Rush Chairman talks about Rush’s history and growth

Rush Chairman, Andy Phouli started Rush 22 years ago opening the first salon in Wimbledon with co-founder and friend Stell Andrew. Andy spoke in an exclusive interview in March’s issue of Hairdressers Journal magazine*. As Rush are continuing to grow, reaching the 100 salon mark across the UK, Andy reflects over the growth of the Rush brand and what he has learnt over the years.

What was your experience of the hairdressing industry when you opened the first Rush salon?

Rush Chairman Andy Phouli's opening speech
Andy speaking at Rush’s annual award ceremony, the Rush Oscars 2015
ANDY PHOULI: To be honest, I didn’t know anything about the industry. We had a really small salon and it was all about paying the bills and making it work. I was completely blind to the outside world and just how much the industry had to offer. Things changed when we attended our first British Hairdressing Awards. The Awards really opened my eyes and I could see for the first time the endless possibilities our industry had to offer, this was a turning point.

What was the first salon like?

A.P: Myself and my business partner and friend Stell opened the first salon in Wimbledon and it was built on a shoestring. For us it was all about providing quality hair and customer service, however, the salon interior was not reflective of this at all. We had to work with what we had, the original shop front and floor. We put every penny we had in to that shop, which wasn’t a lot, but we were so determined to succeed.

Rush Wimbledon in 1994 and Rush Westfield Stratford opened 2015
Andy and Stell outside the first Rush salon in 1994 and Rush Westfield Stratford opened 2015

Andy Phouli HJ Director of the Year winner
Andy Phouli winning HJ Director of the Year 2015

What was the original business plan for Rush?

A.P: From day one, the plan was always to open 12 salons across London in 5 years. It actually took us 12 years to open 12 salons. I’m glad to say that we learnt a lot about opening salons in that period, providing us with great experiences which we have carried forward. It was a learning curve.

Tell us about the challenges of the early years?

A.P: There is no denying it, the early years were extremely tough. We struggled to get the right team in place. We had some great individuals with us but building a team, when you are not a recognisable brand, is a very tough challenge and takes a lot of work to get right.

Rush Hair Growth
Rush Hair Growth

What challenges did opening the second salon bring?

A.P: One year after we opened Wimbledon, we opened our second salon in Croydon. Throughout these years we continued to learn more about the business and the hairdressing industry. At this point in the business, I’d say education was our biggest challenge. Education is absolutely crucial when growing and developing a team and it was an area we knew we had to work hard at.

What growth strategy did you have for Rush?

A.P: We are definitely a different machine now. We’ve worked really hard throughout the past 22 years and put all our resources, energy and knowledge in to the business at every opportunity. We have separate departments that specialised in their own professional sectors and I’m proud to say that we are now stronger that ever – we have a great team.

Where is Rush now in the UK hair industry?

A.P: Last year we opened 14 salons in 12 months and we have now pushed out of London and the South East. In 2015 we opened our first salons in Birmingham, Cambridge, Bristol and Liverpool, to name a few. We also launched our second flagship salon in Westfield, bringing our current total to 76 salons, with big plans to expand the brand nationwide. It is a very exciting time for us.

When did you introduce the first franchise?

A.P: Our first franchise was opened 7 years ago and I’m proud the franchisee was an existing member of the team. We launched Rush for Life in 2015 to demonstrate that we invest in our team members and support them at all costs. We are currently on a big franchising and recruitment drive, but we want the industry to know that we are not just about numbers. When we invest in people we try our hardest to keep hold of them. Essentially, when you join Rush you become part of the family and that’s how it has always been.

What are the plans for Rush in 2016?

A.P: The future is looking very good for Rush. We currently have 20 franchisees and salon locations confirmed for 2016 so far – watch this space!

Find out more and meet other Rush franchisees

*Original interview taken from HJ March issue, interview by Matthew Batham

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