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Getting to know…Salon Tallow

Owner and operator Kylie Clark opened Salon Tallow in 2014 and is excited to be growing her team. Located in Balmain, Salon Tallow is a thriving, community-based salon.

Tell us about yourself
Well, I just turned 44 this week! I always wanted to be a hairdresser yet my parents thought it would be a better idea if I went to university. However, I was determined and started working in a hairdressing salon at age 16 and decided to leave school to start my apprenticeship. During those 4 years I felt there was something bigger for me and decided to travel and explore the world. I worked in a pub to save money 2-3 nights per week and once I finished the apprenticeship I went travelling. Upon my return I decided I wanted to move away from being on the floor but to still stay in the industry. I found myself applying for a job as a Counter Manager for Clinique selling cosmetics and worked for the Estee Lauder Group for 3 years. While studying a marketing diploma at TAFE, I applied for a role at Wella as a Technician and got the job not really knowing what it was! Essentially, it is an education role visiting salons teaching the product. Within 2 weeks of starting the Sales Director told me I was going to Germany in 2 weeks time. Here I was, 23 years old, going to London and Germany for work – I thought this was the best job ever! After a few years in that role I decided I wanted to shift into sales and worked as a Sales Consultant at Wella for 2 years. In that time I won Sales Representative of the Year. I was approached by L’Oreal and joined as a Key Account Manager and within the first year I had again won Sales Representative of the Year. Thereafter, I became State Manager for NSW/ACT for 8 years. After taking maternity leave with my first daughter, I returned in the role of National Sales Manager for Redken and Pureology for a further 2 years. Within these years and varying corporate roles I gained incredible insight into the industry and was lucky to travel the world for my work.
Darren and I met in Canberra, aged 29. We had a 3-year long distance relationship and every weekend we would alternate being in Canberra or Sydney. Eventually Darren moved to Sydney and we moved in together in Birchgrove. We got married in 2006, Willow was born in 2008 and Tallula in 2011. After a 16-17 year career with lots of travel with amazing companies, I decided I didn’t want to go back to corporate after the birth of my second daughter.
How long has Salon Tallow been established? What prompted you to open your own business?
We have been open almost 2 years, this coming February. I opened it to have work-life balance for my children and to feel part of the community. When you’re a hairdresser you never stop doing hair and while taking care of friends and family I eventually felt that I would love to have a little space to create a salon. I was walking past 305 Darling St, Balmain and thought “this is the place I want”. It was not too big or too much of a commitment. Eventually the shop became vacant and with the help of my friends, Ange and Darren, we put the salon together and 12 weeks later I opened the doors. Word of mouth has created the business. I now have 3 staff and need one more person. One of the great things about the salon is that 3 out of the 4 team members are local. Karen and I used to work together at Wella; Amy is from a salon I used to visit, was one of my first clients when Salon Tallow opened, and she lives on the same street as the salon; Kerstin and I have a long friendship and worked in the same team at L’0real for 6 years.
It’s really nice to work for yourself and to be able to have a day off without feeling indebted to a company. It’s just about me, my clients, my team, and my family. I needed to look at what was going to work for everyone and this is it.
What’s great about Salon Tallow?
Unique to the salon is that everyone who comes in tends to know someone that one of us knows – it really strengthens the community feel. We are very relaxed and unpretentious, and everyone can feel a part of the salon. We are our clientele. We don’t just do magazine hair – we can – but that’s not what our clients want. We do real hair. Real hair is a mum taking her kids to school. People aspire to look like something out of a magazine for a special occasion, but let’s face it – it’s not all the time. Consultation is important, understanding what you do with hair at home, and using the right products are all part of the service. We now start on Saturday morning at 7:30am and those spots are like gold for mums who are up and want to get their hair done then have their weekend. We look at what our clients need and what can we provide them.
You have senior staff in the salon, are you expanding your team? If so, what attributes are you looking for?
Salon Tallow is rapidly growing and we are looking for a new person to join the team. Depending on the applicant, we can look at 2-3 days per week or full time and I can be flexible. You might be a mum returning to work or are working locally looking for a change. I am a flexible employer and want people to be happy in their job. We are hard working and as we don’t have juniors we do everything from making a delicious T2 for our clients or washing hair. We work as a team and share the load. We do really good hair, have fun, and are keen for a team member who is like-minded. We’re after someone who is an experienced hairdresser, friendly, easy to get a long with (no divas!), a team player, and is interested in joining a good little community salon.
Being a community-based salon, which local initiatives do you support?
I’m always donating to schools and the Balmain Art & Craft show was on this weekend. We were part of the silent auction for someone to win a $500 voucher for the salon. Doing this is essentially rewarding an existing customer or potentially gaining a new one.
Hairdressing is an art. Is this your main creative outlet?
It is, but I am not creative. I can’t draw, I can’t paint but I am good with a paintbrush in a salon. I don’t consider myself artistic but people say I am artistic because I do it as a job. To get a bit of an understanding, I probably would have been a stylist or an interior designer and I am passionate about fashion, hair, furniture and fabrics. I want the salon to feel like a part of my home – soft, warm, and inviting.
When I was cutting our friends and family’s hair, they were positioned in my kitchen to look at the mirrored splash back with a view to our pretty tree lined garden. I wanted to recreate that and sourced tree wallpaper from a Swedish designer to have in the salon, it just takes you to another place.
You have two daughters, are they interested in hairdressing too? I bet they have the best hair at school!
You’d think so! But I’m just like every other mum. Trying to do a gym class from 6-7am a few mornings a week, home to shower, getting two kids breakfast and ready for school, lunches packed etc…it’s not easy. My girls are lucky most mornings to get a ponytail! In saying that they do like the odd braid or fancy doo when I have a little more time.
How do you juggle running a business and family life?
I have great support. My husband is fantastic and he has a fairly big corporate job but knows Thursdays are his days. We share the load wherever we can. We have also been in the community for so long and in a small radius there are around 20 kids that go to the same school. Willow’s Godmother or friends will do pick up or drop off from school some days, which is fantastic. My mum also spends Thursday to Saturday with us cooking dinner and looking after Tallula on Fridays so she only goes to day care 3 days per week. It really is a team effort.
What do they say? It takes a village to raise a child, that’s certainly the case in our community.
Advice to mums starting their own business?
I think one thing is that you have to do your research and understand your market to make it work. You’ve got to have the capital and everything has to be going in favour. Back yourself if you are feeling trapped and unhappy in a corporate job. Even if it doesn’t work, you can say that you gave it a go! I am a determined person and I put my mind to what I want to achieve. If you think you can do it – you can! I didn’t allow any negative thoughts and just remained determined that I can do this.
You have been a long time resident here in Balmain. What are the main changes you have observed with the suburb and its people?
I moved into a shared house on the peninsula at 23 and never left. Going to the pubs back then and seeing the same people now with families and children is great. Once you live here people don’t move. It is a vibrant, fun, and community feeling suburb. I think the community realises how good it is.
Currently though it’s sad seeing so many empty shops on the strip. It seems to be a rent-based issue and only the large chain style shops can afford it. We want to keep it local and I rarely leave the peninsula to shop. The community should get together and talk about what we need. I hear everyone saying that we need a good salad, juice, and sandwich bar or a deli. We want the strip to be busy but we don’t want massive chains taking over. Although Seed and Witchery have been well received, shops for kids like a shoe shop would boom here.
Favourite Balmain locations?
I love Mort Bay Park and catching the ferry from Thames Street to Manly or Circular Quay. Or by bus it’s 5 mins to the City. We love the Orange Grove growers markets, and we support local restaurants and bars including The Cricketers Arms, Cantina, and The Lodge. We love the Royal Oak and it was my local for years. Maureen still owns the pub after 20 years and I still see the same people there. We were there this week for dinner and the waitress knows my drink. Now I’m going there with my kids. I love that my girls go to the local day care and school and before I walk into Charlotte Cafe, Peachy and Alex have started making my coffee.
Get to know some more inspiring Inner West Business Mums:
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Getting to know…The Vintage Toy Box
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Getting to know… Boobs On The Run!

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