Trailblazing Queen: Phoebe Simmonds, The BLOW
Interview by Rebecca Rusinovic
Calling all YQ’s! We are so excited to announce our latest Trailblazer - a truly high freq maven in all things business, Phoebe Simmonds. Phoebe is the beauty and brains behind The BLOW, Melbourne’s premium blow dry boutique. If a 45-minute blow wave doesn't excite you, just wait until you see The Blow’s millennial pink interior and positive affirmation mirrors.
One small peek into The BLOW and you realise it isn’t your ordinary salon. Not only is the fit out incredibly Insta-worthy but it’s chic aesthetic gives off ultimate #girlboss vibes with the neon “GOOD HUSTLE” sign that lights up the store. What is the modern day hustle and where did your own hustle come from?
You’ve always got to start with the Good Hustle! This rallying cry is lit up in neon at our boutique because it completely epitomises everything that the brand is about. The BLOW exists for women who are digging deep, channeling true grit and getting shit done - with grace and determination. Some days will be easier than others but our efforts are worth celebrating and a commitment to a positive outlook is essential. I truly relate to that juggle, that perfect imbalance and the bold steps women need to take everyday to take on the world. I’ve always been a driven person who takes inspiration from the strength of other women, and now, I have a neon light to remind me of that every day!
The BLOW’s philosophy stands by the motto, “Life isn’t effortless, but your hair can be”. Looking at it from a complete business perspective, at it’s core, The BLOW is satisfying a simple market need: blow waves. How did you manage to create a lifestyle brand that represents a ‘badass Australian woman’ and empower her through hair rather than be just another salon?
The BLOW to me is so much more than a salon. I wanted to create a brand and a space that means something to women. In my professional and personal life, I’ve learnt that if you don’t stand for something, you won’t stand out at all. Yes, we serve up fast and effortless Blow Dry’s, but anyone with experience, a passion and a hair dryer can do this. What I’m more interested in is building emotional connections with our guests and the broader community and creating positive experiences to help women feel like they can conquer their day with confidence. We empower our guests with beautiful hair, through events that bring women together socially and professionally, and we also give $1 from every Blow Dry to Share The Dignity, to help them end period poverty and fight for the safety and support of domestic violence victims. That’s a lifestyle any woman can feel good about.
The BLOW is driven by the modern day woman. She is a globetrotter, she is building empires, she is raising a family. She is whoever she wants to be and you have designed the perfect space to reflect this. How did this come about- did the look of the space come to you instantly or was it a collage of concepts derived from different inspirations and passions of yours?
For the aesthetic and brand identity, I leaned heavily on my friend and interior designer extraordinaire Lauren Foy of Collingwood architect firm ‘Tecture’. She was my first call when I had the idea to start The BLOW and she just ran with it. The brief was simple: the anti-salon, feminine with an edge, good lighting, good hustle. We drew on inspiration we’d seen all over Instagram and Pinterest and then developed our own vision from there. Lauren was so involved in the process that it’s her handwriting on our logo and our ‘good hustle’ neon sign. That makes me smile every day seeing it and knowing how much support I had from incredible friends throughout the whole journey.
There is no doubt a blow wave can make you feel good but it is more about being your most authentic self instead of the ‘perfect version’ we often strive to be. What vibe do you foster in the salon to ensure women leave with courage and confidence and how is this executed?
I don’t believe in perfection. It’s an overused word that has now lost its meaning in our age of Instagram. What I’m interested in is transformations, both emotional and physical. We work with our guest’s hair and their personal style to make them feel fresh, polished and invincible. I hire stylists who represent our brand DNA, who are positive, driven people who want the best for our guests. When I started The BLOW I wanted to take out the intimidation barrier that guests can sometimes feel (myself included) when they visit a salon. Hair should be fun and stylists should be approachable. Guests should be able to walk out feeling like they can conquer the world.
Blow outs at The BLOW are 45 minutes which suit the discerning Millennial woman – how important is the idea of wellness to you and how can women achieve self-care in our fast paced world?
We’re all so busy and women like me are committed to efficiency and the belief that time is money. In saying that, I’m committed to providing a fast service for our guests so they can get in, get out... and get it. Many of us don’t have time for champagne and chandeliers. We’d rather be kicking goals and taking names than sitting too long in a salon chair. With that kind of good hustle in mind, I believe all women need to take the time to breathe and commit to a solid ritual of self care. I do yoga 3-4 times a week for resilience, run to clear my mind, and journal for clarity.
You offer six signature styles of blow outs; everything from “rich girl hair” to “baby got beach” and even customised treatments which represent the diversity and beauty in all types of women. Yes Queen is all about embracing the uniqueness among employees and The BLOW stands for strength and spirit of females- how do you motivate and inspire women to keep evolving?
Give them enough rope! In my professional life I’m slowly coming to terms with my strengths and my weaknesses. I’ve learnt I need to play to my strengths, but lean on experts who can bridge the gap of my weaknesses. I trust my team and want them to feel like they can do anything and this can only happen if I let them fly, free to express their own strengths and individuality.
Bullying, unfortunately, remains a prominent but unspoken issue in workplace culture. The BLOW’s ethos is very empowering and bold- how do you address bullying within your own team?
If it ever occurs, with speed, seriousness and respect.
You have been in beauty for most of your professional career. What did you takeaway from your background to guide you in your transition to hair in The BLOW?
Everything! It’s all I’ve ever known. There’s power in transformation and there’s power in self awareness and expression. The evolution over the last few years of women owning their own beauty, expressing their individuality and taking pride in their uniqueness is real and extraordinary. I truly believe that it is more than just a trend, it’s a movement and it has the power to embed deep into the minds of this next generation for good. Now that brands are taking part in these conversations, I hope more women can feel comfortable in their own beautiful skin.
You started in beauty working for the internet and mail order team at MECCA. Did you ever think you would end up where you are today and what is the best advice you would give to millennials looking to climb up the ranks in not just the world of beauty but any industry?
I never knew where I’d end up but I have always been a very driven person and I’ve been very fortunate to have had the support of incredibly strong, influential women throughout my career. My advice is to make yourself indispensable. Get your hands dirty. Pack boxes, be a courier, and say yes to anything. People will want to help and support the ambitions of someone who is positive, eager and reliable. Also, don’t forget to speak up and put your ambitions out there. It might not happen overnight, but if you speak up and let your aspirations be known, the wheels will be in motion somewhere. Stay focused, stay committed to being a good human and a supportive team player, and those steps will become yours to be climbed.
I also can’t express enough how much I have learnt from feminists like Lindy West, Caitlin Moran, Roxanne Gay, Jamila Rizvi, Sheryl Sandberg, Lena Dunham, Gloria Steinem, Michelle Obama, Anita Roddick... they have all written incredible manifestos that really left their mark on me. I encourage any young employee to get smart on self identification and women’s issues at large.
At the end of the day The BLOW is your brand and it is your name on the line. When you are hiring, do you think about how someone will work within the existing team and align with the essence of the brand or look for people who can add something different?
Yes, absolutely. I hire on DNA. If they have positivity, good vibes, can work well in a team, are a yes person, are obsessed with styling and willing to learn and evolve, I want them at The BLOW. Diverse personalities are great, we don’t want to all be the same, like robots, but at its core, every member on our team needs to be truly nice and fun... and just get IT.
The BLOW works closely with “Share the Dignity”, a local Australian charity that gives sanitary products to homeless women and fights for safety and support of domestic violence victims. The Blow donates $1 from every blow wave to the organisation- why is this a core component of your business?
It is a key part of the business because I want our business to mean something. I want to build a community that does more than just blow dry hair, but helps to lift all women up. I think it’s a nationwide shame that some girls can’t go to school when they have their period because they don’t have access to basic hygiene. Thus, as a small business we use our voice and our funds to try to make a small difference to the lives of women who need our support the most.
Finally, from the ultimate queen of blow waves, what is your go to blow out style that makes you feel like you can conquer the world?
It’s like choosing a child!! For 9-5 The Mane Event. It’s big, bold, sweeping with a ton of movement and bounce and always makes me feel invincible. For weekend vibes, I’m obsessed with The Glitterati. Playful twists and minimal height at the crown always makes me feel just a little bit more glamorous.
Thank you Phoebe, for your insight and magic, we know where we will be going for our next blow out when we want to feel a little more Yes Queen.
The BLOW is located on 146 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000. You can make an appointment here.