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In The Spotlight With Hooker and Young

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Tell Us About Your Role In Your Business

Gary Hooker: I tend to look after the financial side, contracts and HR elements of the business whilst Michael looks after the education, PR and marketing side of things. However, this isn’t completely inclusive as we’re a true partnership and discuss all elements of the business with each other.

Michael Young: No one has complete control over any aspect, we just seem to have fallen into these roles! Creatively, we both come together to do the artistic side of things. Any shoots or on-stage performances are very much a joint effort.

How Did The Business Start?

Gary: We both worked at the same salon. I had a franchise and decided that I wanted to start my own business. As Michael and I were already partners, it seemed the perfect opportunity to do it together! A year later we opened our first salon as Hooker & Young in Gosforth in 1993.

What Are The Biggest Challenges To Your Business?

Gary: The biggest challenge I’d say is recruiting staff, getting the right people and making sure that everything on the HR side of our business is running smoothly. Apprentices are notoriously hard to find in the hairdressing industry which is why we try to keep an open mind and look at people who are a little older who have already graduated.

They tend to be great with clients so it’s worth paying more for their maturity and confidence! You get someone every now and again who just wants to live and breathe hairdressing which is fantastic. We’re constantly recruiting and never say no to interviewing anyone – we’ll always see everybody!

Michael: We have an amazing staff retention rate because we invest in our team and create amazing opportunities for them, no matter what avenue they choose to go down. Whether it’s management, education or creative everyone has different plans and career ambitions so we cater for everybody.

What Are Your Biggest Achievements For The Business?

Gary: This is our 9th year nominated for British Hairdresser of the Year which is the highest accolade in the industry. We’re thrilled to have won North Eastern Hairdresser of the year many times but to win the British title would be amazing!

Michael: We’re also proud to have won the Creative Contribution award at the Living North awards, we are recognised as one of the leading hairdressing salons within the industry but to have the respect and recognition in our home region is fantastic!

Our five salons are big achievements for us, the amazing teams at each salon and our lovely clients make us very happy business owners indeed!

 What Did You Want To Be When You Were At School?

Gary: I wanted to work with animals! Anything would have done – zoo, circus, in the jungle – anything!

Michael: I’ve always wanted to do something creative and expressive, I wasn’t sure what that was when I was younger! Probably a photographer or something on stage, an actor or a singer maybe!

What Was Your First Job?

Gary: I trained as a confectioner and made wedding cakes for two years then I moved to work as a sheet metal worker in a power station. I had two friends that worked in in a salon and just thought it looked like the coolest job and a lot of fun. So, I went for it!

Michael: I sold washing machines and fridges for a while, I sold one to a hairdresser for her salon and we got to know each other, before she asked me to go and work for her! As soon as I started I was hooked.

What Job Would You Like To Have Other Than Your Own And Why?

 Gary: We currently have 14 dogs and breed Great Danes and Bull Dogs – if we didn’t do hair then we’d both love  to do this full time!

Michael: I’ve got a real passion for photography so I’d love to invest time exploring that.

What Do You Love Most About Working In The North East?

Gary: The North East is close to both our hearts. It’s where we are both from and have grown our brand for 25 years. We get asked all the time why we haven’t opened a salon in other cities, such as London, but it just wouldn’t feel right to us.

Never say never, and opportunities have popped up but we feel so lucky and proud of our heritage that it just wouldn’t feel right somehow!

What Do You Love Most About Living In The North East?

Michael: We love the people in the North East and we’re extremely proud to have stayed here! People from the North East are incredibly warm, open and friendly.

What Do You Do In Your Down Time Away From The Office?

Gary: Our dogs take up a lot of our down time but we wouldn’t have it any other way! We breed Great Danes and Bull Dogs as well as enter shows and competitions. It’s more than a hobby for us, it’s a complete way of life and is something we’ve always wanted to get involved in. It’s a commitment that you have to absolutely love!  

What’s Your Number One Piece Of Advice For Anyone In Business Or Wanting To Start Up?

Michael: Stay focused in your business. It’s important to be there all the time and immerse yourself in the business from an early stage. For us, the artistic and creative work is an integral part of the brand but it’s important we invest in the business first.

Gary: Surround yourself with great people who inspire you and push you to do better.

Would you like to take part in our 'In The Spotlight' series? If you think you stand out from the crowd please email us with the following information:

Your full name, the business or charity in which you are involved and why you would like to take part.

If selected we will be in touch to interview.

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