Success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years to build a business and like my mother always says, staying on top, is even harder than getting there.
The Texture brand began as an idea in one artist’s mind. What started out as a small shop at 208 Dalhousie Street has grown into a trendy urban brand. It has earned national/international acclaim and prides itself on reinventing the guest experience.
This hasn’t been an easy road. It has taken leadership, a good team, sacrifices and a lot of hustle. And, looking from the outside in, it may even seem a bit misleading, because he makes it look so easy. But, once you know the full truth, it makes what he has created all the more impressive.
There have been great friendships, challenges, many adventures, lessons learned, and all the while, he has inspired and motivated people along the way.
Even though it has almost been two decades, he continues to grow his brand, challenge himself and his team every single day.
Here is part two of my interview with Ramsey Sayah.
Artist and Entrepreneur
UPDATE: Due to the restraints put on the personal care industry by Covid-19, after 20 years in business, a decision was made to close the downtown location permanently. To read the announcement please click here.
A few years ago you came up with the tagline: It’s not just hair, it’s a lifestyle. If you had to explain the Texture lifestyle to a potential client – what would you say?
We wanted to separate ourselves, in the sense that when people come here they are a part of something bigger.
When guests come to the salon, we want to make them feel that they are well taken care of and going to leave with a look they wanted. And for us it’s not just when they come to the salon – it’s when they leave and are living their life with that hair color or haircut. Does it work for them – does it work for their lifestyle. So that’s why I said that – It’s not just a haircut, it’s a lifestyle.
The haircut is just one piece of your life. We want to be the salon that you go to – to find a hairstyle that suits your lifestyle.
You’ve traveled the world and you always take the time to check out a salon or barbershop in whatever city you are visiting. Why is this important to you as a salon owner and stylist?
It’s my favorite thing to do. I always go because it gives me so much inspiration to see people in other parts of the world – doing what I am doing and are happy doing it.
It’s a universal language. It doesn’t matter what country I am in – as soon as they know you are a hairdresser, there is an instant bond.
It’s such a great feeling. It’s indescribable. And I think a lot of other industries have the same thing.
Restaurant owners too – I find are the same way.
Yes. They go to another restaurant. They want to get served – see how they do it. Because food, hair, fashion – it’s all art based. It all touches us and our senses. I love visiting other salons – it’s a great learning experience for me.
Have there been any experiences that stood out?
Figaro Barbershop in Portugal – it changed my whole concept of barbering. Fabio – the Sick Barber is awesome. When I went to that barbershop, it felt like I stepped back in time but in a modern world. They all had this cool look – they were all working the same – it’s smelled nice. It was very manly. I loved the feeling.
When I first went to Vidal Sassoon in L.A. – it’s an academy, but still…I felt Vidal Sassoon there. And when he came to the U.S. and blew up – I was totally blown away by it.
Also when I went to Arrojo Studios in New York – that was great – he is a really cool guy. I felt good in there – it was motivating. It was a massive salon – 13,000 square feet – half is a salon – the other half is an academy.
PURE in Montreal – as well, it’s a big shop – it has something like 30-40 hairdressers.
Suki’s in Vancouver – they’ve been around a long time at one time they were the ‘kings of hair‘ in Vancouver.
And to give the credit in his time – Rinaldo. The salon at the World Exchange Plaza was something. Everyone worked for him then, at one time, that was the biggest salon in Canada.
He deserves the credit. He once had one of the most powerful salons in Canada.
Over the years, the look of the salon has evolved. As you get older, they say you tend to find yourself and I think the space kind of grew with you. The latest renovation really reflects who you are. What inspired the new look?
To be honest with you, I used to redesign the salon because I wanted to be trendy. Now I realize you have to do what you want and what reflects you and hope for the best. And that is just what I did.
Murals are really popular for marketing right now – but when I saw the one at your shop, I knew it wasn’t about that. I mean it fits who you are as a person perfectly. It’s completely authentic.
It’s funny next to the shop is an art gallery, and everyone thinks we’re the art gallery. I think that’s a huge compliment.
I wanted an environment where I can enjoy being in every day. If I’m happy, everyone around me will be happy.
I lost the fear. I had the faith in my brand to do whatever I wanted and I believed that we would survive it.
I told the artist what I wanted. Texture is for guys and girls but it’s really about a feeling of freedom. And I wanted something powerful that reflected that.
The bar is really nice – it has a very earthy feel to it.
I love the look of wood.
I wanted it to look like a real coffee bar and it’s kind of the trend these days. So, I picked out a piece of wood, made it into a bar and it worked.
Success cannot be solely based on social media platforms. In reality, it is just a small piece of the pie. Looking at the big picture, success is measured in so many different ways.
With social media these days and followers – when you really look into it – it doesn’t mean anything. Like the study they did with Kim Kardashian where they realized almost half her followers are fake. It’s not about the number of followers; it’s about the quality.
And once I realized that, everything changed. How do you get quality followers? It goes back to doing one client at a time, making sure they are happy and hopefully they become a follower and a friend. We went back to that.
It has become a bit of an illusion. It’s like that saying: Being famous on Instagram is like being rich in Monopoly. If people are not engaged – then it doesn’t help your brand much. They will just scroll past your posts.
For a minute there, when it first came out – we lost our focus – we thought we needed more followers. But once I understood it, I told my team – let’s just focus on the person that is in here – not the person we don’t have yet. And it worked – our brand became stronger.
People have such a short attention span these days. They are overwhelmed by all the different types of social media. I still believe referrals and word of mouth are still the best way of getting new clients.
Social media is still important, we still have to do both. I tell my team – guys be yourselves – try your best – people will see that. We take a very authentic approach to it. You can see it in our posts – we take the time to make sure it’s the right lighting, background, best spot – we’ll ask clients – do you want to have fun taking a picture or do you want me just to take a picture of the back. It’s very natural and relaxed.
A few years ago I read an article that said – when you are a salon owner – you have to spend more time working ‘on’ your business than ‘in’ your business.
I know some salon owners that say you can do both without giving anything up but I don’t believe that is true. Have you had to make some sacrifices in your career, because of your role as a salon owner?
This goes back to the question about being a salon owner versus a stylist. I used to have a lot more clients, but I had to sacrifice some of them because I’d be worried about something that was going on in the salon and I had to go and handle it. I couldn’t give them the fair service that they deserved.
I had to find a balance in order to do both – so I change up my scheduling. The business required my attention – I had to do it. I also have good managers that help me – that is another reason why I am able to do both.
To make my chair busy I had to do the things that stylists have to do. Trying to help them do it – so that it can benefit the salon – is a whole other ball game – it’s very different. So, I sacrificed half my clientele and gave them to my stylists, because I felt that they could service them better.
At one point or another we all need advice from people – whether it is personal or professional. I read an article by Inc. called The 4 Types of Mentors You Need in Your Life to Succeed – there is the coach, connector, cheerleader and challenger. Which ones do you see yourself in?
I see myself in all of them.
It depends on what that stylist needs at that time. Sometimes I have to be a connector, then for someone else I have to be a coach, for the other person maybe they need a cheerleader.
When you become a business owner, you become a person that wears many hats – you just adapt. And a good business owner is someone who can adapt to that moment.
That is exactly what a good business needs. Is someone who can fill in the gaps for their team.
Not everyone is going to be the same – they are all different. Artists are so random in character too – that is what being an artist is all about. I guess because I am one of them – I get it.
Every hairdresser that has left my salon is successful. Almost all of them came to my salon with no clients and young in the industry. So the fact that they are successful – I take it as a compliment.
I challenge the hell out of my staff, in order to pull the best out of them.
If you are under my roof – you’re not going to give me half of you. They have to give me their best – I won’t accept anything less. That is why they succeed in my salon – I pull it out of them.
Some salon owners aren’t there or the managers aren’t caring enough to challenge them and to pull the best out of them.
I even help my staff with things away from the salon – I take care of them. I don’t mind doing that for them. It builds trust.
Ramsey is simply the best, easy to talk to and the best motivator. Even on a day that I’m feeling low or have my doubts he turns it around in his own way.
– Laura Boyer
Do you have any people that you admire in the industry or people you turn to for advice?
I have business mentors.
I have been leaning a little more towards the barber shops for art – just because I am enjoying barbering. Fabio Marques – The Sick Barber – is awesome. He has cut Cristano Rinaldo’s and David Beckham’s hair.
I have been looking at different business models – because I feel that the old ways of the salons is outdated. Now with Instagram, hairdressers have become very independent. They almost don’t need the salon anymore. So you have to figure out how to keep them and let them grown your brand within their brand.
I have been looking at Google’s and Shopify’s way of thinking – give your team everything as long as they perform and stay with you longer.
The truth of the salon industry is that 80% of salons break even – 10% make money and 10% lose money. The stylists can make a paycheck but the owners are just breaking even and that is all over North America.
That is the reality of it.
Because it’s a prideful industry – and there is ego. Owners will keep it open because they think they can turn it around.
You have been in the beauty industry for more than two decades – you’ve worked with some of the top brands, traveled all around the world and experienced things that would make for a good book.
How do you feel at this point in your career and is there anything you still want to accomplish?
I still have a lot of passion. I’m constantly trying to reinvent our salon experience. This has been the one subject that’s been really consuming me lately. How do I change the salon experience for our guests. How can I change it and make it more exciting – so when they leave they talk about it – whether they have been coming for 20 years or for the first time.
Getting an ‘A’ and keeping it are so different. Getting it once is easy – keeping it the whole year, that’s hard. That’s where I am at with the salon right now.
I still want to keep that ‘A’.
How am I going to do that? By constantly challenging my staff and by reinventing the salon experience.
Just as an artist myself, I want to get on stage and make a difference to someone.
I am really proud of the work I do with Hair Donation Ottawa, this year especially, I feel more empowered by it. If this is a way I can help – even if it is a little – that is really cool and something that I am proud of.
To read part one of my interview please click here.