Phorest FM Episode 234: Ronan Perceval on the Story of Phorest
It’s 2004. Phorest’s Founder & CEO Ronan Perceval is hunched underneath the salon reception desk, troubleshooting a hardware issue in the first infant version of Phorest’s Software. “I wondered if I would ever truly delight the salon owner waiting in front of me. I can barely remember what else happened that day, but I remember this very clearly. It was my goal to make sure that everything in her growing business was working smoothly and I knew if I got it right, together we could bring more revenue in through her door.” Of course, we now know that he did. Fast forward to 2022, and Phorest has become a global success story with over 9,000 businesses using its products and services. With each new business that joins, Phorest is inspired to be better. In this episode, hear Ronan Perceval on what makes the hair & beauty industry so unique, how a small idea grew to a global software company with salon professionals at the heart of it, the various lightbulb moments and key milestones that make the story of Phorest, and so much more.
Ronan is the CEO and Co-Founder of Phorest Salon Software, whose obsession with raising salon professionals to their highest game is trickling into its 19th year. Always available to the community as a pillar of support, an advocate at business and political level and a mine of data and knowledge, you can catch Ronan traveling the world, speaking to salon owners at hair and beauty conferences. Doing everything he can to make your business a success is what keeps him motivated.
Ronan Perceval: At Phorest, we don’t have a job. We have a purpose. It’s to help salon, spa, and clinic owners just like you to succeed.
Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Nearly 20 years ago, our founder and CEO, Ronan Perceval, was working as a receptionist in a busy salon in Dublin when he had a career-defining realisation. On today’s episode, we’re sharing the story of Phorest Salon Software. And to do this, there was only one guest I could bring back on, Ronan himself.
Ronan Perceval: Hi! It’s always a pleasure.
Ronan's career-defining realisation [01:00]
Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Ronan, the way you start telling the story of Phorest is that you had worked prior customer service jobs, but you soon discovered that nothing compared to the atmosphere of being in a salon. What did you realize working there? What was so different about it?
Ronan Perceval: Yeah, this is something that really stayed with me my whole life because it’s nearly 20 years ago now unbelievably that I worked in a salon the first time. But basically, when I went to university, I always had to do about 20, 25 hours a week working in takeaways, fast food joints, shops, like grocery stores, that kind of thing, just to help pay my rent and whatever in college. And so I had a lot of jobs like that. I was a waiter for a couple of years. I was a barman for a year. So I’d done a lot. I must have done about 10 or 11 of those jobs for a significant period of time, at least a couple of months each one.
So I’ve done a lot of client-facing jobs. I like client-facing jobs like talking to people, helping them, all that kind of stuff. So I enjoyed that. But those jobs, they also can get a bit monotonous by time depending on the job and things like that. So what was really interesting when I worked in a salon for the first time as a receptionist was, in theory, I was standing behind a desk serving customers, which isn’t that different from nearly all those other jobs, but it was totally different. I remember that the day just flew by in a way that it didn’t in some of those other jobs. And some of them were good. Like being a barman, the time does go quite quickly in that kind of job.
But I found that working in a corner store—it’s called a SPAR here—and I found that job incredibly boring. Within five minutes of clocking in, I was checking my watch to see how much more time I had left. It was incredibly boring, and the day would really drag, and that just never happened. From the minute I started work, people would be coming in the door, they’d be in great form coming in, they’d be really looking forward to their appointment in the salon, and then you’d take their coat, you’d have them wait, whatever it is you were going to do. And then they’d have their stylist or therapist come along, they go off, have their treatment or service or a haircut, whatever it was because it was a hair and beauty salon.
When they came back to the desk like an hour later or 90 minutes later, depending on what they’d had done, it was like they were even feeling even better than they were when they arrived. And what was amazing about that is that basically, if people are really… Like if everybody that you’re meeting is in really good form, there’s a positive energy from that that is really hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it, but it puts you in good form, or it’s really hard for you if you’re in bad form to stay in bad form when everyone you’re chatting to is in good form.
You felt like you were really making a difference for them. Like there are different stories you’d hear over time. People might have a rough week; they might have issues at home, issues at work. They come in; this is a place where they’re pampered, not just pampered, but they’re made to feel special, and it’s all about them. They look, feel great, whatever it is, but like they just feel great leaving. Nearly everyone felt great leaving. And you just fed off that energy. And it’s just a different energy in that environment than it is in all those other businesses. And I never knew that before I’d worked in a salon. I just never knew that.
But then, having been there for a week, I was like, “Wow.” I just fell in love with it, and I was just like, “This is somewhere I could work for the rest of my life.” I didn’t know what I’d do there, but I was just… There was definitely, and like here I am nearly 20 years later. And I’ve been working in this industry for nearly two decades, and I’m going to be working in it for at least another two decades, I would say. And I think people are very lucky. I think people who work in it are really lucky to work in it. I think a lot of people know that, but for people who aren’t in the industry, they don’t understand what a great industry it is that way.
And actually, whenever they do job satisfaction surveys, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this Zoé, but this industry, both hairdressing and beauty therapy, they always score in the top five careers in terms of job satisfaction and way more than other jobs that have way higher earning potential let’s say. Do you know what I mean? Because obviously, the pay isn’t as good. There are ways to earn more money by becoming a salon owner and building a good business and all that kind of stuff. So there are obviously opportunities in the industry, but the base pay is a lot less than other jobs, but the job satisfaction is way higher. So you’re getting other benefits from it that sometimes people aren’t aware of.
And I think that’s something I’d love to share more because we could get so many more people coming into the industry, particularly at a time right now where the industry’s really struggling for people. Like every industry struggling to get good people, our industry is massively struggling. If people were aware of the job satisfaction you get, I think we could attract a lot of good people away from other areas where they might get paid the same or more, but just not feel as good about their life. You know what I mean? So that whole thing just I’m fascinated with.
The salon business challenge that started it all [06:35]
Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Not long after working at the reception desk, Ronan noticed the owner was struggling with the same primary issues. First, the salon was consistently dealing with at least one or two no-shows a week. And over time, this was adding up to a fairly significant loss in revenue.
Ronan Perceval: I was the receptionist. So I realized fairly early on that salons have trouble with no-shows like lots of businesses that take appointments. But like basically, if an appointment is worth €50 or $80 for an hour or $100 for an hour or whatever, if somebody doesn’t turn up, that hour is gone, but as the owner, I still have to pay some sort of wage. I have to pay my rent, I have to pay my costs on that hour, but it’s gone. I can’t get it back.
The customer might come back, but it’s coming back in the future. That’s a big problem for a salon. You just have, and like in the case, this salon, it was losing maybe two appointments a day, like it was a fairly busy place. I might have had 30 or 40 appointments a day, obviously more some days of the week, but like two, three appointments out of 30 or 40, it doesn’t sound like a lot. You know what I mean?
Like when you’re there as a receptionist at the start, it’s like, okay, so someone doesn’t turn up, whatever. You think about it for two seconds, and you move on because you’re fairly busy. But you add that up; it adds up to thousands of dollars every month and maybe $30,000 or $40,000 in lost appointments in a year in one salon. And it was a decent size salon, but it wasn’t like the biggest one ever either. So the really big salon might probably be two or three times that. A smaller one might be half that, but half of that is still a lot of money, like $10,000, $20,000 a year.
So a lot of money from a small thing that you don’t even realize. And if you’re listening to this as a salon owner, $20,000 or $30,000 in extra revenue in a year is life-changing because that can… Well, you can maybe take that out as cash for yourself or reinvest it in the business like improving the premises, doing more marketing to get more customers, maybe hiring another staff member, or paying a pay rise to some member to make sure they stay.
Like there’s so much you could do with $20,000, $30,000. Like it’s a huge amount of money to improve your business or your life, whatever you want to do with it.
And that’s what happens every year with no-shows. It’s not like that’s just this year. It’s every year. It’s every month. So it was like, wow, could we solve this by sending a text message? Which at the time was really a new idea. People had just started sending each other text messages on their phones only a year or two before. So it was a really new area. Text messages were like cutting-edge. It’s kind of hard to explain that to people now because it feels so kind of just part of your life. And so old school almost, but like at the time, it was cutting-edge.
Zoé Bélisle-Springer: So this begs the question, how was Phorest actually born?
Ronan Perceval: Yeah, like it was born over a period of time. It was like a series of light bulb moments over the course of probably two years. I always wanted to have my own business. Even when I was in college, like I was saying earlier and I was working in all these jobs, I was also trying to start companies and businesses all the time as well. None of them went anywhere, but that… So I always wanted to do that. I just didn’t know what it would be. And it was actually working in the salon that I got some ideas of that industry, which I liked. It was like, here are some things we could do. And I had a co-founder, a guy called Jamie. Between us, we got another guy to write the software that would send these appointment reminders.
And I was working in the salon, so I was able to send them out each night by clicking the buttons that… I was writing down the appointments on paper, but also being able to send the messages through the internet, up on dial-up, all that stuff you can imagine. So it was a faff, but it was great because, within a month of us doing these reminders every day, it cut down her no-shows by 70%. So instead of her having two to three a day, she was sometimes only having one a day. And like that was the impact that it had.
And at the time, if you think about it this way, nobody was really getting text messages. So if you got this message, you took it really seriously. So it was such a good way of doing that. Now they still work even today, but they don’t work as effectively. And you have other things like deposits and things like that that you do to try and reduce no-shows. But at the time, that worked really well. So that was kind of really how Phorest was born.
Now, when we were doing that, we weren’t really thinking, oh wow, we’re going to have Phorest today as a salon software product that does all a salon’s business from their appointments to their client CRM, their client management, their point of sale, their payments, their reporting, their marketing. Like it’s obviously this huge product now, but like at the time, I didn’t see that, and we didn’t think, “Oh wow, we’ve done these appoint reminders. It’s going to end up as that.” But if you look back, you go like that’s where it started because we had a bit of software, and we’re sending these reminders. So I suppose that is the point. If you link back, that’s the point where Phorest really started to be born. That’s it.
The early days of Phorest, and the struggles that came with them [11:58]
Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Setting up a business takes courage and is not always easy. So I asked Ronan whether he faced any particular struggles getting started. And whether he could describe the moment, he knew it was all worth it.
Ronan Perceval: Yeah. There were a lot of struggles at the start. So what happened was I left working in that salon fairly soon after because it was clear that other salons wanted to or want some version of it. But that sounds like, “Wow, we did this thing and then everyone wanted it,” but it was this slog. I think we got like 20 salons, or it was 12 or 20 in the first 12 months. So it’s not very many and not enough to really pay three or four people’s wages even. So it was tight. Like I didn’t get paid for the first year or two. I was still getting the doll stuff like that. And so we could pay people to work for us instead rather than us taking the money. And there were a couple of times we didn’t have enough money for payroll.
Even though we weren’t even paying ourselves, we had to go down to the bank. I remember really clearly me and Jamie going down to the bank to get a €5,000 overdraft so that we could pay two people their monthly salary. And we had to take a loan out between us to do it. And we were just like, I don’t even know how we got a loan. I didn’t have any money. You know what I mean? So somehow, we convinced the bank to do that. And I think we had a sale coming through and we were able to show stuff to try and convince the bank. And thank god we did because the whole thing would’ve folded then there. So we had things like that. And it was stressful.
It’s funny looking back at it. You’re kind of like, “Oh wow, we did that. Isn’t that cool?” At the time, I was shitting myself. So it was just really stressful. I wasn’t sleeping that well. It was just really, really affecting you. And in a way, it was lucky that I was kind of young. So I was so young that I didn’t have a family. I don’t think I even had a girlfriend or anything. So I didn’t have like responsibilities. It was just to myself. So I was able to deal with the stress, really.
Like I couldn’t even imagine having that stress—because a lot of people launch businesses later in life. And I think the most common age is like 38 or something to launch a business, but a lot more on the line like you have mortgages and all that kind of stuff and you have a lot more life experience as well. So you probably make less mistakes, but you don’t… So anyway, those things were tough.
Like when did I know it was worth it? I’m not sure I knew it at the time. I knew enough to keep going because each year went by, we’d have more customers than we had the year before. So we were getting somewhere. We knew the future always looked brighter than the present. So that kind of keeps you going.
In 2011, we raised money from investors for the first time. And we hadn’t done that for like six, seven years. We just existed hand to mouth for the first six, seven years like most businesses, with little bits of a grant from here or there or you get the bank to give you a bit of an overdraft, whatever. We just survived.
But then the business is big enough at that point. We probably had 500 or 600 clients, and we launched in the UK and we had 20 people, I think 20, 25 people working for us at that point, and we had a real business. You know what I mean? Like each month, we had revenue coming in from all those customers. So whatever happened, even if you had a bad month, you’d still hit payroll. You know what I mean? Or you’d be close to hitting payroll. So you had a real business. And I remember thinking a real business is that other people were prepared to invest in as well. And so it was just like, yeah, I remember just smiling at some point around that time and going, “Yeah, this is definitely worth it.”
The series of lightbulb moments that led Phorest to its vision [16:09]
Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Today, Phorest Salon Software is used by hair, beauty, and clinic professionals worldwide, freeing teams up to focus on their passion and business success. More creativity, less admin. And known globally for providing the best salon marketing tools, Phorest now touches every point of the salon experience, from custom salon apps, online bookings and stock control, through to e-commerce and payments.
Ronan Perceval: It’s like a series of lightbulb moments of like say the first one was, wow, we can use technology to solve a problem with appointment reminders, which is fantastic, but the next light bulb moment, which is a story I can tell you now is really where you’d say that’s Phorest. Because like after this, pretty much it’s still doing this today in some form. And it’s to do with marketing. Basically, what happened was we got all these phone numbers from people to do these appointment reminders. So we were building up this database of like 1,000 phone numbers.
But we weren’t thinking of it that way, but that’s effectively what was happening. By taking someone’s number, sending them a reminder, we had their name and their number now in a database. And so as everyone knows, pre-COVID at least, it used to be really busy coming up to the holidays or Christmas time or that time in December because everybody goes out to have their holiday party at work or in school or whatever it is. It’s all that.
So everyone goes in the salon in that run-up to the end of December. And so every salon is really, really busy. But then, in January, it’s the hangover after the holidays. And obviously, it’s traditionally anyway; this is a quiet period of the year because everybody’s got no money left and also there’s no parties and everyone’s a bit depressed. So nobody’s going out. And then, like it’s obviously the peak starts to pick up again towards the end of February going into March, and the weather’s getting better and things like that.
So this is my first experience working in salon. So like I was learning all of this at the time, but I came back from Christmas, the Christmas holidays here, and came into the salon and like the appointment book was empty. Like there was hardly anything in it. It’s kind of like a bit of a panic for a salon owner because they’re looking at it, and they’re kind of going, “Oh my god,” you know what I mean? “I have no appointments, and what are we going to do?” Everyone knows that nobody really wants to go out or anything. So it’s kind of hard to think what would happen. And she basically gave me the task as the person sort of minding the front desk and all like to come up with something.
What we did was we… And Jamie, my co-founder, helped with this as well; we came up with this idea. Basically, we’ve got all these phone numbers. Why don’t we send out a marketing text to those numbers? And how we worked it was that we would do a promotion and like in a nutshell basically, there was a new product range coming out. We were able to get travel sizes of the products. And so the shampoos and conditioners. And so basically what we did was we sent out this message saying, if you book an appointment this month, we’ll give you complimentary shampoo and conditioner. So we didn’t even discount it. And that’s really important because Phorest, the whole thing around marketing for salons is not to discount to do added value. And so that was the first time we ever did that.
So we sent out this text and I’ll always remember it because like we sent out the text message, and it went out and a couple of minutes later, nothing had happened. And then the phone rang, and I answered the phone and they were saying, “Oh, I’ve just got this text,” and I was sort of booking them in. And as I was doing that, the phone was ringing. I could hear like there was another line, call trying to get in. So as soon as I put it down, I picked it up again and I could hear another in the background. And literally, I didn’t stop talking for five hours. I was just booking in appointments because we only had one phone. So like it all came through there, and it was just like crazy.
Over the course of the whole promotion, we sent out one text message, and basically, she booked out for the entire month of January and going into February, even though it was only meant to be for the month of January. So it was an amazing result. And people were like, “Well, you only sent out 1,000 messages.” But like what happened was people were just forwarding the message to each other, like to friends who’ve never been to the salon because it’s just such a new and novel thing to get. But like, that was where Phorest was born. And that’s like your light bulb moment when the phone does not stop ringing. And after you’ve caught your breath for a second to go to the bathroom or something just to have a break, you’re like, “This is amazing.”
That’s Phorest; like that’s using technology in the salon to get them busier using the numbers that we’re collecting anyway. So you’re collecting the numbers from the day-to-day of making appointments and you’re using that information to do marketing to them.
That’s Phorest. We help salons get the clients back in who are often spending more. Like that’s basically what every salon owner in the world wants. You want to have your customers spending more money with you. So it’s just like it does that. And that’s everything we’ve done. Like we’ve loyalty programs, we make branded apps, we do huge email campaign systems that people can do AI that’s coming up with slots that are available for different people and online reputation to make sure they rank higher on Google and all the things that Phorest does now from a marketing point of view using the information that was collected in the system to market their business and help make sure they’re busier.
So in a way, what we did that day is… Well, it’s not 20 years yet. It’s 17 years or whatever it is. We’re still doing the same thing in some way. And the idea isn’t any smaller. We’re here to help provide this marketing help, marketing tools in a basic simple form for any salon owner can start getting up and running, get her launch program going, get her newsletters going out, make sure she’s ranking higher in Google, make sure she’s got better online booking systems. Like just do all that stuff and you will have a better business. So that’s kind of where the… the drive comes from them [salon owners].
The key milestones in the Story of Phorest [22:32]
Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Amazing. Well, you hinted at a few milestones there. My next question is, what have been the key milestones for Phorest from setting up all the way through to what it has become today?
Ronan Perceval: Yeah, you’re right. I have kind of mentioned a few there, haven’t I? So yeah, I would say the first two milestones are, without doubt, doing the appointment reminders and that SMS campaign in that January at the salon. Phorest came from those two things. So they’re the two milestones.
And then it was about even when we went out, and we just had an appointment software at the start. So we just sold the appointment software with reminders on it. We didn’t have anything else. It didn’t become a full salon software until 2005. It was about like a year later after going full-time on it. And basically, what that was… was like we had a point of sale and appointments combined. It was very basic to what salon software is today, but it was like we had a thing that a salon could run their business on effectively at the front desk around 2005. So that was kind of big. And then that’s what we were selling from then on. We weren’t selling the appointments anymore. We were just selling that to salons.
And we did pretty well over about four years, got good few hundred salons doing it. And then we launched in the UK in 2009. So like a milestone, because like Ireland, it’s a small country you’re never going to have an international… If you just stay in Ireland, the potential for a business like this is quite limited. So obviously launching in the UK suddenly it’s like ten times as big a market, but also like ten times as many competitors and lots of other challenges. That’s a big milestone.
And like once we did that, Phorest grew a lot because even though the Irish market was declining at the time because there was a huge recession, we were more than making up for it with the UK. So it just suddenly like, wow, we’re in the UK, then you start to think where we can go beyond the UK. There’s such a huge opportunity out there.
In 2010, we launched online booking for the first time. And that’s obviously such a big part of the industry and you need to have salon software if you’re going to do online booking. And obviously, at the time, no one really booked online, but it’s become… It’s not even a debate now, obviously.
Then in 2011, what I mentioned earlier when we raised money for the first time from investors, and that allowed us to really build a much better version of our product and invest in hiring some more people into the company without just living hand to mouth all the time where we could only hire someone when we’d made enough money the previous month or so. We can now even go like, “Well, next year we want to do X. Here’s the money.” It wasn’t a huge amount of money, but compared to what we’d had at that point, it was huge.
So that was a big mind shift because when you start thinking more long term and less in the short term, you’re working on the business instead of in it. You’ve heard the cliche, everyone’s heard it, but just your business really does start to take off when you do that. But I’m really glad that I didn’t do that from the start.
Part of me is like — some people say like if you just raise money like seven years earlier, you could have moved much faster. It’s true. And like there are competitors of ours like in every industry who’ve raised money from the start and they’ve gone way faster than us in the early days.
But what I learned in those early days is I learned a lot about myself, our team. We learned a huge amount about the industry. Apart from just working in the salon, I was like meeting salon owners every day. So by the time we’d raised money, I’d probably visited 2,000 salons. I had incredible knowledge about the industry and empathy towards it and connection and things like that, which is really important and gives you a purpose.
Using that money we raised, we launched Phorest Cloud. So we moved into the cloud in 2012 and then the product was just much better than it was before. It had all these social media marketing things, and we had a Facebook thing where you could get more Facebook likes. It only worked for a few years at the time, but it was huge because Facebook was just taking off as a marketing tool for salons. And so we kind of plugged into that. And then, we launched in Finland in 2013 and in the US in 2014, which is what’s become our biggest market now. They weren’t big launches, but the quicker you get in and over a few years, you start to get going.
We held our first Summit in 2015, Zoé. So that’s six years ago, seven years ago now. Whoa, it’s a long time. And I think we only had five, we missed some because of COVID-19, but those were huge. Because like that first one, we only had like 150 people in the room, but it was just really lovely. And we had all these clients that been with us for years, loads of people I’d met going around selling Phorest ten years earlier all in the room and they’d kind of been on the journey with us. And we just felt a huge debt of gratitude to them, but also proud of having helped them as well. And it was just a really nice feeling for everyone.
That’s the first Summit — and all the [Salon Owners Summits] after that, they got bigger, and people started coming from all around the world and stuff, but just it was is a real milestone.
So we want to get back to that, and we’re going to next year again. And then we launched in Germany and Australia in 2017, two markets that are flying so far and we’ve nearly 2,000 customers now in those two markets, which is amazing. It took us big fifteen years to get to 2,000 customers in total and we’ve done it in just those two markets alone. Just amazing.
And then launching Phorest Pay in the US in 2018. So that would’ve been payment terminals where the credit card processing is linked to the software, which we’re now in the process of rolling out everywhere around the world. And like just the way that’s all gone where payments have become such a huge thing for the customer experience in the salon where they can just use a card on file and things like that and just making the online booking process and the visiting process so much slicker and easier helps the salon collect more revenue. It’s sort of a win-win all around. So that has been a big milestone.
And then I’d say the final big one would be in the last year was that we’ve had someone called Paolo Braguzzi and someone else called Janna Ronert join our board in the last six months. And Paolo is the CEO of Davines and Comfort Zone, which are two big premium brands, haircare and colour and beauty product brands. And then Janna Ronert is the Founder and Chairwoman of IMAGE Skincare, which I think is pretty much the biggest professional skincare range in the world — or one of the top two or three.
So two massive people in the industry, really passionate about salons. They’ve been working in the industry for decades and have achieved huge things. Ethics is a really big part of what they do. Davines is a huge social and environmental constitution at its core as a business. So two people who’ve built businesses in a really nice way, in a good way, in a really long-term way, that have a huge concept about the industry. And to have people like that on the board now, we are having conversations that are really, really high level. And when you think about where Phorest can go with that kind of expertise, it’s really exciting.
Ronan Perceval recalls one special, cherished moment [30:15]
Zoé Bélisle-Springer: When you work at a company, there’s always at least one moment in time that you hold really close to your heart, some special memory. But as a founder, and I’m sure any owner listening to this can relate, there are so many of these moments. And when I asked Ronan what one moment in Phorest history he’ll always hold close to heart, this is what he said.
Ronan Perceval: So when you ask this question, what jumps into my head first, it’s not really got anything to do with the business, but it’s about the team. And back in 2014 or 2015, as a big activity for the team, I think there was about 30 or 40 people in the team at the time, rather than us go off and do a day’s offsite somewhere and do paintballing or something, we thought we’d try and do something good.
And so there was a senior home —you might say in the states— not that far from the office, like a mile or two from the office. And it’s in Phoenix Park. It’s called St Mary’s — it’s really well-known in Ireland. It’s a slightly neglected place and they have loads of amazing grounds around it, but they’re all kind of overgrown and stuff like that. Or they were at the time.
We said that we would go and take one of these fields basically or, well, like an old garden and redo it over the course. And we did it over two days. So the whole team just went out, it was in May or June, and the weather was lovely. It was like 20, 25 degrees. And we just worked all day for two days laying off the lawns and the flowers, building the fences, painting everything, and just making it really nice.
At the end of that day, I just had the best feeling I’d ever had. Everyone who was there feels the same about that day. All the old folks came out and were enjoying the garden. And they’ve been like teasing us a bit when we were doing it as well. Like they were good craic. They were like, “What the hell are you doing?” Or whatever. But then they appreciated it as well.
But they came out and they enjoyed it. It was for them. We were doing it for them, but we were also kind of… We got this incredibly good feeling ourselves, and it was just… We were all sitting around having a beer on the lawn, and then we went down to a pub — you walked through Phoenix Park and walked 20 minutes away. We went to a pub there.
I’ll just never forget it like loads of people there, like Barry Quinn and Sarah Mahon and all these people, Rob Norton. Like so many people who are still here in Phorest, we all kind of shared that, and I just… And every year after, we did another garden the next year, and then we organised a dance for some old folks at another time. And we try and do something each year.
We haven’t been able to the last couple of years with COVID-19, but I’ll always remember that for the rest of my life. It was a great feeling.
Phorest's environmental vision and green initiatives [33:10]
Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Alongside that, Phorest has always had a passion for environmental issues. We have a vision to leave the environment and industry in a better place for generations to come. We know that even small changes have a big impact on our planet. So in 2019, Phorest made an official statement of intent to take action on the climate emergency by establishing the Phorest CSR Team and focusing on four areas in which we drive our green initiatives.
Ronan Perceval: Yeah. So I would say that there’s the industry itself, there’s our workplace like how we work in Phorest, there are things we can volunteer on and then there are things we can fundraise for. So that would be the four things.
If we think about the industry back in 2009, pre-COVID-19, we held the first sustainability event in the UK and Ireland called Conscious Hair & Beauty, which was like an event like the Summit, smaller obviously, but just where we had people talking about practical advice and how you could have an impact for salons that wanted to take the environment more seriously, which is increasing all the time.
And we also work with different organisations now in different countries that do this similar thing. So there’s Green Circle Salons in the US, they enable salons to collect this green circle fee from the clients, which then goes to making sure that all the waste in the salon is dealt with properly because there’s a lot of chemicals obviously and haircare products and things like that as you can imagine, and there’s lots of tinfoil and different things used. So it just means the waste is collected correctly and stuff like that. There’s Green Salon Collective in the UK, something similar. They’re all a little bit different from each other, but it’s the same concept. It’s all about properly disposing of the waste.
So that’s some of the things that we can do in the industry. There are sustainable practices that they introduce and help salons with. And then, in 2009, we also invited salons around the world to take part in the Phorest Paperless Pledge, which is where you go paperless in the salon for a week. And we’re going to be working on that again as well.
In our workplace, there are a lot of people pretty passionate about this. So you know that Zoé. Like the year or two before COVID-19, we’d been doing stuff for The Ocean Cleanup. And so we did things where everyone at Phorest would go out, clean up a beach nearby because we have people all around the world now. So we did beaches in the States, we did beaches in Finland, Australia, Ireland, England and everything — that was cool.
Then we raised money for The Ocean Cleanup project to get rid of all the plastic in those huge garbage patches in the Pacific. I think we raised over ten thousand dollars in 2019 just from staff for that.
And we’ve got the Phorest business running an environmental-friendly way. We put a lot of solar panels up on the HQ. Obviously, we weren’t in the HQ building for the last couple of years, but they’re still all there. So we’re carbon neutral at Phorest because like not only the electricity usage of our main offices is all provided by solar panels and things like that, but we work with this company that means that we have this forest in the centre of Ireland where we plant trees every year and those trees help reduce our carbon footprint as well.
And we’re a founding member of Irish Tech Goes Carbon Neutral, which is a bunch of tech companies in Ireland who do a lot of work around like planting trees and different things to help raise awareness for all that. So loads of things like that. Then yeah, I think we offset 615 tons of carbon in 2019 just from the trees we planted. You know what I mean? Which is pretty cool. And then the more trees we plant each year, as they grow bigger, they soak in more carbon and stuff like that. So as the years go by, it gets more and more effective.
Yeah, then we were kind of moving more towards a hybrid-remote working practice. Zoé, you used to work in the office in Dublin. You now live in Montreal. So you’re an example of that. We were kind of going that way anyway, as you know, but like that’s accelerated over the last few years. And so the office we have now can support a much bigger company because we’re not only working in there. So people are working from home, less driving around. That all helps as well reduce our impact on the environment.
So I think that’s… There’s more as well, but that’s just the stuff on the top of my head, but I’m hoping to do a lot more around it. I’m really into this, but my wife works in environmental justice as well. We’re big into it in my house, but it’s touching everyone now. And in Phorest, the more people who join the company on the hand, the ones joining now are more into it than say that guys had joined five years ago. So it’s just building the momentum around that.
More than just a technology company [38:03]
Zoé Bélisle-Springer: We say this all the time, but it’s true. Phorest is more than just a technology company. We’re proud to be a life force for our industry. Our system helps businesses manage, market, and grow, not just through innovation and technology but through mentoring, education, and unrivaled support.
Ronan Perceval: I’m really proud of the industry. I didn’t know much about this industry working in it, but I’m proud of all our clients. They’re a really resilient bunch. They do a lot to set up a business, employ people, train people, help their clients, give their clients feel special like we talked about back at the beginning. The way people go into a salon or spa looking forward to going in there it’s because the owner has built that up and the staff that works there make that true. So I’m really proud of them.
I’m just really proud that so many of them want to work with us, and I’m proud that we’re able to make a difference for them. I hope that the reason that so many of them are using us is that they get value from Phorest and that we help them grow their business, and we help them get their clients back in more often, which is really what it all started as.
We empower and inspire salon, spa, and clinic owners to grow fantastic businesses while attracting and delighting loyal clients and talented staff.
Final words and ways to support the podcast [39:21]
Born on the salon floor, bred to help you thrive. Thanks for listening to Phorest FM.
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