Staying competitive isn’t something that we focus on. Our focus is on constant improvement as individuals and as a business. Focus on competitors just becomes a distraction.Amanda Thompson, founder – Eco Salon Supplies
Once a recognised leader in the auto industry, Amanda Thompson faced a turning point in her life when she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.
Rather than letting this setback hold her back, Amanda saw it as an opportunity for growth and change. She took her experience and knowledge from her years in the automotive industry and applied them to the world of beauty and hair care.
Prior to this, Amanda had worked in the auto industry for over 15 years and had no prior experience in the world of beauty and hair care. However, with her strong business acumen and determination, she was able to make the most of this opportunity and lay the foundation for a successful career in a new industry.
Amanda took an unexpected career path after enrolling in a business course serendipitously when the hairdressing cohort she had intended to join was full. This chance event would ultimately lead her down a path of entrepreneurship and success in the beauty industry.
From there, with her bold and entrepreneurial spirit, Amanda founded Eco Salon Supplies, which went on to become Australia and New Zealand’s largest niche sustainable haircare distributor. Her success didn’t stop there, as she also founded SOPHIC, a luxury haircare brand, and multiple hairdressing salons in Brisbane.
Spotting the gap in the market
Amanda’s diagnosis of an autoimmune disease, specifically Graves’ disease, prompted her to re-evaluate the chemicals and products she was exposing herself to on a daily basis. Struggling to find hair care services that were knowledgeable and accommodating to her condition, she made the decision to minimise her exposure to synthetic materials and chemicals in all aspects of her life, including her food and personal care products.
It was then that Amanda discovered a gap in the market for quality, chemical-free hair care products and services. She saw an opportunity to provide others with what she herself was searching for and decided to start her own business in the luxury hair care industry.
“When I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease back in 2007, I decided to cut chemicals from my life – in an attempt to heal the source of the issue without just treating the symptoms,” Amanda recalls.
“I quickly found that there was great information to support my lifestyle changes in most industries; however, when it came to hairdressing, there was little to no information available (about what was good for me or the planet).
“I was also not ready to go grey just yet, so something had to give. With so many people in the same position, I knew there would be a market for health-focused salons. Thankfully, clean living is on the rise, but the hair and beauty industry is taking a while to catch up. We’re thrilled to be leading the charge in the clean hair and beauty industry and have seen so much positive growth over the past few years.”
The initial years
Amanda was determined to provide organic hair care with knowledgeable professionals when she purchased her first salon in a shopping centre in 2007. Despite facing criticism from two prominent hair industry icons in Brisbane that the concept wouldn’t work and that consumers only wanted affordable haircare, Amanda persevered and continued to grow her salon network.
Amanda searched tirelessly for sustainable and healthy hair care options for eight years. It wasn’t until a trip to Bologna, Italy, that she found clarity on her journey. The community atmosphere in Italy, where the emphasis was on local ingredients, people, and community, confirmed Amanda’s desire to support local businesses and communities. Inspired by the Italian way of life, Amanda redoubled her efforts to provide quality organic hair care products and services.
“The biggest challenge initially was educating ourselves, clients, and staff that there was a better way. We researched ingredients and had strict criteria on what we would and wouldn’t stock.
“Information was hard to find, and most colour and hair care companies were either not forthcoming with the information or simply did not know themselves. We questioned everything.”
Amanda recognises that maintaining her values while scaling her business has been a continuous challenge in an industry that has a history of unsustainability. Despite this, she remains committed to her vision and continues to work towards providing high-quality, sustainable, and ethical hair care products and services.
As her businesses have grown, Amanda has faced numerous obstacles, but she has learned to anticipate and overcome them with the help of her dedicated team. Her unwavering commitment to her values has set her apart from others in the industry and earned her recognition as a leader in sustainable and ethical business practices.
“For us, it’s actually been a helpful focal point – we questioned and encouraged our community to do the same. Working in the beauty industry, there’s often an option that involves unnecessary waste or the use of chemicals, but through our work, we know that there’s always another option, too – an option that doesn’t harm the environment. And if that option isn’t there, it’s our responsibility to create it.
“Focus on competitors is a distraction”
For Amanda, staying competitive is not the primary focus of her business. Instead, she prioritises maintaining the values and mission that drive her and her businesses. Amanda believes that by staying true to her beliefs and providing high-quality, sustainable, and ethical products and services, she will naturally remain competitive in the market.
“Our focus is on constant improvement as individuals and as a business. Focus on competitors becomes a distraction.
Amanda is a strong advocate for taking things slow and not rushing the process of building a successful business. She believes that the journey and the learnings along the way are just as important as the destination. She encourages entrepreneurs to be patient and not let the pressure of competition or the need for quick success drive their decisions. Instead, she advises taking the time to understand the market, building relationships, and honing their skills.
“Start at the beginning, learn about your industry, i.e. we started with salons, then distribution and then products. Have strong financial skills, and understand P&L and balance sheets; without them, you cannot make good decisions. Only keep people around you that match your energy and loyalty, and make quick decisions to remove bad people.
Throughout her career, Amanda has learned several key lessons that have helped her to build and grow her businesses.
In other words, when it comes to running a successful business, Amanda suggests treating it with care and respect, like a member of your family. Pursue what you are passionate about, and never stop learning and growing. Stay focused on the positive aspects of your business, and don’t let negativity get in the way. Finally, stay true to your goals and direction, even when faced with outside challenges or obstacles.
“See your business as an entity – like a family member that has a personality. It needs to be protected and nurtured, and only those who love it too should participate. When you look after it, then it will look after you. Also, find what you love to do, don’t chase money and titles. Keep evolving as the world does around you.
“Don’t waste energy on negative things. Work out how to finalise negativity quickly and use energy on the positive. People will come along with their own agendas and try to throw you off balance. Stay focused on your direction and be dogmatic about it.”
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