At the tender age of 14, Andrew Dale, UNITE’s CEO and Founder, knew that he wanted to be a hairdresser. And at 16, the young Brit’s dream came true when famed hairstylist Vidal Sassoon became his mentor, and he started working in his London salon. “There was a comradery we’d have after work with Vidal—styling models and having soirees—we had a passion for hairdressing,” says Dale. “That’s what I wanted to bring back, that community. I wanted to start a brand that united the industry together.” At the end of this year, his company is going to move into a 60,000-square-foot building in San Diego, CA, but it all started in Dale’s garage.
The secret to his success: Always keeping the hairdresser’s needs in mind. “Whenever I’m working on something, the first thing I ask myself is, ‘how is this making the hairdressers’ life easier?’” says Dale. “If it doesn’t make their lives easier, we don’t do it. It’s not about the money. ”
And not worrying about the money is the advice Dale has for every young hairdresser. “Once they start thinking about the money, they cut corners and miss out on great experiences that could enhance their craft,” says Dale. Thinking about his time with Sassoon, it was never about the money. It was about learning, apprenticing and growing as a hairdresser. “If you build your craft, the money comes naturally.”
As for the salon owner, Dale has one suggestion: Don’t think about your business as a business, think of it as a brand. “Hairdressers understand brands—Gucci, Prada, Nike,” says Dale. “If they think this way, they’ll market themselves past the brick and mortar, building up a brand with a culture.”
The culture he built at UNITE is one of inclusiveness and family. “I created that by promoting from within. I’ve taken warehouse employees and moved them into the sales and marketing. My COO started with me as a salon manager when she was 18, and now she’s 39, running daily operations. You’ve got to take care of your team,” says Dale. Which is a lesson he learned from Sassoon himself. In 1983, Sassoon sponsored his move to America—the opportunity of a lifetime for a young man working on London’s Sloan Street. “Now I’m more American than most Americans—I love it, I’m on my third American passport. But I still support Arsenal—a North London football club.” Well, you can take the boy out of London, but not London out of the boy.