By Vasilis Vasilas
Quite often we admire award-winning businesses and their achievements; what we only witness is the impressive appearances of these successful businesses whether it their beautiful decor or warm social etiquette. As admirers, we truly need to go beyond these facades to realise the strong work ethic, meticulous attention to detail and great efforts to overcome any arising challenges that goes into any successful business.
Hairem Hairdressing’s owner and managing director, Vicky Zafiropoulos, recently won as the St George Local Business Awards the prestigious Business Person of the Year award, recognising her expertise and entrepreneurism. Added to an already- full cabinet of trophies- winning Local Business Awards for the business respective category and even the Business of the Year award- you cannot help but admire what Vicky and her staff have achieved thus far. Yet, it is important to put all their efforts and hard work into perspective to understand why they have deservedly gained such public acknowledgment and recognition.
Vicky was only seven years old when her parents, Zois and Eleni Deves, and sisters, Poppy and Dimitra, journeyed to Australia on the ‘Queen Frederika’ in 1965. Settling in Marrickville, they bought a corner shop on Renwick Street; while Zois worked in excavations, Eleni ran the corner shop. Vicky fondly remembers how Poppy, Dimitra and she would bake cakes during school holidays to sell with lunch orders, ‘We may have only been children and this may have been such a childhood experience but this probably influenced us into developing an entrepreneurial streak in us… all three of us run our own businesses today!’
But Vicky pays tribute to the best role models in her life- her parents, Zois and Eleni- when considering formative influences in her life, ‘Our parents took the risk of coming to Australia with three young children, they could not speak the language and had nothing, yet they worked very hard and sacrificed so much that they achieved so much… is there any greater inspiration in our lives than our parents?’
Although she worked as a secretary for a short time, Vicky married barber, Peter Zafiropoulos, and subsequently made a quick career move to become a hairdresser. In their first barber/hairdressing salon in Greenacre, the barber and hairdressing areas were separate; their next business there, Totally Styled, was an open plan to include both the barber and hairdressing areas.
After many years in Greenacre, Peter and Vicky then bought a business on Kogarah Bay; as the owner then wanted to develop the site, Vicky began looking for new premises and was very fortunate the find at the current place on Princess Highway, Carlton. Vicky has been running Hairem Hairdressing for over twenty two years there!
Having now won every award in the St George Local Awards, Vicky humbly explains that a successful business must go beyond its expectations and requirements to cater for their customers’ contentment and satisfaction, ‘There are hundreds and thousands of hairdressing salons in such a competitive industry; at Hairem Hairdressing, it is so important to treat our customers as an extended family.
‘There are great hair stylists all over Sydney but it is how we treat our customers that connects us with them, and they keep coming back. Customers do not only desire a great hairstyle; they wish to be treated well and feel special. There is a saying, “People do not care about what you know but they want to know how much you care.” So, we focus a lot on our customer service.’
Vicky also acknowledges the significant social role hairdressing salons, such as Hairem, play, ‘So many of customers feel very comfortable at our salon that they express their joys and sorrows, so we often laugh and cry together. So many times, they just want someone to talk to, someone not in their family… they just want to be heard.
‘We share our life stories whether they are joys and heartaches. No matter what we are experiencing, we are there to lift each other.’
What makes Hairem Hairdressing extra special is Vicky’s two daughters, Cassandra and Elena, have been part of the business for many years. As a proud mother, she says, ‘The love and care between our customers and ourselves is definitely mutual. We are truly a family business. My customers have witnessed my family grow too, with my marrying and having children.
‘I am very proud working alongside Cassandra and Elena; we work so well together. While I can teach them about various aspects of business, they bring fresh ideas to the business. The same way my parents instilled in my sisters and me strong values and beliefs, I suppose I wish to do the same with my children.’
Asked about the prospect of slowing down and Vicky quickly responds, ‘I love what I do. So, I enjoy coming into work every day and being with my customers. It is very special to have a great family and enjoy your work too.’