amy liang and prince the miniature dachshund
What's it like to own your own hair salon? Amy knows. The Hair Boutique has been trading for nine strong years, and she still loves it. She must be doing something right! Meet her and her trusty other half, Prince.
Words and pictures: Simon Glazin
I met Amy about 13 years ago. We worked together in a hair salon, it was my pre-journalism days when I was thinking of opening a franchise of the salon group we worked for. I was assistant manager and receptionist. She was a senior stylist. We instantly got on. Amy's drive, enthusiasm and super fun personality were infectious. It was impossible not to like her.
That was a long time ago. Since then, I trained as a journalist, launched a blog, a site (this one), and have written for lots of national titles, and Amy has opened her very own salon - The Hair Boutique in Harefield, Middlesex - and now has a thriving business with a jam-packed loyal client list. The power of a brilliant hairdresser is massive. You have to have the flair and creativity to be successful in the industry, but to own your own salon you need to possess the business smarts. And Amy does, in bucket loads.
After we gushed about our love for Dachshunds (Prince's first birthday was the day after our shoot - Amy had organised a dog-friendly cake (see below) and other treats for him), and after catching up fully (we hadn't seen each other for about eight years), Amy was explaining the ins and outs of employing people, ordering salon supplies, dealing with customers. It made planning and writing a feature sound like a walk in the park!
Prince is everything to Amy: "He's changed my life, and calmed me right down. Friends were a bit negative about me getting a dog, but it was something I wanted to do for a while, and I've never looked back. He's amazing!" It's really quite lovely to see how much her means to her, not least because she enjoys so much changing his outfits for every shot!
On life with Prince: Having Prince has changed my life! When I first mentioned to friends I was getting a puppy I had a lot of negative comments, such as: "Your life is too busy for a dog! How will you manage if you can't train him in the salon? Having a dog is a huge tie!"
But one good friend told me exactly this: "It will be the best thing that you will ever do!!" And that is exactly what it has been. Prince has calmed me down. I've just recently brought a house with a garden, and I believe if it wasn't for Prince, I probably wouldn't have had the courage to do that. Prince brings me so much happiness, in this first year of owning him, and because of him I'm more positive and now everything else in life has just fallen into place.
On The Hair Boutique: It's been a successful business for nine strong years now! I've been in the industry since the age of 14, and love it. You have to love what you do to still be interested all these years later! My passion is for precision and creative cutting.
The good things about my job is a get to express my creativity freely and my clients are awesome. We take risks together, when they're feeling a bit more adventurous. I love those times. There are no bad bits of the job really. Don't get me wrong, I've had some real lows whilst learning how to run a business, but for every low I have taken some valid lessons. They have only made me stronger.
Everyone loves Prince at the salon. Some clients just pop in to say hi to him, and to have a cuddle. Other clients ask to take him for a walk, and some bring him treats. He's like a local celebrity!
On the changing industry: I've been in the industry for 20 years now!
Thankfully the best thing that has changed in the industry is the way stylists can now educate their clients in the importance of the condition of the hair. People want to listen and learn. Back when I started they didn't.I feel clients now have finally begun to listen to the advice!
I remember 15-odd years back, colour technicians were too freely using bleach, and chemical damage was a big problem, as was heat over use.
I'm so glad it's become "fashionable" now to have healthy hair.
I feel that the clients also understand the importance of visiting the salon every six weeks to maintain their hair, and keep it looking amazing.
I trained with Vidal Sassoon, so got a great start, and to keep up with new cutting techniques I visit the Wella studios, the last time I was there I was watching the new Sassoon collection - it was so inspirational!
"Prince has calmed me, I've just recently brought a house with a garden. I believe if it wasn't for Prince I probably wouldn't have had the courage to do that."
On career plan B: There never was one! I love my job! At the age of seven all my Barbies had hot pink crops! If I could try something new now it would either by theatrical make up or interior design.
On her daily routine: Everything has slightly altered recently as I've had builders in and out, but usually I set my alarm for 7am. Prince sleeps with me in bed and usually has a little moan as he loves sleeping as much as me! He doesn't like getting out of bed. I give him a cuddle and then put the kettle straight on for coffee!
I'll then sort Prince out: morning wee and breakfast, and depending on what day it is I'll either go to the gym (Prince goes back to bed) or I'll take Prince to the fields for a walk before work, where Prince is very happy at the salon. He gets so much attention, he usually sits with the clients who are waiting, receiving belly rubs.
I am usually completely fully booked every day I'm in the salon, working behind the chair doing clients hair, and Prince is quite happy watching me. He just stares at me lovingly! Luckily most pubs in Harefield are dog friendly so sometimes I'll go for dinner with friends after work, but during the week in the winter we are quite happy under the duvet watching something on Netflix.
On career advice: My advice to anyone wanting to get into the industry is that you can't be afraid of hard graft! You need to be dedicated, and you need to be passionate from the start to be a successful stylist. Also: watching, listening and learning from other stylists is a must, even for me now after 20 years in the industry. You will never stop learning new techniques, about new products etc.
On her favourite Prince 'tail': When I first got Prince I had difficulty leaving him in the flat alone, he had a bit of separation anxiety so I got a security camera to check if he was ok. He would cry and cry, and I'd feel so bad. The look of happiness on his face when I would come home, even if I was only gone for 1/2 an hour, was amazing! I tried toys, treats, herbal relax diffusers, everything. Since moving to a house with a garden and lovely fields to walk in, Prince doesn't cry anymore. I don't know why people could possibly call him spoilt, I basically bought a bloody house for him!
One thing I love about Prince is I think he gets bored of hearing me talking and he groans like an old man! That makes me laugh.
On what breed of dog she'd be: Definitely a sausage dog! I basically am already: always under the duvet sleeping, then being very naughty and playful!
One thing you should know about her: I love to travel, prefarrably now with Prince!