Meet Yulia, Founder of Duck & Dry

Meet Yulia, Founder of Duck & Dry

Tell us a little about your background and your role within Duck and Dry?

I actually don’t have a beauty background at all! I left my successful career in finance to become CEO of my own business.

After I finished university, I knew I wanted to work in Management Consulting and gain experience and utilise the skills I learnt during my studies within different sectors, whilst also getting involved in high level projects. But then coming from a family who are immersed in the world of business, I quickly realised that I wanted to set up my own.

What incentivised you to start DD and what makes it special?

I come from a very entrepreneurial family. I am interested in the power of a brand and what it can create and achieve. At the time, I was doing a lot of travelling for both work and pleasure. The US, of course, is huge for blow dry bars and what struck me most about them was the experience aspect. It wasn’t about quick and cheap styling; it was the buzz, energy, and the excitement surrounding the whole visit.

I was also inspired by Japan, not from a blow dry perspective, but there is a huge concentration of salons in Tokyo and each one of them has a different personality. They didn’t feel like your traditional UK salon. Whether they had quirky uniforms or a coffee shop or art gallery, I liked this concept and really wanted to combine something that was brand-and-experience led, but done in a London style.

That was how Duck & Dry was born. It’s all about quality styling in a fun atmosphere. An experience, rather than just a quick in and out. We position ourselves as a destination – a must on your to-do list! Rather than going for a cocktail with a friend, you can come for a Prosecco and a blow dry. We have taken something which could be considered as a functional service and created an experience around it.

Had you ever done anything like this before?

Never!

Did you fundraise for your business?

So far, everything has been self financed.

What financial difficulties did you face and how did you get around them?

At the early stages, the basics are important whilst controlling the costs involved in growing revenues. Also ensuring healthy cash flow is important for any business, especially at the beginning. Our physical presence of multiple salons, high fixed costs and large teams makes the management of this a challenge.

It is also important to recognise other revenue sources, grow and evolve while taking opportunities. See how the business can become multi-dimensional, so that you’re not just relying on a single source of revenue.

What you know, or who you know?

Good people are always important and the right contacts can open some doors, but ultimately driving the business forward is about what you know and how persistent you are about it.

Do you ever miss elements of the 9-5?

The entrepreneurial journey can be stressful since you’re under a lot of pressure and you never switch off. So, one should not underestimate the certainty and peace of mind a rewarding job can give.

How do you promote and PR your business?

We adopt a 360 degree view: including our salon locations which are physical manifestations of the brand, online and digital presence via social media, influencers and press are important.

We love coming up with new talking points about D+D, as well as working with other brands that we align with, featuring lots of events, pop ups and collaborations. It’s all about supporting each-other in the industry.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

It begins with getting my two children ready for school, checking the schedule across all locations to see what the day looks like for the salons, scanning my emails for anything urgent, heading to the office for my meetings and catching up with the team.

I’m a big fan of to-do lists and compile them daily, featuring a plan of action for the project I’m currently working on – which could be my franchise model and partners, or developing products. I try and make time for treating myself to blow dry.

What has been the hardest thing(s) about starting this latest venture? And how have you worked around the challenges?

Beginning as an outsider to this industry with no beauty background, it was a steep learning curve when I opened our first location in Chelsea. The day-to-day operational challenges it presented were difficult but you learn fast and it’s important to stay agile, hire good people and adapt your vision to reality, without losing the original DNA of the brand.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start in the beauty industry?

It’s really important to realise your unique point of difference, so you can set yourself apart from your competitors in the industry.

What are your favourite brands right now?

Essential Antwerp fashion is pretty cool, they opened their first store on King’s Road in Chelsea and I’m loving the mix of colour and animal prints, modern and retro. I’m a fan of Fresh skincare’s no nonsense, natural products! I also love getting a Farm Girl cappuccino while getting my blow dry in our Soho concession.

Who are your role models?

I get my entrepreneurial spirit from my parents and since the topic of business has always been around the table since I was young, it very much inspired me. I admire their resilience and drive, as well as their ability to apply themselves to different industries and sectors.

Did you have a mentor or people you asked for advice?

When I first embarked on my Duck & Dry journey, I never thought to meet with a fellow salon owner, or beauty entrepreneur. In retrospect, that seems ridiculous! It’s something I should have definitely done and I encourage people to connect with others in a similar industry.

It’s useful to get an insight into daily operations and the reality of going into a specific industry, from someone who is experiencing this first hand. Since then, I now have my network of start-ups and business entrepreneurs and although there’s not a single mentor in particular who I go to for insight, I do enjoy meeting people from various industries for advice, discuss challenges and sometimes for a sanity check!

How has what you do, changed you as a person?

Since establishing my own business, I have become a lot more thick skinned, better at dealing with challenges, learnt to separate the big issues from smaller ones and most importantly, not allowed myself to become too absorbed in the day-to-day, in order to keep the bigger picture in mind.

What are the top books or blogs on your reading list?

A book I read recently that I found really inspirational was Shoe Dog, which focuses on the story of Nike, and is about entrepreneurial spirit.

If you could do any other job, aside from what you do now, what would it be?

I have a natural flair and passion for interior design, so it would have to be that! All Duck & Dry designs are my own vision and I love expressing my style and aesthetic through interior design.

What’s yet to come?

Duck & Dry is in the process of growing to become a consumer brand, not just in London, but nationally and globally. We’re looking to further expand our franchise model of the Duck & Dry blow dry bar concept, as well as launching more products as part of our natural hair care range for your home blow dry.

Do you have any unconventional words of advice?

It’s sometimes difficult to just get up and get started, but my main advice would be to spend less time researching and talking about it, and actually begin your endeavour. That’s when you do the most learning – through the process.

What is your motto?

50% of success is showing up.

An immense amount of persistence and determination is required when starting and running your own business. You have to be your biggest motivator! 

If time and money were no object, what would be on your to-do and to-see list?

I absolutely love to travel, so if I had more time, I would spend it exploring new places, culture and food. I would also love revisit Japan, Brazil, Argentina and Africa, as well as explore more of South America.

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