checking out their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/oliverandleehairdesign
Oliver & Lee Hair Design 16 East Street, Sittingbourne, Kent ME10 4RT - 01795 426070