Why Hair Together is a cut above

Through barber and hairdressing classes social enterprise Hair Together has created a new lease of life for vulnerable teens.

Over the next few weeks, we are shining a spotlight on social enterprises, to share more about the fascinating world of social innovation and social entrepreneurship in Ireland.

Last week we spoke to David Beakey from Amplify about how the social innovation start-up is supporting climate-conscious shoppers. Prior to that we spoke to Fiona Descoteaux, CEO of Innovate Communities, who talked about the important role that social enterprise and innovation plays in Irish society.

“We are a barber, a hairdresser, and a psychotherapist united in our passion to help those most vulnerable in our communities”

This week we talk to Hair Together – an enterprise created by a barber, hairdresser and psychotherapist – which helps people to make positive changes in their lives.

What is your social enterprise focused on?

Hair Together; we are a barber, a hairdresser, and a psychotherapist united in our passion to help those most vulnerable in our communities. We empower our participants to make positive change for themselves. We deliver personal development courses that utilise barbering and hairdressing to stimulate creativity, increase self-esteem and confidence, and open career pathways.

How did your business journey begin? Where did the idea come from and how did you start?

Our CEO, Eileen McHugh came up with a solution to a problem she encountered during her service in the Setanta GAA Club as vice chair. There were juvenile members, as young as 13 selling crack cocaine. To keep the teens engaged with the club during the off season she ran other courses which included gym visits and cooking classes, both of which were a great success.

Bringing these young people to the barbers for classes wasn’t the easiest thing to teach but turned out to be the most successful and popular. We’ve ran numerous courses in the club since 2018 and they are still in demand.

How has Innovate Communities supported your business?

Innovate Communities has helped us grow as an organisation in so many ways. The one to ones with Annabelle Conway, social innovation manager at Innovate Communities have been invaluable, giving us guidance and structure throughout our journey. Having Annabelle to bounce ideas off and having her knowledge and experience there gives us much-needed confidence as we are navigating unfamiliar territory as a social enterprise. Not having a base of our own, the Social Innovation Hub has been a great place to come and work. Being able to use the board room for our meetings and inviting our guests into this lovely space has also helped us progress and grow.

Have you received any other supports along the way?

Innovate Communities has pointed us in the right direction many times. The networking opportunities alone have been so helpful. Eileen started a course with DCU in the community (Community Organisational Management) that will only further develop Hair Together as a strong community organisation. We have a business mentor, funded by the local partnership and the support from all corners of the hair industry have been and continues to be just phenomenal!

Why is sustainability and having a social conscience important in business?

Sustainability and education around what each of us can do in our daily lives to protect, and help our planet thrive is so important to us. Vital to the experience is our product/tool choice. 

We work with Kevin Murphy and Davines, two of the largest suppliers of eco-friendly hair products in the world, as their commitment to the environment mirrors our own. These products are organically sourced and ecologically sound from global companies committed to looking after not just the individual but the planet.

We teach our participants about the benefits of being part of a wider system or ‘community’ and the impact and positive effect of small eco-friendly choices. The use of such products also compounds a core principle and belief that we are all worthy and capable of attaining the best if we have the knowledge and desire for it, all it requires is action. We do some work around the theory, “when you do good, you feel good”, and the knock-on effect our daily choices have on us and the planet.

What is next for you and your business in 2022?

We have a very exciting year ahead, kicked off with being the only European nominees to make it to the finalists of the Global Kevin Murphy Icon Award

We have started our 10-week programme with LCA students in the Trinity Comp Secondary School in Ballymun. We are to run our programme in Shelton Abbey open prison in Co. Wicklow for inmates close to their release date and we signed up with Tusla in Cavan/Monaghan and will run our programme for young people in care, starting in July.

Our team is growing along with the interest, and we will be recruiting volunteers that will help get our programme out there to many that will benefit from it nationwide.

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.