Feature Interview: Tracey Hughes Hair Dresser, Salon Owner Mieka Salon, International Hair Educator
Interview: Kate Andrews
Tracey Hughes started as an apprentice hair dresser in her native UK before emigrating to Queensland, Australia. After a few short years she opened her own business – Mieka Hairdressing – and has never looked back.
She is now in demand on the education circuit worldwide. Her positive attitude and passion for what she does shines through in all her endeavours.
By sharing her expertise she fosters emerging talent across the globe as well as at her salons in Nobby Beach and Melbourne.
For those interested in running their own business, read on cos this is how it’s done.
So let’s start at the beginning. You started hair dressing in 1986 in the UK. What is the standout memory from your apprenticeship?
The day I started hairdressing I knew this was what I was meant to do, so the first couple of years were very exciting and challenging and I had a huge desire to learn!
At the age of 19 I had just qualified. When I did my first presentation I realized then, that I wasn’t scared of public speaking. However, I understood that it takes gaining experience first, to be able to then share that knowledge with others. This is when my passion for education became evident.
Is there something – either personally or in your work – from this period you have brought forward to the present?
Yes, the importance of a strong work ethic and the power of education. From undergoing an amazing apprenticeship myself, taught me how imperative it is to have in-depth training, and to be grounded in all the fundamental classics first. This philosophy has always stayed with me throughout my career, has stood the test of time and is still relevant within the industries needs today.
Mieka was founded in 1997. In the six years prior to this you were in Australia. What were you doing?
I first came to Australia in 1991, as a backpacker just wanting to travel. However, I fell in love with Australia; the sunshine, the lifestyle and the passion I discovered within the hairdressing industry here. So I chose to migrate to Australia permanently, and a few years later in 1997, I established Mieka Hairdressing, which is now home to two successful salons.
Did you always dream of opening your own salon? Why?
No, I never had any aspirations of opening my own salon. The reason I did choose to establish my own business was because I wanted to build an amazing team, and a unique culture based upon producing the highest quality of work and technical craftsmanship possible. The only way to make a difference, was to have a team of like-minded individuals who shared a common goal.
What has been the greatest challenge being a business owner and operator?
The biggest challenge in business is managing a team and time managing you. I spend a great deal of time training my team as we pride ourselves on the quality of work we produce at Mieka. Although it can be challenging dealing with individual team members, at the same time it is very rewarding when you witness their growth. Due to my personal commitments of running 2 salons, educating globally for Tracey Hughes Education, working at fashion weeks and contributing regularly as a columnist for the media, I find effective time management can be the greatest obstacle I am always trying to overcome.
Who do you turn to when things get tough?
My family and my husband are extremely supportive of my career. My husband, Simon, is our Accounts Manager so we work closely together as a team on our business and he supports the fact that I have to travel a great deal. Both Simon and my mum are my biggest fans and my mum is very proud of my achievements.
How have you continued to grow the business and remain current with trends and styles, which are constantly evolving?
I am very privileged to have an amazing management team, who work collaboratively alongside me analyzing the business to look at ways to improve, and grow it further. Remaining current with trends is very much apart of this process and journey. I go through the business from an education perspective. Trend forecasting, comes down to research and foresight – into how the next season is going to evolve from the previous season. Also, by relying on my intuition, and staying true to my own signature style, enables me to incorporate the latest trends into my work.
What do you think the key ingredient to continue success is?
Hard work! Being fully committed and being prepared to make personal sacrifices for your business, and your career. To be successful, you need to have goals, and constantly keep striving to exceed your own expectations. You must be prepared to challenge yourself and not be afraid of change and stay present in the moment. Lastly, have fun!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Working across the globe with so many diverse cultures and talented artists has filled my career with excitement, experiences and lots of invaluable advice so I have been humbled by all the guidance. Every day is a new learning journey and I have managed to collate a range of advice that I translate and make my own. I believe we should never stop learning and make the most of every opportunity that presents itself.
What is your strength and what is your weakness in business?
My strength is my leadership skills, my education ability and my organizational skills.
I am also a perfectionist with too much energy – which means people can’t always keep up with me, and I am forever changing my ideas and direction. These could be considered my weaknesses.
How would you describe your work?
Distinctive, graphic and progressive, with simplistic beauty.
What is your career highlight thus far?
I have had so many proud moments it’s hard to determine what is the biggest highlight of them all. I have been fortunate to win many awards however when I was awarded the 2011 Australian Masters for my contribution to the industry it was extremely humbling. It was an unexpected achievement that recognized my dedication in supporting our industry’s growth. In saying that, the ultimate moments are not always about me. Some of the proudest career-changing moments have come when someone’s “light bulb” goes on and they have a profound learning experience that sparks their own personal growth. For me, these are the moments that are most inspiring.
I haven’t had any. I try to think positive, which means I look at each experience I have had as – an opportunity to learn and grow.
How did Tracey Hughes Education come about?
I was previously contracted to a global product company, where I conducted education nationally and internationally for them. As well as this, I previously ran customizing salon education, for numerous other salons through Mieka; the demand for education grew so rapidly, therein driving the decision to establish THEdu as it’s own independent identity.
You travel a lot for Tracey Hughes Education. What are you doing at each destination?
Each destination will vary depending on the requirements of that particular local markets needs. This could entail, large auditorium style shows, inspirational seminars, hands-on workshops, online education production, TV appearances and media interviews. I’ve worked in numerous countries including, Australia, NZ, Singapore, China, HK, Taiwan, India, South Africa, Sweden, Russia, UK, Mexico and the USA. Each country entails different challenges, and has provided me with fantastic learning opportunities.
Which has been the most challenging city/workshop and why?
India. India was the most challenging country to work in, because there is no formal training system within India. Therefore, I had to simplify a lot of my workshops to the locales demands – including turning a creative workshop into a classic workshop. Internal travel in India, was also very difficult, as we were constantly faced with delays. Lastly, Delhi Belly didn’t help!
Have you experienced any gender bias (positive or negative) in the hair industry?
Generally no, there is no gender bias within our industry. However, the top end of our industry does tend to be male dominated.
When did you feel you had ‘arrived’?
My attitude is very much about living life, and being present in the moment. This helps me stay focused on the task at hand, without other distractions, especially considering I have four businesses to manage and run. Therefore it is difficult to assess when I had ‘arrived,’ as I have loved every moment, and feel there is so much more for me to achieve.
Describe a typical day.
It is hard to describe a typical day, as no two days are ever the same. Each day presents new challenges, and things to organize, which may include; administration, event planning, content production and finance management. When I am doing a show, my day may consist of prepping models, travelling, teaching, presenting, media interviews and television appearances. However, what I relish in the most is training my own team, mentoring and on very rare days, spending time at home with my husband and animals.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love hanging out at home with my hubby and having doggy cuddles. We also have a property with other animals – like goats and chickens, and I enjoy spending time playing with them and relaxing. I also love exploring food, and a session at a great day spa is always a fantastic reward.
What motivates you?
I am a very self-motivated person, who thrives on new challenges. Energetic people also motivate me, because it shows that they’re passionate about what they do. Finally, the unknown motivates me, as with each new day, comes new opportunities and challenges.
Who has influenced you the most creatively?
I’ve had the privilege of working with a diverse range of talented people over the years and am constantly humbled by the advice and guidance I have received. As a creative being, I highly regard those who possess true vision as well as those who give back to the industry through teaching. I started to realize and appreciate how valuable the initial training in the UK was only once I began employing apprentices of my own. Working closely with fantastic stylists around the world has allowed me to gain extensive learning experiences and enable me to absorb every facet of the industry, which constantly supports my own personal development.
What things inspire you to create something new?
My inspiration comes from lots of different avenues. I am inspired by fashion, art, architecture, photography and nature. However what most inspires me is the team of people I work with. I love to push boundaries and I’m very self- motivated so I can self-inspire to ensure I am constantly evolving as a hairdresser and an educator in order for me to support those I teach in their growth too. People, motivation and energy inspire me.
You have won numerous awards. Does any one stand out as particularly precious?
There are numerous awards that stand-out including receiving an Honorary Australian Masters – a title, which I was very humbled to receive. Educator of the Year is the closest to my heart, as it acknowledged my transformation from a hairdresser, to an educator. However, the one I am most proud of is Australian Salon of the year – because it is an award that requires a huge commitment from all of my wonderful team members and is truly a team effort.
Finish these sentences:
In 5 years…I still will love every moment of what I do.
Life is awesome when…you stay present in the moment and live life to the fullest.
I would like to die…when the time is right after living a fruitful life.
When I’m angry…my emotion goes high and my intellect goes low.
When the shit hits the fan…I stay calm, don’t worry why the problem arose, and just look for a solution.
Guilty pleasure? Caramel Tim-Tams
Creativity is… endless
Who is your favorite person from history? Vidal Sassoon
What is one word that best describes you? Energetic.
What is something quirky we don’t know about you? I am an animal lover. On my property we have goats, chickens, donkeys and dogs.
If the world were to end tomorrow what would you do tonight? Hang-out with my hubby and dogs.
Where would you like to live most in the world? Where I live now.
What advice would you offer emerging hair dressers/session stylists?
Focus all your energy on developing really strong fundamentals skills first. Your initial training can set you up for future success. It’s important to master the classic foundation techniques as all creative techniques are derived from them. Keep an open mind at all times to allow your experience and creativity to flourish from many resources. Never stop learning and make the most of every opportunity that presents itself.
What do you think is the one personal trait all people should possess?
A desire to be the best they can be, and in being kind to others.
What is your next move?
Who knows what’s around the corner; I look forward to what each new day brings.