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Meet 2018's Scottish Hairdresser of the Year: Karen Thomson

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Dec 132018
By Lisa Haynes
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Discover the secrets behind her salon success – and her insider tips on scooping awards

It’s one of the biggest nights in hairdressing and Karen Thomson came home with a prestigious award for the trophy cabinet: The British Hairdressing Awards’ Scottish Hairdresser of the Year for 2018. Cue the champagne. Owner of KAM Hair and Body Spa in Elgin (kamhairandbodyspa.co.uk) and Matrix & Biolage UKI Guest Artist, Karen has progressed from Matrix freelance educator to Artistic team member. 

“Winning this year has to be the best high ever! We’re based in such a small town with no passing trade but yet we can compete in awards alongside city centre salons and hold our head high, which makes me so proud of my team,” Karen says. 
Read on for her success story and what it takes to go big at the BHAs…

Q: Congratulation on your Scottish Hairdresser of the Year title. What does the award win mean for you?

Karen: Thank you, it was such an amazing night. I spent all day feeling nervous and when my category came up my tummy was turning over.  When Rylan said my name it was like time had stopped for a couple of seconds - it was just so amazing, I couldn’t believe it!

Q: How did you celebrate your win? 

K: I’d taken 16 of the team down to London and I’m so glad that I did now. We had champagne and partied the night away. The team were blown away with the awards and we’re all still buzzing about it.

Q: Tell us about your winning British Hairdressing Awards collection

K: I really went back to where I started for this collection. All I wanted was beautiful girls with beautiful hair, something that would fit well in KAM and all our clients would love too. My inspiration was beautiful silhouettes and strong shapes, but with softness. 

Q: How many times have you entered the BHAs before? And what advice do you have for future competitors?

K: I was very lucky the first time I entered to be a finalist for Scottish. I found out the day I had my first baby so couldn’t reshoot for my second entry and didn’t expect to win that year. I’ve entered four times since then with some great collections that have been published all over the world but I just couldn’t quite seem to get the formula right again. This year, I decided I’d give it another go but shoot with a focus of what I wanted for my salon and I still can’t believe that I won. So that’s my main advice: shoot what you want for yourself and then it’s a bonus if you enter and make it as a finalist.

Q: How did your career in hairdressing start?

K: I started at 14 as a Saturday girl and loved it so much. I then started training in a small salon at 15 and enjoyed every minute and I knew it was what I wanted to do. When my boss decided that she wanted to sell the business, she offered me the chance to take it over but I felt I was too young. I was, but, with a loan from my parents, we managed to purchase the salon together and there my salon story begun! I turned the salon around and trebled the turnover in the first year. 

Q: What have been the major highs of your hairdressing career so far? 

K: Finalising for Scottish in the BHAs 2010 and then winning this year has to be the best ever. 
 
Q: How did you first get involved with Matrix and progress from freelance educator to artistic team member?

K: In 2000, Matrix asked if I’d like to do some part-time education for them and I jumped at the chance. Even though I was nervous, it showed me a whole other side to hairdressing. My first training was the launch of Craft – I came home buzzing and knew I’d done the right thing. I won Educator of the Year in 2009 and later that year Matrix asked me to join the Artistic Team, which was such a huge honour. 

Q: What are your salon goals for the future?

K: With the new expansion of KAM we have lots of exciting ideas for the future. Another aim is to launch ‘KAMA’, an academy to share our skills with other hairdressers. I now have a team of over 20 who are all fantastic and I still love what I do so I’d like to pass this on to others. 

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring salon owners?

K: Never be scared to take a risk. As long as you’re willing to work hard and focus on what you want - and most of all believe - then the world’s your oyster. 

Q: What would you say to those who want to get more involved with industry awards?

K: Awards are hard work but worth every minute - you learn so much about your business when you enter them and they always make me think ‘how could I do it better?’. Clients say to me all the time ‘you’re always winning awards’. We’re not; we finalise for many and don’t always win but as far as they’re concerned we are winners, which is amazing. We love that we’re up there with everyone else and always striving to be better.

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