Conversation with Fiona Hunter – There’s Always More

I just love the choices we have here… we are close to airports, the coast, Brisbane… we’ve got the lighthouse, beaches, markets, great food…everything at our finger tips… – Fiona Hunter


A stylish woman + good listener + great cutter + a wicked sense of humour
= a girl’s  bestest hairdresser

Fi welcomes us into her Ewingsdale home with enthusiastic husky tones of ‘Hi…come in… wanna cuppa?’ Instantly we are taken out onto the verandah and settled into large comfy lounges to enjoy sweeping views of manicured lawns, melalucea trees and even their own private  billabong. The birds are singing, flowers are doing their pinkest best and everything seems to have this  relaxed vibe of… ‘whatever’! Ahhhhh…. Very Byron. Fi has successfully made the sea-change from Sydney to Byron in both lifestyle and business. Her hairdressing salon ‘There’s Always More’ has been established here for nearly 10 years. She gives us a few good pointers on how to kick start a small business in Byron…

Like many of us, you too, are a sea-changer to Byron Bay. What was it about this place that had you decide on here?
Dolphins… (laughs)…  when I sold my business in Sydney ten years ago, both Craig, my partner,  and I became unemployed because he had been working for me for 2 years. At the time I was treasurer of the Hair Society and since we put on shows every month, I got to know all my peers…  I’d known them for 15 years. Anyway, lots of them offered me a job in Sydney but it just didn’t feel right to work for someone else there. So one night, over a bottle of red, I said to Craig “We’re getting out of Sydney.” He said, “Are we?” I told him how I felt and that I wanted to be closer to my family. He asked where we were going and I said “north”… so at about two in the morning I’m on the Internet looking for places to rent in Byron Bay. This was ten years ago and the rents were affordable then…  especially compared to what we were paying in Sydney… like $500 was cheap rent. My dad was staying with us at the time, so I woke him up at 3am and said, “We’re moving.”  He said ‘That’s the best darn news I’ve heard all year…  now piss off and let me get back to sleep.”  So the next day we drove up here, looked at about five places and stayed overnight in Kennedys Lane. Then we headed straight back to Sydney, packed up, and two weeks later we were living here.

Fi's Ewingsdale home
Fi and Craig have settled into a beautiful property in Ewingsdale surrounded by melaluceas

Why were you selling your Sydney business?
I’d had enough. Fifteen years in Lane Cove… 17 staff… I had done everything I wanted to achieve there.  I was tired and not excited about going to work every day like I had been. That year the salon won the North Shore Small Business Award for the second time, so it was a good note to leave on.

Did you intend to start up your own business here?
No, I intended to work for someone else, but that only lasted six weeks before I realised how much I like to call the shots.

A few of Fi's favourite things
Fi’s treaures have an ancient earthy natural tone

How did you go about drumming up clients?
I joined the Byron Chamber of Commerce and started doing the Business Women’s luncheons, which I still do to this day… it’s very rare that I don’t pick up at least one client at those lunches. Initially, I spent a heap of money on advertising… that was really dumb. In hindsight, that money would have been much better spent having coffees or going shopping and taking the time to talk to people while handing out my business card… if I had spent my money in town as opposed to advertising, I would have recouped faster. People say to me all the time… if I hadn’t met you I wouldn’t have come to the salon. There is a place for advertising though… I just over spent, and far too quickly. Word of mouth really works.

Did that adjustment from busy city to small town freak you out?
My first week, I had one customer… it was demoralising. I felt like I was really watched for the first six months to see if I was going to be a stayer, and in those days there weren’t many hairdressers in town. I felt people were a bit afraid to change, just in case it didn’t work out… then it would be hard for them to go back to their old hairdresser. It was a bit of ‘small town mentality’ in those days. But I knew I would be able to build a business because I had done it before. It would just be a matter of time. I never had a fear of failure.

Fi and the surrounding garden
One of Fi’s fave spots at home is out on the verandah where she can relax in the surroundings

Well you’ve been in Byron Bay for ten years so you are certainly well established. What do you love about living here?
Well…everything… not much I don’t like. I just love the choices we have here… we are close to airports, the coast, Brisbane… we’ve got the lighthouse, beaches, markets, great food…everything at our finger tips… but I do agree with Stephanie Dale’s (post) comment about the ‘No’ attitude here. It feels like we are living in a ‘No, you can’t do that’ community sometimes. I felt she really nailed us on that one.

So what are the major challenges?
I don’t have any, anymore.

Anymore?
Well, it was overcoming my Sydney mentality in relation to business… accepting high rents as being normal.  I paid a fortune in my first five years… which was ridiculous for one hairdresser with an off street frontage. I kick myself now that I didn’t look at other rental options.

Why didn’t you move?
I loved the location (upstairs in Jonson Street)… but then the town started to change with increased traffic… trucks going past which created a lot of noise…  and black grime from the road meant I was always cleaning.
Now I say we are in the ‘nicer’ part of town (Cnr of Middleton and Byron Streets) surrounded by Targa, down to Anna Middleton, Zest, Succulent, the Byron Organic Kitchen, Heart and Halo… and  Espressohead has now moved just around the corner. This section of town now has quality shops with no franchises. It’s quiet, and has four hour parking… it’s great.

Many people in Byron have to diversify to make a living. Do you do anything else besides hairdressing?
I’m also a make-up artist and I do weddings. I’m really into ARBONNE skincare and cosmetics. I needed a new range recently and a friend of mine gave me her samples to try. I did a wedding with it and was so impressed I’ve become a consultant. I have been using it for three months and have my kit set up in the salon for people to try. Generally, I make enough to pay my bills… but I don’t want to work like I did in Sydney. I came here to be closer to my family in Brisbane. I had a very close relationship with my father, so coming here ten years ago gave me loads of quality time with him before he passed in 2007…  I wouldn’t have got that if I had stayed in Sydney. When we moved here he could come down in his camper van… we had great times together.

Arbonne skin care & cosmetics
Left: Fi has recently introduced Arbonne cosmetics & skin care into the salon
Right: ‘There’s Always More‘ offers a calm, cool place to relax in its neutral greys & olive

Is there any one person who has particularly inspired you?
My first inspiration was the person who trained me. I started with her when I was 13… working weekends and after school before starting my apprenticeship at 15.  She was from London and I was in a small country town… Rosebud on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. She was really a city girl… quite funky…  so every month we would go to the hair shows in Melbourne. We were the first to have Redken which was very high end and sooooo expensive. Because they were the first to explain the technology behind hair and hair products we could talk to clients in a way they had never heard before. They really were pioneers. It was considered prestigious then and I still use it in my salon today.

Did you always want to be a hairdresser?
Yeah, since I was about 4 or 5. Don’t know where it came from but when I was little I remember my grandpapa promising to buy me my first salon.

What’s the best hair product?
Nature’s Rescue by Redken… it’s sulphate and parabin free… in blue packaging … very Byron. They have a scrub, sort of like a facial scrub, which removes all the product build up and impurities from the hair. When you rinse, it feels like you’ve done a treatment… great for people who use a lot of products, straighten the hair, swim a lot etc. I’ve never seen a product like it. It’s awesome.

There's always more salon
Top: Maria D’Angelo holidaying in Byron from Melbourne gets some pampering with Fi
Bottom: Fi has been using Redken since it first arrived in the 1970s
There’s Always More’ salon is located towards the end of Byron Street

Is there a current look for this summer?
It’s hard with looks because it varies so much. There is a lot of 50’s influence like the waves on hair.  The 70’s centre part is big at the moment and the 90’s hard geometric structure look, the short impish look like the girl from Harry Potter…  and of course straight hair is still everywhere in the cities… we’ll never lose that.

What about in Byron… are the women fashionable here?
The women here are less into fashion and more about ease. We swim a lot so we don’t want a style that requires fussing. And as we get older we need to have a lift in our hair…it helps us look younger.

Who cuts your hair?
Helen (associate) or I do it myself.

Is it strange cutting another hairdresser’s hair?
No problem, but I hate other hairdressers cutting mine. I get so uptight my nickname is ‘over it’. It’s the same when I paint with friends… I’ll get bored really fast and either move onto another canvas or sit back and have a wine and watch the others.

Buddha & art
Fi loves colour in art… paintings by N. Washington (1989) & a ‘Very Byron’ Buddha by F. Hunter (now)

Where do you paint?
In my art room which you can’t have a look at!  Sometimes I paint three times a week…  sometimes not for two weeks. I started art classes with Siobhan Oliver which I really enjoyed, but found I couldn’t get inspired every Wednesday night at 7pm because maybe I was inspired at 8pm on Tuesday, or 10pm on Thursday. It’s a mood thing.

How did you and Craig come together?
We were match-made by my nail artist. She kept saying we should meet. So when I organised a party for a friend’s 30th she invited Craig without telling me.

What was your deal about not having children?
I’m pretty much an all or nothing person and at the age I would have had children, I chose career. I’m a bit old fashioned and realised if I had children I would have wanted to stay home and look after them. Also, I had young apprentices so I did the whole mothering thing at work. I was a psychiatrist, nurse, mother, you name it… which is why I got involved in the Byron Youth Services… I’ve always worked with youth and children’s charities. While I love kids I just didn’t want them myself. I love playing with them… they’re much more fun than adults. (presumably present company excepted!)


Fi and Craig in their Ewingsdale home

Top:  A splash of red brings life to the loungeroom
Bottom: Fi with partner Craig Ching, and in the kitchen with Prue making us cuppas

And what we say is…
Fi is a woman that knows what she wants… in a good way. From an early age she knew she wanted to be a hairdresser and has successfully expressed this in life. In a town where many people come to find themselves… and rightly so… it is refreshing to meet someone that knows herself in a very real and grounded way, and inspiring to see her confidence and strength is being used to help others through our Youth Services programs. She is a woman that naturally extends herself to helping others. Thanks Fi for being who you are.

THE BYRON QUESTIONS

What’s your fave café/restaurant?
Heart and Halo. They have the best food and everything is made with love. I also like Fishheads Restaurant on Main Beach… for the view.

What’s your fave shop?
Salvos… ‘Sally’s Boutique’ we like to call it. My friend Jenny recently bought three dresses from there for a wedding at the Savoy Hotel in New York. We were laughing when she was having her hair done because she was worried about what to say if people asked where she got her dress. So we nick-named it ‘Sally’s Boutique’ in Byron Bay.

What’s your favourite thing to do in Byron?
Come home, get off my feet, sit on the balcony and read a good book. I’m not going to say the lighthouse walk because it’s too damned hard…but it is one of the best things to do. I do it 5-6 times a week in the mornings – I’m a wine drinker in the afternoons!

What would we find you doing on a typical Saturday morning?
Going to the lighthouse and then working.

What local’s tip would you give a visitor to Byron?
I love walking the gardens of Crystal Castle. They’re so beautiful and tranquil.

Favourite blog?
Very Byron (laughs)…it is the first one I have ever gone into.

(Welcome to the world of blogging Fi.)

There’s Always More Hair Salon

Shop 5/14 Middleton Street, Byron Bay, NSW, 2481 Ph: (02) 6680 7922
www.theresalwaysmore.com.au  Email: fiona@theresalwaysmore.com.au
Google Maps  – (Cnr Middleton and Byron Sts, near Succulent Cafe and next door to Heart and Halo Cafe)

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6 thoughts on “Conversation with Fiona Hunter – There’s Always More

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