The move from hairdresser to celebrity hairdresser has meant big business for Troy Thompson, star of hit makeover show 10 Years Younger in 10 Days. But doing people’s hair certainly isn’t the easy job some imagine.
“I’ve always come across people that assume what I do is easy, “ says Thompson. “They always say to me I’ve got the easiest job in the world. I can tell you now that hairdressing is one of the most difficult jobs both mentally and physically.”
His first ever job was at 14 years old, washing trucks for Brady Brothers Transport in Ballina. “I was paid $20 per truck and at the time thought I was the richest kid on the block! I also worked on Friday nights in the local charcoal chicken and would get $4 an hour.
“It was when I moved to Sydney that I decided I wanted to do hairdressing. My first hairdressing job was in an exclusive salon in Double Bay called Thierry Friengier. I’d been for many job interviews and Thierry’s salon was the last interview I was going to. I’d got all the other jobs and was pretty much just going out of courtesy to tell them I wouldn’t be taking the job.
“Thierry, who is French, spoke very broken English and I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. I was so intimidated by his presence I had no choice but to start work there the following day at 8am. When I look back now he was the most talented hairdresser I have seen or worked with.”
Thompson started his first salon in 1993 in Bowral in the Southern Highlands. Previously, he’d been fired from a salon and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t fitting into the team. Then he worked it out: “There are chiefs and Indians and I was never going to fit into the Indian category so I decided to open my own salon. I knew nothing about business, running a salon or looking after staff but I somehow managed to get through it on a day-to-day basis. I was never sure what was going to happen the next day and here I am 17 years later, still learning every day and still trying to achieve greater things on a daily basis.”
But last year came the opportunity for TV fame with the launch of Seven’s 10 Years Younger. Thompson has been looking after presenter Sonia Kruger’s hair for many years and when she told him she was doing the show, she asked if he wanted to be put forward for it. ”To be honest, at the time I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. Closer to the time when they needed to start filming, Sonia spoke to me about it again and said I should. This was two weeks before filming started and it’s been one great ride ever since. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The brand new makeover program, which was first a hit in the UK, sees a team of experts, including Thompson, helping transform couples who are either “style-challenged” or have simply let themselves go due to the constant juggling of work and family demands. Each episode, the team tries to make one couple look and feel 10 years younger in just 10 days, then puts them to a public vote. They get new clothes, hair, make-up—sometimes even teeth—and a new found confidence to go with it.
Thompson however, whose small salon is in affluent Rose Bay in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, had no idea how much the show would change things. “The exposure has put me on a national level rather than a local one. Funnily enough, my new business has not come from the local area but further afield such as Brisbane, the Blue Mountains and Melbourne. It surprises me as I thought I would get more business from locals.
“Without sounding full of myself, I always knew I had to grab this opportunity with both hands and run with it as far as I could. I feel I’m achieving that and still achieving even more. One must always remember that TV exposure is wonderful for your business but your TV opportunity could also finish tomorrow and so my main focus was turning that opportunity into a way of expanding the Troy Thompson Hairdressing brand. I’ve tried not to lose sight of that.”
It can be difficult balancing the very creative side of his work with the business side. Thompson admits he’s made a lot of mistakes but says it’s the only way to learn. “Creatively one must always be fed and sometimes it is extremely hard to stay creative. To be honest with you, there was a point when I lost my creativity and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. It really did pull me down. I had to stand back and see what was causing that and tackle that head on. This has made me more creative than I’ve felt in years.
“On the business side of things, it’s always challenging. It’s funny; I was thinking about this question yesterday and I’ve often wondered where I got my business mind from. I used to sell tomatoes from my family’s vegetable patch on the highway at a very young age. I think I was 11 or 12. Business always has its ups and downs and I’ve realised that you can never be frightened of those ups and downs. I believe that if you really believe in your own ability, you can achieve great things.”
While he’s obviously the name and face of his brand, Thompson keeps a check on his own ego and wants to be a good manager. “I’ve become more of the brand than I ever thought that I would be. With that comes more responsibility to put my team forward as part of that brand. It’s very easy to get carried away with your own ego, but I think that as this stage of my life I’m aware that it’s not always about me, it has a lot to do with my team. Wherever possible they will be pushed forward with me so they can achieve their brand.”
He’s not complacent either: “I am encouraged by the people that surround me in my life to keep moving forward and in the last year I’ve really tried to pull things together within my business through systems and procedures that work for us. I’m sure there is more for me to do within the business and I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead.
“Going forward, I want to continually grow my brand and take it to the next level, whether that means developing further salons or doing more television work, I’m yet to decide. What I am aware of is that I have never been happier than I am at this point of my life. Nothing makes me happier at the moment than getting up and coming to work.”
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