Beauty industry showcase: Dom Lehane of HairClubLive
Dom Lehane is a fourth generation hairstylist with 30 years of experience. As well as running his own salon, Dom is the founder of Hair Club Live, a free online community and live event showcase for creative hair talent. We caught up with Dom to talk about his career experiences and his vision for the future of hairdressing.
Direct Line for Business: Did you always feel destined for a career in the hair and beauty industry?
Dom Lehane (DL): No, not really. When I was young, my mum owned quite a traditional hairdressing salon and I started working there when I was 14 just to earn some money.
I really wasn’t keen at first as I’d grown up around it and it seemed a bit of a chore. But in 1984 I went to the Salon International Trade Show, which really opened my eyes to the industry.
Seeing the educators on stage just grabbed me and it was my first exposure to what the hairdressing industry could offer.
Direct Line for Business: Where did you train and what were your early experiences in the hair and beauty industry?
DL: As soon as I finished school I applied to train as a hair stylist at Trevor Sorbie’s salon. They took me on and I moved to London at the age of 16 – I was pretty much the first school leaver they’d ever hired.
It was a great experience but I eventually felt homesick, so I moved back home to Northampton where I finished my training and became a hairstylist.
When I was 20 I got a job with Garnier (a division of L’Oréal) travelling around the UK to showcase their new products in shopping centres. They went on to sponsor The Clothes Show’s Model of the Year competition and for me this meant styling the models. It was the early days of The Clothes Show and it was a really innovative concept, so this was the perfect showcase platform for creative hairdressing.
After my time at Garnier, I joined the salon brand Goldwell as a technician, and travelled to educate salons and hair stylists about Goldwell products.
Direct Line for Business: How did you get to running and owning your own salon?
DL: When I was 23 I bought into my mum’s Northampton salon and became a partner, thanks to a loan from my nan. I was motivated to take it from a small local salon to one that was a bit more contemporary. It wasn’t easy but it became a success and we expanded to two floors and took on 14 staff.
After that, around 1999, I started a men's grooming salon with my brother. It was well before the recent boom of traditional-style barber shops and in hindsight we did it at the wrong time. It was a real lesson for us and eventually we closed up and returned our attention to the original salon.
Direct Line for Business: How did you overcome the setback of having to close your barber shop? What did you do next?
DL: Well, I’ve always viewed my career as a journey of many paths, so I channelled my passion for promotion and putting on events into launching the Northamptonshire Hairdressing Awards.
We launched it in 2005 and I wanted to replicate what was happening at a national level for a local audience. That was a great success but it was a lot of work and eventually I transitioned some of the ideas into Hair Club Live.
Direct Line for Business: Tell us about how Hair Club Live started
DL: Hair Club Live was founded in 2008 – again in Northampton – and we had a big launch with celebrity hairdresser Lee Stafford.
Lee joined us for three major events, which were run in conjunction with colleges and attracted audiences of up to 350 people.
Back then I didn’t have a team so it involved a lot of admin and I realised that if I wanted to put on national and international events, I’d need to launch a social media platform.
Direct Line for Business: How did you develop Hair Club Live from a regional event to a nationwide hair and beauty community?
DL: Hair Club Live caught the attention of Mike Vincent and Nicky Pope, the editors of Tribu-te magazine. It was the right marriage to take Hair Club Live to the masses as they had the industry prestige and connections that we needed to get the idea off the ground.
Hair Club Live is now a free showcase platform where members can inspire and be inspired by the hair skills of others.
Social media is an important channel for us and we have a presence on sites like Instagram and Facebook, but our website is our central point that keeps our community together between events.
We have forums and a news page where we regularly feature the exciting things that our members get up to in the hair industry.
Direct Line for Business: Tell us about #OpenChairNight
DL: In essence, #OpenChairNight is an open mic night for hairdressers to showcase their skills in front of a live audience.
It’s freestyle hairdressing in 10 minutes with no brief – so beyond the confines of a salon. We get a lot of passionate people who have the chance to demonstrate their artistry. At the end of the night there are some spot prizes from our sponsors but it isn’t really about the competition, it’s more about the craft.
We launched #OpenChairNight in Kings Cross, London in 2014. That first event saw 20 participants with around 150 spectators which included hairdressing legends Tim Hartley, Desmond Murray and Adam Reed.
Babyliss, GHD and Schwarzkopf are among our sponsors and our first five-date, UK-wide spring tour was in 2015.
Participants can prep as much as they like before they go on stage but they must leave themselves enough work to be entertaining in front of the audience. When you’re in the audience, you never know what’s going to come and that’s what makes the event so exciting.
Want to find out more about what life in the industry is like? We spoke to hair specialist Charlotte Mensah to get her take on the hairdressing industry, and the challenges that she faces in her role. Click here to read more.
Or to find out more about taking the next step in your career, check out our free tool to style your own pathway to success.