Phorest FM: Live From The Salon Owners Summit 2023 With Sophia Hilton

Sophia Hilton — the multi-award-winning, self-made entrepreneur behind the Not Another brand — joins podcast host Zoé Bélisle-Springer shortly after her main stage presentation to discuss self-responsibility in leadership and how toxic workplace behaviours can show up and be passed on.


Sophia Hilton

Sophia Hilton is a 34-year-old, self-made entrepreneur with four businesses spanning across services, products, business development, education, mentoring and social media.

Sophia launched the ‘Not Another’ brand in 2016, completely disrupting the beauty industry. It all started with Not Another Salon, now known worldwide for being the fastest-growing salon on Instagram in the UK. Their high shine, professional, vivid colours, and unique techniques went viral: press, influencers, and London’s trendsetters couldn’t get enough, eventually leading Sophia to create and launch Not Another Academy. The Academy has been fully booked and teaching worldwide since its launch.

She’s now launching a business course, a podcast, and business ventures aside, the “QUEEN OF COLOUR” is dedicated to growing her businesses while using her voice and platform for good. Sophia is a mother of one and, along with her husband, is actively educating other women and families that gender has nothing to do with career success, family dynamics, and the relationship between the two. In addition, she’s become known for challenging the status quo, addressing hard-hitting subjects around mental health, family dynamics, and internet trolling.


Sophia Hilton: I just ran up the back and was like, “Abigail, I can’t do this. They’re in an afternoon slump. I knew the 2:40 pm slot wasn’t good. I can see it!” And she said, “What do you want me to do?” And I went, “Get me some music.” So everybody, get your asses up right now. This is absolutely not planned, so there isn’t going to be a routine, but I am going to get your bodies moving. Is that okay? All right, give me the music! Alright, we’re going to march this out. March it out! Yeah, I feel like a bloody idiot, oh well…

What’s toxicity like in the workplace? I’m going to come down for the lighting, people. Somewhere between a scarcity mindset and poor mental health — this is kind of all mixed together — I think this is when we start suffering because we’re kind of panicking. And we might be making some poor decisions, which makes a low quality of our leadership. We’re choosing short-term money as opposed to the decisions that will ultimately keep the people the happiest.

Live From: The Salon Owners Summit 2023 [01:43]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Coming to you live from Dublin, Ireland, for the first time in three years and introducing a brand new concept on the show, I’m Zoé Bélisle-Springer, and I want to thank you for tuning in for this bonus “Live From…” episode brought to you by the PhorestFM podcast, powered by Phorest Salon Software.

On our “Live From” episodes, you can expect coverage from ​salon industry events we attend, where business owners like you can network with the best of the best and gain actionable insights. We’ll be sharing attendee vox pops & interviewing some of your favourite keynote speakers and industry professionals, getting to know them better and getting their takes on industry-related topics.

Subscribe to the PhorestFM newsletter to know where we’ll be next and when you can expect these bonus episodes. Go to and hit that subscribe button.

This month, we’re airing 5 PhorestFM “Live From…” bonus episodes with exclusive vox pops and interviews from The Salon Owners Summit: Ignite, 2023: The Global event for Growth Driven Salon Owners.

The Salon Owners Summit is Phorest’s very own two-day conference full of education, inspirational speakers, product updates and workshops. 

Born with the salon owner in mind, it’s been designed to give owners in attendance the tools to tackle the year ahead and offer plenty of networking opportunities.

Introducing Sophia Hilton [02:57]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: So I’m with Sophia Hilton here, a self-made entrepreneur, salon owner, and educator. You’re a creative; you’re now a podcaster, too! I hear the podcast is going really well, and you’re ranking high in the UK.

Sophia Hilton: Yeah, I’m ranking 3rd in Ireland and 6th in the UK in the first, like, two weeks.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Amazing, that’s really good!

Sophia Hilton: It’s pretty good, isn’t it?

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: How are you enjoying the experience? You were really excited when we recorded the last podcast on PhorestFM. You were recording the first few episodes, I think?

Sophia Hilton: I think I was really nervous about having to say something epic every 30 seconds. And usually, when you’re on social media, you can make that happen. You can manipulate that. So it looks like you always say something amazing when actually, as natural humans, we have filling conversations. But it’s been fine, actually. At the end of the day, you want to have an easy listening with nuggets, and that’s somewhere in the middle.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Yeah, finding the balance is an interesting kind of, like, fun thing to do with podcasting, I find.

Sophia Hilton: Yeah, well, you’re the expert on it. Your questions are insane.

Defining toxicity and how it shows up [04:00]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Ah, I’m glad you think so! I hope I live up to that. You said in your talk that toxicity isn’t binary. So what is your definition of toxicity?

Sophia Hilton: It’s a great question. See, I knew you would do a great question. First, I think it’s really important to say that there are no toxic people. There are toxic behaviours, and those behaviours are not binary. They are a wide, greyscale. You can be toxic at work but non-toxic at home, or you could be non-toxic at work and, as I said on stage, a complete […] at home. So it’s a behaviour. So what is toxicity? Toxicity, to me, is a behaviour that we display that causes harm to another person, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Now, you’re not going to find that on Google. That’s my definition in my probably 18 months of solid research on this topic.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: So when you say researching this topic, how did you go about that? I’m curious.

Sophia Hilton: So there are a lot of books on toxicity. At first, I was like, “I’m going to write a book on toxicity.” And I Googled it, and there are loads. Some are really helpful, and some are not. Like, some are literally just entire books of people bitching about their bosses with no guidance, no next step. So there’s some helpful stuff and some unhelpful stuff. So I’ve read three books in that and then generally, reading like blogs and people’s experiences. But I noticed it was just full of moaning and blame, and the self-responsibility was so minimal. So when I finished doing my research and reading, I was like, “Actually, my mission is clear.”

It’s to stop being… The whole thing I noticed online is that it’s all about how to cut out toxic people. That’s the key, right? That is the trend right now. And I want to flip that a little bit and be like, let’s take some self-responsibility, especially as a leader.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Well, I have to say, I was doing a vox pop earlier with someone who said her biggest takeaway was exactly that, to take self-responsibility. To bring that back into her salon. She took action and put a meeting with her team on the calendar already.

Sophia Hilton: So I’ve had about, I don’t know, maybe five people come up and cry to me already. Like, in actual tears?

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Yeah.

Sophia Hilton: Really…

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: How does that feel when that happens?

Sophia Hilton: I love it! That’s why I’m here because when someone cries, I notoriously — the joke is that I like making people cry. When someone’s crying, they’re having a breakthrough. They’re having a moment of change. They’re not just sitting there and writing some notes, and then they’re going to leave them in the bedside cabinet and never come back to them. When they’re crying, when they’re feeling that, even if it’s not physical tears, when they’re a little bit of a mess, that’s when the good stuff comes because that means they’ve got a realization. They’ve got to the bottom, and now they can start coming back up.

So that’s actually what I was hoping for.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Nice! I’m glad you got what you were looking for, then!

Sophia Hilton: This person was like, “Oh, my God, I’m so sorry I’m doing this!” I’m like, “No, you’re the reason I came!”

Are toxic behaviours contagious? [06:51]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Okay, so I have another question, and I need to introduce it with a bit of a context because I saw this TikTok video last week where someone was explaining how stress is contagious in the way that you kind of sweat it out and the hormones get put into droplets in the air, and then other people absorb that, and then it kind of hits your system, and you become stressed. So do you think toxic behaviours are contagious?

Sophia Hilton: Wow, I love this. Okay, we’re going to go for a definition before we get to that question. Stress is anxiety wrapped around in a little bit of power. So my dad used to say, “I’m so stressed at work at the moment.” What he meant was he’s anxious, he’s nervous. So I think that’s really good to define, first of all, that we love using the word stressed. But, yes, I do 100% believe that it’s passed on.

I used the analogy in the talk that we’re a pebble dropping in a pond, and when you walk into your business, you drop that pebble in, and it’s literally just walking through the door and how you smile, how you look at people. And there are moments you can’t even help it, where your shoulders are crunched down, and you’re frowning. Although I did recommend Botox, which is really good not to show that.

But yeah, your whole body is showing that. And you know, what happens is people don’t want to approach you. I even know when I have bad days like that, and then someone tells me something. I’m like, “Hey, why don’t you tell me that? Yeah, you looked a bit stressed this week.” And I’m like, “Holy shit. Did my aura, did what I was putting out make you feel that I’m more important than you?” Because that’s what it did. That my shit’s more important than your shit, and that is really important.

My favourite thing. My favourite thing. I can’t believe I’ve got to this finally. I have an amazing manager. He’s been with me for five years, and he said something to me just in the last maybe 18 months. He was like, “Listen, I know you’re the chilled one, and I’m the early panicker, but can you hear me out?” Right? This was amazing for me. I was like, “Whoa, when did I become the chilled one?”

I was so proud of myself because that’s not who I am. That’s not my being. I’m a 100-miles-an-hour person, and I’m stressed all the time. And I realized that I had got to a point where I was giving off to my team, “Nothing is a problem. Everything is solvable; we’ll work it out!” And I just shrug off. I’m like, “Oh!” Or something really bad comes in. Like, really bad. I’m like, “Oh, this is a good one!”

And we rub our hands a little bit. I’m like, “Ho ho. How are we going to do that?” And treating it like a little game. Let’s do this! We recently just had a staff member leave. This is not a good thing for us right now. We can’t really afford for someone to leave. We’re a very small team. Let it happen, okay, let’s do this. That person just told me today they’re coming back.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: No way!

Sophia Hilton: Yeah! And we handled it really positively. We let that person go with a big hug. You’re always welcome. We love you. And, yeah, the whole experience of them leaving, actually, internally was really tough because financially this is really tough, but because I just allowed that to be a positive experience, the person…. I got the message today, “Shall we have a chat?” And I hoped that was coming because I was so good on that exit.

Self-responsibility in leadership [10:10]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Yeah. In your talk, you spoke to symptoms and causes of toxicity or toxic behaviours. What are the core elements you are responsible for as a leader?

Sophia Hilton: That’s a really great question. Communication and organization are things we really need to think about because when there’s a lack of communication and organization, which I’m 100% at fault with myself — I’ve got ADHD, I’m a creative dyslexic — but you give a sense of fear to the people that are working. There is a sense of lack of safety. And when people don’t feel safe, they do all kinds of crazy. And I know that in the past, I have made my team feel unsafe, and that has brought out toxic behaviours in them.

And rather than being like, “Oh, that person is so toxic,” I have to work out…Well, that person hasn’t had a break for three weeks. That person is really tired. That person might not have the right tools. I might have made them sit next to someone that maybe is too loud, and they are a very sensory person that needs to calm part of a salon. Many, many things, all of which are my responsibility to bring the best out in that person.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Yeah, I love that. That’s a great answer. Thank you so much for being here this weekend! It’s been fantastic. I mean, I’ve heard so many, so many amazing comments from your presentation.

Sophia Hilton: I can highly recommend this event. This is by far probably one of the best events I’ve ever been to.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Wow.

Sophia Hilton: It’s high-end, isn’t it? The people that are here are at a higher level. They speak at a higher level. They have amazing businesses. This is definitely the cream of the crop of events. So well done to Phorest.
Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Thank you so much!

Vox pops from the Salon Owners Summit 2023 [11:54]

Tanya Murray: My name is Tanya Murray and I’m from Ultimate Hair & Beauty in Dublin. Today is super impressive and very well organized. I’m actually not a Phorest client, I was invited here today because I have been in talks with Phorest in the past.

Rowena Yaeger: Rowena Yaeger from Studio Wish Inc. in Twinsburg, Ohio. What brought me back this year and what will continue to bring me back is I love the amazing presenters and speakers. But more so, I love seeing the Phorest team, and I love hearing about all the new innovative ideas they’re coming up with to help better support my team, my salon, and my clients.

Final words and ways to support the podcast [12:30]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Thanks for listening to this bonus Live From…” episode brought to you by PhorestFM, powered by Phorest Salon Software. If you enjoyed it and you’d like to help support the podcast, please share it with others, post about it on social media, or leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. Together, We Grow.

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