POSTED IN Afro & Curly FG Family ON 01 October, 2019
01 Oct Black Curl Magic – Shalani Williams, the Salon Director Making FG History
BLACK CURL MAGIC
The Salon Director Making FG History
Shalani’s career with Francesco Group began 10 years ago at our Stafford Academy Salon, and during that time she has gone from part-time trainee to salon Franchisee.
Early on in her career she made it known to Francesco Group Managing Director, Ben Dellicompagni that she wanted her own salon and together they worked towards her goal, initiating Management Training as well as practical and emotional support, to ensure that she got to where she wanted to be.
In 2018 that goal was finally realised and Shalani opened her own Francesco Group salon in Knowle, making her the first ever black salon owner within the Group.
To celebrate Black History Month, we spoke to Shalani about the journey that led up to her history-making position as Salon Director for Francesco Group Knowle.
When did you decide you wanted to become a hairdresser?
Hairdressing wasn’t the initial path I wanted to go down; I completed school with A Levels in Business, Health & Social Care and Psychology and I had planned on becoming a nurse…but when I finished 6th Form I thought ‘I’m not ready to go to university’. I went to college and signed up for the hairdressing course, because I wanted to do something that was hands on and it was a role where I was still caring for people, just in a different way. The more I got into it, the more I realised it was for me! My mum wasn’t initially happy, and I felt like I’d let my family down, because the culture in our family is that you go to university, but I knew that I had to do what was right for me. I decided that I was going to commit to hairdressing and do it to the fullest of my potential; I was going to be as big a success as I could be.
I decided that I was going to commit to hairdressing and do it to the fullest of my potential; I was going to be as big a success as I could be
Shalani Williams in front of her FG Knowle Salon
Owning my own salon has to be my absolute career highlight, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted
What are your career highlights so far?
Owning my own salon has to be my absolute career highlight, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted. I’ve also had success at industry awards, such as the Black Beauty Awards and I have twice been a Grand Finalist for L’Oreal Colour Trophy. I am a lot more focussed on the business and in-salon aspects of hairdressing, but I do love getting out of my comfort zone and getting out there within the industry on occasion.
Like any job you do, it shows if you love it and that feeling is contagious and I think clients really respond to that
Shalani with a Client
You have very loyal clients, what is your secret to building such an excellent relationship with them?
Each client is different, but getting them to understand and love their hair and empower them with the skills to look after it, is such a fantastic feeling. I say to my clients, when you go to the doctor and you’ve got to have a course of treatment to help you, that’s how you’ve got to look at your hair; your products are your medicine. Sometimes clients will say to me that their hair isn’t feeling right, and I’ll get them to bring their products in, and we’ll go through them and eliminate what’s not needed… and if it all needs to go in the bin, well then, it’s all going in the bin! Honesty is the best policy! I love having a laugh with my clients and I build a great level of trust with them, many of them come in and say “What are you doing with my hair today? I’ll leave it to you!” Like any job you do, it shows if you love it and that feeling is contagious and I think clients really respond to that.
FG made me feel like part of the family from the get-go… The training is there when you need it, but so is the emotional support; Anya, Mia & Ben all make it known to you that they are always on the other end of the phone if you need them
Shalani with FG Managing Director, Ben Dellicompagni
How has Francesco Group supported you during your career?
From the very start I’ve seen what a good manager can bring out of me. I’ve always been supported by Anya, Mia and especially Ben, he always asks, ‘What can we do for you?’ and ‘How can we help you be where you want to be?’ We talk about my aspirations and he tells me how I can get there. Ben would come over to the Academy and we’d talk about my future with the company and I think he’s always believed in me. FG made me feel like part of the family from the get-go and I love building relationships with the amazing team in Head Office. The training is there when you need it, but so is the emotional support; Anya, Mia & Ben all make it known to you that they are always on the other end of the phone if you need them.
70% of the time I’m working in the business and 30% of the time I’m working on the business; looking at how I can make it grow and continue to thrive
Hair by Shalani Williams
What is the one thing you wish you had been told before embarking on a career running your own salon?
I don’t think there’s anything, because I was told from the start that it’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it. There will be ups and downs and it’s not going to be a bed of roses, but as long as you put the work in, you will reap the benefits. I can’t expect for my salon to be successful whilst only working one day a week, it doesn’t work like that. I look at Francesco Group and the salon owners who are really successful and I see what they are doing. 70% of the time I’m working in the business and 30% of the time I’m working on the business; looking at how I can make it grow and continue to thrive.
The reason I am here today is because FG invested in me, so now it’s my turn to invest in other people
Shalani with FG Managing Directors, Mia and Anya Dellicompagni
What advice would you give to salon owners and those wanting to start up a salon business?
Make sure that it’s the right time for you and you’re in the right frame of mind; you have got to be prepared to put the work in, as there will be ups and downs. You have to build the right team. Francesco Group Chairman, Pete Dellicompagni always told me that ‘My people are my business’. I cannot be my business on my own and as long as you invest in good people you will get good business. The reason I am here today is because FG invested in me, so now it’s my turn to invest in other people.
Shalani with Michelle Thompson
Who inspires you?
Michelle Thompson. She inspires me in lots of different ways; we are hairdressers, colleagues and we’re also friends. She gives me encouragement always and I love the way she carries herself; she’s always very professional. Michelle was one of the first black women in the company, if not the first, and she’s held her own within the company and she continues to step up to the mark and I feel like I’m that person coming up behind her. When I first joined the Group, Michelle was such a role-model for me as a black woman, and I knew that when I started working with her, I wanted to continue striving for greatness in the same way that she has. In terms of my business aspirations, Jacqui Mcintosh managed me for just over a year at our Birmingham Salon & Academy and it was amazing working with her, because she taught me a lot about believing in myself and figuring out what you want and just going for it. She’s another woman who has really inspired me.
I realise that I have to work that little bit harder to achieve the same goals
Hair by Shalani Williams
Tell me about your experience as a black woman in the industry?
I do feel like I have to try that little bit harder; sometimes I feel like I can’t be myself, because I have to project this overly soft image, otherwise people look at you and think ‘You’ve got attitude, you’re intimidating and you’re aggressive’. Sometimes my point isn’t interpreted in the way I intended it, because people just assume that I’m being aggressive. It’s definitely getting better, but with anything I do, I realise that I have to work that little bit harder to achieve the same goals.
If you could cut or style anyone’s hair who would it be and why?
Meghan Markle! I think a lot more could be done to her hair, I would take her hair up to her shoulders and give it a little more shape, make it more personalised…I’d also love to get her to embrace her natural texture. I hope Archie has inherited her natural curls, afro hair in the royal family would be fantastic!
Shalani winning ‘Best In Region’ in the Afro Award Category at the L’Oréal Colour Trophy Regional Finals
What makes a good hairdresser?
You have to love what you do, you have to want to do it from within and it will shine throughout when you do someone’s hair.
Now that I’ve got the business, I feel like I have my own mini #FGFamily, which I’ve created – my offspring! I’ll never be a Dellicompagni, but I’ll do my best to set my own path based on their principles
Shalani at the 2018 FG Winner’s Dinner
What is your favourite part of hairdressing?
My clients. They are my people! Now that I’ve got the business, I feel like I have my own mini #FGFamily, which I’ve created – my offspring! I love being able to introduce my clients to them. I’ll never be a Dellicompagni, but I’ll do my best to set my own path based on their principles! There is still so much more for me to learn and I plan on being a sponge for the rest of my life, taking in every bit of training and information that I can get.
Shalani’s passion for hairdressing is palpable throughout everything she does, and we are hopeful that she will continue to pave the way for more black women and men who want to make their own mark in the hairdressing industry.
We can’t wait to see where Shalani’s success and passion leads her to next.