Success goes down to her roots – Jo Morshuis, Headquarters Hair

The terms “entrepreneur” and “small business owner” are often used interchangeably to describe a certain type of person. I’ve been guilty of doing it myself. What differentiates the two? Even the dictionary has trouble deciding, stating that both run enterprises of different scales. The one word that stands out when describing an entrepreneur though, is risk.

They take bigger risks, so they make more money. They think bigger. They are more creative. They love problems because it means they can create products that will solve them. A small business owner could be an entrepreneur if they decided to take a big risk and open up their small business in 7 locations, while creating a product line, tutoring employees, and mentoring licensee. That is how Jo Morshuis of Headquarters Group became an entrepreneur.

Jo started learning about hairdressing back in 1966, when there were no apprenticeships, and picking up the trade meant a thorough combination of watch, practice, and repeat.

“Lots of my friends became guinea pigs,” Jo told us, “I did however, when I started my business, go and sit my Trade Certificate. I did a crash course of 6 weeks at the Polytech, which I passed. I wanted to be a good example to my staff. What equipped me? Shear determination and a belief in myself that I could do it.

My first salon was funded by my savings. I had made extra money working on Saturdays, and my parents put up their house for the shortfall as security. I paid the bank back in my first year of operation.”

In 1979, Jo went away on holiday and left the salon under the care of a manager. About three months after, the Abbotsford slip took Jo’s house, forcing her to return to Dunedin. Not wanting to relieve the manager of their position, Jo opted to open a new salon in the area. Soon after, another one followed, and in ’89, three more were added to Jo’s portfolio. Although many of us would not have invested in a new location right after we had lost our house, it is that kind of risk-taking that has made Jo the entrepreneur she is today.

Headquarters Group now runs six salons in the southern area of New Zealand. The salons have been turned into licensee-operated locations. At the time when the decision was made to licensee, Jo was employing 120 staff, and felt that owner operators would make the outlets more profitable and run them more efficiently. The results have been positive. “The pros of running as a licensee is that we have less staff and more profitable outlets. It’s also less stress for me. The cons – licensees sometimes like to take their own direction, and with all of these types of operations, [the goal is to] keep everyone moving in the same direction.”

A large part of the Headquarters Group operation now lies in developing their hair product line and selling salon supplies. The transition from salon to supplier “wasn’t a conscious decision, just a natural progression. Even though we have lost 3 salons in Christchurch and closed a Dunedin one as the licensee wasn’t performing, our business plan is to still expand with more salons in the future. The product company is an important support for our licensee. The product company has been part of the Headquarters Group since 1987 and it has grown overtime.”

Southern Salon Supplies operates a wholesale warehouse in the lower half of New Zealand, and delivers everything from salon chairs and washbasins, to high-end hair products.

Do you think 2013 and 2014 are good years to be an entrepreneur in New Zealand?

Any year is a good year to be an entrepreneur. You just have to work hard, think outside the square, believe you can do it and know the market.

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