GIRL BOSSES OF GREAT BRITAIN: A CATCH UP WITH THE QUEEN OF BLOW DRIES

How do you stop your business from drying up? According to Duck & Dry’s Yulia Rorstrom, you make sure it can be duplicated time and time again. We spoke to the founder and entrepreneur about making her business work all over the captial.

“I am always nervous. It is really hard to predict success.” Duck & Dry founder, Yulia Rorstrom, opens up about finding each and every one of her launches just that little bit nail-biting. You’d think her reaction to new projects would be the opposite with four years’ worth of glistening business decisions under her belt, but her modesty just leads me to admire her more. This is not the first time I have met her, and every time I do I am taken aback by her bundles of knowledge and passion. She is remarkable, really.

Soon after Yulia’s first blow-dry bar opened on the much sought after Kings Road, London, it became clear she was destined for big things. We dubbed her the Queen of the Blow Dry, not for effect (at least not only for that), but because she just is. She knows all there is to know about blow dries and up-dos, plus how to make good money from them, and all of that comes despite a background in a completely unrelated field.

Yulia started her career when she graduated from the London School of Economics. She began as a management consultant (and a very successful one at that), advising commercial banks and insurance companies. It wasn’t until a business trip to Japan, a country that had totally nailed the then-unheard-of concept of the blow dry bar, that she realised there was a gap in the UK beauty market.

“It really inspired me there”, she said. “They have a really high concentration of salons per square meter, and I hadn’t seen anything like that before.” Each of the salons had bags of character and personality, Yulia remembers, whether that was due to the interior design, the stylists’ uniforms or the music they played.

Yulia’s journey continued in the USA, where she noticed that similar bars had a real buzz about them. She continued: “When I went, the girls were really excitable and happy to hang out and chat. It was their weekly spot before going out and that kind of buzz and energy was lacking in London. I decided I wanted to combine the two with a strong distinctive brand and a great experience. I thought, I’m just going to go for it and try it out.”

Having seen the wonderful salons Yulia has created over the past four years, we are lucky she bought the concept to the UK, but she is the first to admit it was a scary career jump over to the world of beauty.

She said: “When you’re setting up a business, especially in an industry that you’re not familiar with, you might spend a lot of time thinking about the big picture – the brand, the experience you want the client to have, interiors and look books. What you don’t spend as much time on is the day to day operational grind.”

She continued: “That’s tough at first because you’re not prepared for what it’s going to bring you. Everything from suppliers and staff to clients and landlords. All of that stuff is not particularly sexy or glamorous, but it’s what makes up the business and takes up 90% of your time”.

It was that operational grind, and creating a business model which was actually going to work (whilst holding down a full time job, may we add) which took the entrepreneur by surprise. The business model Yulia created is about expanding the brand and making it work time and time again. She said: “My business model needs a lot of people coming through the doors: visitors, tourists and businesses. We need to capture both regulars and one-offs.”

With stores in Chelsea, Soho, Spitalfields and Oxford Circus, Duck & Dry is now spreading like wildfire; it is interesting to note how Yulia and her team have ensured these people are constantly going out of their way to visit.

Perhaps it has a lot to do with her love for, and knowledge of, the capital which has informed many of her business decisions along the way. “I’ve lived in London for 15 years and I have a very good feel for the city. The places I pick are very iconic. Carnaby, for example – the ‘Welcome to Carnaby’ sign. I saw it when I was at school and now I have a shop there!”

Yulia and her team adapt their concept to suit the demographic of each one of these iconic areas, and to suit the character of the commercial units they fall in love with. The Chelsea store has a town house feel, and Carnaby Street branch is part of a concept lead store in collaboration with Sweaty Betty and Farm Girl Cafe. The Oxford Circus store plays on the fact that you’re surrounded by Fitzrovia and the West End (there are many galleries in the area, so it has a fitting New York loft feel), and the Spitalfields store has a bit more edge thanks to its central market location.

This Spitalfields store is Yulia’s latest venture: a gem hidden within the famous market which opened its’ doors in September. The original brick work has all been retained, but brand colours have been used alongside lots of wood and lots of marble. It has been a huge success so far, but since each pocket of London is very diverse, it was very difficult to predict whether it would be. “I’m not a pessimist but I’m pragmatic”, Yulia explains. “I set expectations lower and I don’t just assume people will find out about my new ventures. I do lots of social and campaigns to give everything a push.”

She continued: “We do a bit of everything, from cocktail nights to gallery takeovers.” To date, Yulia has enjoyed collaborations with the likes of Adidas, Barbie, Boden and Batiste (to name a few), and it is one of her dreams that the list will never stop growing.

The recipe seems to be working a treat: choose your locations wisely, don’t just expect your ventures to work and push them on social ’til you’re blue in the face. Do you have a favourite store, we asked? “Chelsea was my first, so I have a certain attachment to it. But it’s not my favourite. That’s like choosing a favourite child!” Spoken like a true businesswoman.

Head to the new Duck & Dry Spitalfields store now, or stop by Duck & Dry Oxford Circus on 16th October for a free Elan Cafe hot chocolate with every blow dry.

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