How can an economist succeed in the hairdressing industry?
Bachelor of Business Administration 2012
“They asked me if I had any regrets in my life, and I answered, entirely spontaneously, ‘Yes, I regret not trying to start my own business’. ”
How can a recently graduated economist succeed in the hairdressing industry? And what do you do when the industry you want to be part of, does not want you?
With a bachelor's degree in business and administration from BI and a master's degree in fisheries and strategy from Japan, Andreas was an attractive candidate for many major companies in Norway and abroad. But it was a job interview that made him upend his career plans.
"They asked me if I had any regrets in my life, and I answered, entirely spontaneously, 'Yes, I regret not trying to start my own business'. Then I understood that I was in the wrong place, and that I had to test my idea."
Following up the idea with budgets and market insight
The entrepreneurial idea that Andreas wanted to bring to life, had its origin in a Japanese hairdressing concept that made it cheap and easy to get a haircut. Andreas thought Norway was lacking an equivalently flexible option. Along with co-founder and economist Kristian Hauge Solheim, he started exploring the opportunities. The concept was to offer 15-minute haircuts at fixed, low prices with no appointment needed. When they talked to people in the industry, several had a negative reaction to the idea and did not understand how the guys would make the salons profitable. The fact that they were potential competitors did not help the matter.
"This slightly discouraged us. But we did some calculations, and our market analyses indicated that it could work. The market was fragmented, and prices had far outpaced inflation. It felt good to rely on the knowledge I acquired during my time at BI."
Young and promising, yet insecure and inexperienced
They did most of the planning and preparations from a coffee shop in Bergen. There was a lot to learn for two economists, getting insight into and understanding an industry with which they were entirely unfamiliar. When they were looking for the premises for their first salon, they experienced a steep learning curve in the real estate market.
"Nothing really gets posted on FINN, so you have to call around and ask."
As an insecure first-time entrepreneur, it can be difficult to convince major players to take a chance on you and your idea specifically.
"It's a nightmare at first. Nobody believes in you; you're young and don't know what you're doing. But you just have to keep making phonecalls. Eventually you understand what to say and what to ask about."
They snagged three investors, and opened their first Cutters salon in Bergen in 2015.
Good to have the right amount of naïveté
Andreas believes that one of the reasons why he succeeded, was understanding that he needed more people on his team.
"It's important to have colleagues who can contribute something you can't. Kristian and I are very different. He is super positive and a true driving force, while I'm one of those people who think we'll go bankrupt every other day," he says with a healthy dose of self-deprecation.
Nevertheless, he thinks it is important to believe in yourself.
"I've talked to several really smart consultants, who provided a lot of good advice. But I actually think it's good to be a little naïve in all of this – not overcomplicating things," says Andreas.
Proved the industry wrong
Andreas has a varied workday that primarily consists of tasks within operations and development. Among other things, this involves communicating with landlords, project management for the renovation of new salons, and hiring hairdressers.
"Kristian and I used to do everything. Now we have a full team, and other people are handling marketing, accounting and other administration."
Cutters now has more than 40 salons throughout Norway, but Andreas says that, so far, there has hardly been a need to spend much money on marketing.
"We've tested a bit on Facebook, but otherwise the ‘word of mouth’ has been the most important for us."
Nevertheless, he thinks that paid marketing will be necessary now that they are establishing the concept and salons abroad. Because even though there have been multiple challenges and surprises along the way, the concept has proven itself to be financially sustainable. And the traditional hair salons have not been affected much by Cutters' presence.
"We were confident that there was room for both of us, and this has now been confirmed."