Pivoting in a pandemic proves to be a cut above for Dublin barbers

Leslie Guigley, owner of Killiney Barbers, holding at T2

Photograph: Conor Mulhern

This article was originally written & published by the Irish Times.

For some, business is in their bones. Leslie Quigley is busy organising another day at her barbershop, Killiney Barbers, but takes a moment to pause and reflect on the last 18 months.

“People told me I was mad to open during the pandemic,” she says. “But I’ve always trusted my gut, and I’ve never been afraid to take a risk once I felt it was the right thing to do. I’m really glad I did.”

Quigley may have opened this business recently, but she’s been a respected member of the Killiney business community for years. Her hairdressing salon served the women in the area for almost a decade before Covid-19 struck and she began to reevaluate.

“I decided to close the salon and reopen as a barber,” she says. “It was a tough decision, but I had known for a long time that the area needed a barber, and I felt the moment was right to reinvent ourselves. My son Sean is our head barber, and I re-trained as a barber during the lockdown too, so that I would understand the business from the inside out. We renovated, revamped, I upskilled, and here we are. It’s been a whirlwind.”

Quigley credits her son and partner Mark for much of the leap. “I had the idea and vision, but Mark did all of the renovations himself,” she says. The revamped industrial-style space, complete with exposed brick wall, is located in the village’s shopping centre. “Our beautiful red brick wall was a labour of love,” Quigley says, adding “more importantly, Mark is a complete IT whizz and he introduced me to Square. Really, so much of this is down to him.”

Square is Killiney Barbers’ payment system of choice, and it allows easy and efficient in-person and online payments, with up-to-date automatic reporting, and affordability for small and big businesses alike.

For Quigley, it’s opened up a whole new world. “I’m not particularly tech-minded, but really, it’s been incredible. I have to say that in a post-Covid-19 world, one of my priorities is making life as easy and efficient as possible for clients. That means being able to quickly take online and in-person payments, which is what Square does,” she explains.

“We’ve made it work for Covid-19 … We didn’t ­– and won’t – let it stop us”

“But it’s not just a card machine – clients can buy gift vouchers, and I love that the machine looks so slick. It adds a professionalism to the business and clients love it. From a practical standpoint, it’s got a simple glass face which makes it really easy to wipe down and sanitise in between customers. The internet connection is always fast, something which we have struggled with in the past in the shop. Anyone can use it, and customers love it. Need I say more?”

Customer focused

To say Quigley is client-focused is an understatement. “We’re a family business, serving the community here,” she says. “Whatever makes that the best experience possible, is what we’ll do. Women may want to get their nails done for working from home, they may not. Men need to get their hair cut, so that’s what we’re offering.”

Back to that infamous pandemic opening, and Quigley recalls the early days. “We took a plunge opening in the middle of a pandemic, yes, but we had this brilliant online payment system so people could book and pay seamlessly throughout those weeks. We were able to see the bookings come in and that bolstered us. We had three chairs in the shop when we opened and they were constantly full. We’ve made it work for Covid-19 with temperature checks, disposable capes. We didn’t – and won’t – let it stop us.”

“One of my priorities is making life as easy and efficient as possible for clients. That means being able to quickly take online and in-person payments, which is what Square does,” says Quigley
Industry knowledge and long-standing reputation in the village certainly helped support Quigley’s decision to pivot, but what advice can she offer to those not so sure about taking a leap of business faith?

“First of all, you’re never too old. I re-trained during lockdown because I didn’t want to be on the sidelines of my business. I wanted to know how to cut, how to be the person behind the chair.

“Next, the location can’t be underestimated. I had owned the salon for nine years, and I took note of what happened all around us as a business. I was able to see that a barber was badly needed, and our position near a café, in the centre of the village, made it the perfect place to open one,” she adds.

“I would never have discovered Square without Mark’s help and I’m very glad I did”

“Finally, trust your gut and go for it. It sounds cliched, but if I had listened to everyone who told me I was mad to do what I did, where would I be? If you don’t take the chance, you’ll never know.”

The team at Killiney Barbers know there is lots more in store for their growing business. “We’re holding our own right now and building a loyal customer base,” says Quigley. “But there is so much more we want to offer. I am now a qualified trainer, so in time we would love to open another salon and, in a few years, a training academy for barbers.”

For those hoping to make their next business move, she recommends asking others for support. “You can’t do it all on your own, even though you might try. I would never have discovered Square without Mark’s help and I’m very glad I did.”

Most of all, Quigley says have heart, have courage, and never give up. She is buoyant about the future and confident in their growth. “That’s business,” she says. “You’ve got to give a business your all.”

You can visit Killiney Barbers at their location in Killiney Shopping Center, online at killineybarbers.ie or follow them on their instagram page.