Blowing Your Top

In troubled economic times, will women spend their “me” money on a $30 blow-dry? Judy and Devon Brooks are staking the franchise on it.

Hair Cadets, Blo Bros and Pink Wig Girls: my conversation with Judy and Devon Brooks is awash with the playful marketing language that has come to define their fledgling venture. The mother-daughter founders of Blo Blow Dry Bar Inc. hair salons are confident that even women who surrender their full-service hair treatments during the economic downturn will fork over $30 for Blo’s style-only service.

Blo’s no-cut, no-colour business model was born out of Devon’s aspiration to work with her “serial entrepreneur” mother. Inspired by Vancouver’s glut of nail salons, she thought, Why not make hair styling just as easy, with no appointments and at an affordable price point? With the “bad hair day” a cultural meme, Blo’s $30 styling would seem more an essential service than an indulgence. But as budget consciousness prevails, can even that expense be justified?

The elder Brooks is optimistic. “We know that bad times are out there,” says Judy, “but there’s a lot of opportunity in times like these.” Her enthusiasm may be well-founded. Referred to by analysts as “the Lipstick Index,” cosmetics sales often rise during hard times as women put off large spending, opting instead for smaller luxuries. The Brooks duo is building brand loyalty by coining their own playful lexicon (“blocabulary”), developing a Blo product line, offering popular hair tutorials on YouTube and hosting Blo block parties. The Brookses are so confident in the value of the Blo experience that they’re planning to franchise throughout the Lower Mainland and across Canada. Says Devon: “From the onset, we thought about developing Blo with the potential of making it a global brand.” Adds Judy: “I have no doubt we’ll be able to thrive regardless of economic climate.”