Paul Frasca and Evelina Soroko of Sustainable Salons

Paul Frasca of Sustainable Salons: People, Planet and Profit

In this episode, I chat with Paul Frasca – the cofounder and director of Sustainable Salons in Sydney, Australia.

Paul started his career in the hair salon business at the tender age of 11, and then began working full time as a hairdresser at age14.  This career took him around the world and into the most glamorous places as he did the hair of the rich and famous.

Yet, Paul didn’t find his true purpose until he met his partner, Ewelina. Together they are eliminating waste in the Australian hair salon industry while feeding thousands of people through their corporate donations.

I hope you enjoy this episode of Plastics Revolution with Paul Frasca of Sustainable Salons.

Companies, Organisations and Products Mentioned in this Podcast:

Sustainable Salons
OzHarvest and KiwiHarves


Hosted by Tammy Ven Dange
Produced by Jonny Puskas
Theme Music by Joseph McDade
All Rights Reserved 2019


Full Transcript

This transcript has been modified for clarity.


T: Tammy Ven Dange, Host
P: Paul Frasca, Co-founder and Director of Sustainable Salons


T:  Paul, welcome to the show.

P: Thank you for having me.

T: I’ve done a little research about your company. I actually first heard about it from a couple, their hairdressers here in Canberra, and they told me about the Sustainable Salons program in terms of what you’re trying to do for the environment and recycle a lot of the products. Do you want to go in and talk about how that program works?

P:  Yes. So, how does Sustainable Salons actually work? So, first of all to maybe explain Sustainable Salons, it’s a very unique type of recycling service. But I always like to remind people when not just about recycling. It really just makes up one third of the type of work that we do. We consider ourselves more of a social enterprise for purpose.

P: We’re an organisation that not only collects up to 95% of the salon’s waste material, we then redirect those materials into amazing programs that help benefit our local community – charitable and our community at large.

P: So how do we actually do all this? When a salon joins the Sustainable Salons program, they receive a very unique infrastructure, which can be up to eight different types of bins with inside their salon environment, which helps separate all materials such as the foil, the bottles, the magazines, even human hair. We also collect things like chemical waste and a whole range of odd items like ink cartridges and odd pieces just like that too.

Recycling bins
Sustainable Salons recycling bins

P: Our bin separation is the key to making sure that we can do some really cool projects with it. So, this is where I guess it gets really exciting with Sustainable Salons. When we collect these resources from the salon, and we direct them back to our depots. We can then basically sort out these materials a little bit more than what the salons have done in their bins.  We then, in some cases, sell off the material, such as the metals, like the aluminium foil or the coloured tubes or even the paper.

P: And then we donate 100% of those proceeds to OzHarvest and KiwiHarvest here in Australia, which are primarily designed organisations to help feed Australia and New Zealand’s most hungry. They don’t need anything more than cash. So, we just want to get them raw cash. And that’s a really proud program that we’ve put together. And today, we’ve now proudly fed over a 120,000 hungry Australians and New Zealanders through that program. So, what was once a material I’d been throwing away is now not only being recycled, but benefiting the community too.

The 3 Ps

P: How I like to explain sustainability is in three parts, and the 3Ps are people, planet, and profit. So clearly what I’ve just been talking to you about with the recycling is the planet part. That’s about making sure that we do our utmost best to take care of our planet. That’s recycling, upcycling, downcycling, trying to find as many alternatives to dealing with are materials to help save our planet.

The People

P: The other part to this equation is the people part. And that’s a really important part to our organisation is what are we are actually doing to help humanity. So, it’s not just on the environmental side. But this is now going down into really micro issues such as we help OzHarvest through providing them funds which are helping our country’s most vulnerable. P: We also very highly focussed on employing people with disability within our organisation. Now disability workers make up over 35% of our workforce. We’re also very conscious about employing people that are retired that need jobs. You know that that we actually are focussing on this within our business and making it core that we’re not just adding it on that. This is actually just a part of who we are. But that’s a big part of the people part.

Sustainable Salons team
Part of the Sustainable Salons team

The Profit

P: So, the last part is the profit. Now in sustainability it’s very important. If we’re going to take on a client and be part of them, we need to make sure that we’re building not only ourselves a strong, good business model that keeps us alive, that we don’t have to rely on government funding to run ourselves. But we also want to make sure that we’re making money, but also our customers our, too. So, we’re driving into our customers a huge amounts of savings within their businesses, which then they can really see in in a dollar figure at the end of the year.

P: But one of our proudest moments that’s coming through today is we’ve also now become one of the industry’s, if not the largest, directories of consumers. We have thousands of consumers that go through our directory looking for our salons to now get their hair done. So, when a salon signs up for our program, they can see tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars being added to their bottom line because they’re now part of Sustainable Salons and there’s a conscious consumer now looking for their services.

T: Are your customers, the salons, also saving money through the landfill cost that you’re diverting?

P: No, because we’re set up in a very different way. So we don’t compare ourselves to landfill or even recycling services. Our program is actually designed in a way with holistic approach of how the future of waste management could look. But we’ve incorporated your social benefit and your profitability, which you could say is your marketing. For a lot of salons, to get an extra two or three clients coming through your door every week, that can cost a lot of money.

T: OK. So, the benefit to the salon – not only are they doing some great things for the environment, but through your programs are getting referrals for future business.

P: Oh, yeah. Huge! So just like you’ve heard from salons in Canberra, they get very passionate about a program. They like telling all their clients about all the stories. And this replicates into lots of people talking about what we do. The first two years, of course, we didn’t get a lot of consumer reach. Today, we have a huge consumer reach.

P: Those consumers – they’re actually using our directory now to go and get their hair done in a sustainable salon, which is a huge advantage now for the businesses. Because in the 90s, it used to all be about brand, you know, certain brands that would take you to your salon. But today, it’s actually value and those values are now equal in dollars to businesses.

T:  I’m really curious – since any of the money that you are raising by selling off the recycled goods (like the aluminum foils) you’re donating that money to other organisations, how do you actually fund your business to be sustainable?

How to keep Sustainable Salons financially sustainable?

P:  Oh, simple. So basically, we’re like a membership service to the customer. So, when the client comes and joins our program, let’s say, for example, if someone gives up a call, they call us up and they want to join, the first step that happens is one of our managers will need to come out and say hi, introduce to you to who we are and the whole story. So, most people only know one part and not the whole story.

P: We like to really let them know all the aspects of what our program does. And then we actually have to do an assessment of actually how much material we’re actually going to be collecting from that salon. Every single business actually pays a different cost. And once we know what we’re going to be averaging out of their business each week – let’s say the material that’s going to come out – that then establishes what the cost is going to be then to their clients and to their business. So basically people pay for our service.

P: Just think of it like a standard bin. Then they’re paying for a service. And then on top of that, it’s what we’re doing with all the material which separates us from everybody else.

The Challenging Logistics

T:  Australia is relatively confined to the capital cities, but it’s still a big country. Logistically, how do you do that? How do you actually collect it – especially when you’re were start-up just trying to get going to cater to so many different salons across the country?

P:  Well, let me start maybe with my dad’s garage. How do you start something, right? You’ve got to get off the ground. Look, I’ve loved business from the age of 19. I’ve been very fascinated about how to build models and deliver business. But saying that, with a program like this, I’ll be honest – it was not easy. We wrote the Business Plan of Sustainable Salons 14 years ago. We only got the business in operation five years ago.

P:  And it took a lot of hard work to understanding logistically how we were going to do this. So today we’re really proud to own five depots around Australia and New Zealand. We’ve got our sixth depot on its way. We now have a fleet of vehicles in every state, and we have managers in every state. So we can sign up 80% of the population at the moment with inside the territories that we can reach.

P: So thank God Australia and New Zealand have pockets where everyone lives. I’m sure if everybody lived in Australia very spread out, this program would not work because logistically it is a nightmare trying to constantly move through traffic and try to get your vehicles back at a certain time each day.

So, yes, it’s not easy, but again, you start slow and you slowly grow.

P:   And if your product or service is in vogue, you could say, well, don’t you worry, because I’ll keep calling you wanting your business.  You need to manage now is just the logistics. And someone asked me the other day, what business are you actually in?

P: I said, “Well, I’m in the marketing and logistics business.”  I think that’s the toughest part of what we do.

T: I can only imagine the logistics side being probably far more complex now that we have social media and the ability to get the word out. You probably have salons from all parts of the country, big and small and even in very remote places that want to be involved in this program. So, well done. Being able to scale it the way you have would not be an easy task for anyone.

P:  No. I can assure you it isn’t.  I always say to people,

I’d try never to think of tomorrow. I focus on what’s happening today. And if you do that, every day is a new day, and you can get over huge problems if you just focus on the now. Don’t try to focus too far ahead because things can look scary.

But first… Refoil

T: It sounded to me in my research that you actually did start a company just before Sustainable Salons. Let me just make sure I got this right. Is the company Refoil? Is that the predecessor to Sustainable Salons?

P:  Yes. Let me explain Refoil. So, 14 years ago when we wrote the business plan for Sustainable Salons, we didn’t have the money to build the company. We were very poor. My partner and I, we had I think, $20,000 in our pockets. And we wondered, “Well, we don’t have a million dollars to Sustainable Salons off the ground. How can we focus on something a little bit smaller which is manageable?”

P: So we decided to start focussing on one of the biggest problems we could see in the waste area of hair salons, which was aluminium foil. And for all Americans listening, that’s (pronounced) aluminum.

P: Let me give you just first of all, the scale of the problem. We found that in the hairdressing industry in Australia, over one million kilos of foil, aluminium foil was going to landfill.

T: Wow.

P: And I don’t know about you. I was just thinking, isn’t aluminum infinitely recyclable and is an aluminium a commodity? And I just couldn’t believe that people were not focussing on this. So my partner and I said, “Well, we have to find a way to get this company moving. We can’t just pick up foil –  the petrol outweighs the cost of collection.”

P:  So we thought, “Why don’t we actually set ourselves on a path to making products because they all need to use foil. Let’s make the first ever foil made from recycled aluminium and present it to the industry, and we’ll start out baby steps that way.” So we launched Refoil about 10 years ago, and we got it off the ground and we started selling it into the salons.

P: It’s gone extremely well. We are now the number one selling foil within the industry. We have over 4500 clients to purchase that product. And we’ve educating them about not just about using foil, but using Refoil as the solution to aluminium. And that’s what we’re constantly teaching. Please use recycled aluminium and recycle it so we can never have to worry about buying raw aluminium ever again.

How to fund the Sustainable Salons dream?

T: What a great idea to take it from a front end rather than a backend when you couldn’t afford to do it any other way. That’s such a great idea. Now is Refoil what you used to help you fund sustainable solutions?

P: That’s exactly right. Yes. After five years of running Refoil as a company, we finally raised up enough money to start Sustainable Salons, which is our ultimate dream idea. Can I be honest, Sustainable Salons – when we wrote the business plan, we wrote it on a fantasy.  We said to each other, “What would we want to wake up to every day?”

P: It’s not that we wanted to own depots or make foil or anything like that. You know, who wants to make foil? I say to anybody who wants to own depots. These are highly strange things to do. It’s not a lifelong dream project for a lot of people to do. But solving the problem and building it in a way which actually makes you want to wake up every day.

And I tell you that’s all got to do is the people part of sustainability. That’s what truly matters, is helping the community and helping the most vulnerable and wanting to be part of society, I think it’s a very beautiful thing.

P:  The environmental part, I think is just a given. If we’re not taking care of our environment, we just have to have rocks in our heads. You know, it’s the stupidest thing. It should be put in legislation worldwide how to produce products and how we dispose of them. Otherwise, we’re just such a wasteful, community. And these are really key elements to building a product like this.

P: Sustainable Salons was built on a fantasy, not more than we were building a business plan. But when we built that, we did make sure that we plugged in the right financial cost to cover the costs, that it wouldn’t become a charity. I didn’t want to be something that we had to wake up every day and hope that our government would fund this program. And that was something that I just really wanted to see if I could overcome that. So, it’s been a great challenge with my partner and I , Ewelina, who really – she’s the operations behind all of this and making it all actually work every day. And yeah, we’re really proud today to be showing that it is working. We are growing and people are seeing that.

More about Paul Frasca’s early years

T: I find it amazing when I start to dig into your background a little bit, that you have such a strong business sense, and it might be your partner’s contribution to really think about it from a profit/loss perspective. But can we go back in time a little bit now and just talk about you? I heard from the various sources that I was reading that you actually started as a hairdresser at age 11. Is that true?

P: Yes. I was a very dyslexic kid in school. I couldn’t read or write very well. And my mother knew that I was going down a very troubling pathway and because let’s just say if you’re not good it school, you just want to rebel. And I remember at the age of 11, my mom was like, “You’re gonna go get a job” – to keep myself busy and keep me out of trouble, and she basically threw me into a hair salon. Every Thursday and Saturday, I was in there washing women’s’ hair, sweeping up the floor.

P: Then by the age of 14, I was politely asked to leave school by the principal.  And my mother said, “Well, you’re gonna get an apprenticeship.” And off I went to be a hairdresser at 14.

T: At 14?

P: I didn’t even get to finish year 10.

T: Oh, my goodness. And then what happened after that?

P: Well, then I really didn’t love hairdressing until this moment. I met an amazing boss who gave me my apprenticeship, and he really was one of the most amazing characters in my life. That shook me up a bit. He got me working hard. He saw that I was a hard worker. He knew I wasn’t very smart or intellectually smart, but he knew, I knew how to talk well. And he said to me, “Paul, hairdressing is 90% talking, 10% cutting.You’re going to be fine.”

P:  I was very happy because he taught me a classical style of hairdressing, a very old fashioned way of doing hair. I didn’t like it much, of course, when you were young kid learning this grandma type of hairdressing. But thank God he taught me that because it was those techniques which ended up taking me all around the world for the next ten years.

P: I lived in many places around the world, such a New York, Milan, London. And I also lived in the Netherlands for 8 years doing my work to one of our exclusive clientele that was basically a very rich old ladies, but they were very fascinating people. And it just opened my eyes to a whole new world.

T: And so you just travelled around the world as a personal hairdresser, basically?

P: Exactly. Yes. So many celebrities – American celebrities, lots of European celebrities would book you in and you would be their private hairdresser depending on what they were doing at the time. We had a lot of aristocrats. We even had we had some, and I can’t say names, or we even have people flying in from America with the Secret Service, because they were coming into The Hague, where they have a lot of a big court proceedings or war crimes that were happening at the time.

P: That was very fascinating because you were their hairdresser. There is only a very small group of hairdressers that do this type of hairdressing, and you get to be very well known, very quickly. People around the world need to get the hair done before events, and they give you a call and before you know it, you’re literally seeing these people more than what they probably see their own children.

P: It’s a very unique relationship you have with them. And to be honest, I loved it. I truly loved it so much. I just miss doing hair and meeting fantastic people. Honestly, I’m so grateful to have had hairdressing as my career.

Love moves Paul towards a greater purpose

T:  Such a glamorous background. I can’t imagine some of the stories you have. Certainly, whenever I have to switch hairdressers for any reason, it feels like I just broke up with someone. I imagine that you probably had some very strong relationships with some of those celebrities, but why would you want to leave that with such an incredibly interesting background and the ability to travel and meet such amazing people?  Why would you choose to leave that?

P: Because I met my amazing partner. Now, Ewelina, at the time she was studying fashion sustainability. And I still remember when we first met. I was so fascinated in the work she was doing. And to gave you a little insight to that, she was actually studying what happens with your cotton resources.

P: So you buy a T-shirt, you wear it. You think that you are the life of that product. What she showed me was that you make up a very small part of its life, the whole life of that product starts when the first drops of water are going on the cotton plants. The whole life of this product: from cotton growing to somebody sewing it together and you buying it and then you disposing of it, that you actually play a very small part in it’s life.

P: If we really have to look at things transparently and start to build the links, the supply chain, let’s say. We really need to rethink the whole processes of how things are made. Because when you find out that your T-shirt –  yes, you bought it for $10, but it had an 11 year old sewing it together and it had 14 year old girls maybe planting the seeds of what it’s like. You start to realize that so much child labour and not fair trade, all these things start kicking in. You’re like, “Guys, we’re actually all very evil.”

I think if people knew where their things come from, you would purchase that product very differently.

P: And I started to really care about that. And I said to my partner, “Could you maybe do what you’re doing for the fashion industry and start focussing on the hairdressing industry? Because I know a lot of people, and I think we could really get something off the ground.” So she really opened my eyes to thinking sustainably.

T: And then you came to Australia to do that?

P: Oh, well, I’m dating a Belgium. And the first thing she said to me was I’m more than happy to focus on the hairdressing industry, but when are we going to Australia?

T: OK. So, she really wanted to go to Australia.

P:  She suckered me into it because I was happily living in Europe. And she said, I just want to go over for a holiday and have a look. I think it lasted about two days when we landed in Australia. She said to me, “Promise me we’d never go back to Belgium?”

T:  Wow. OK.

P: I said, “Wow, you really like it here.” I think they love the sun and the ocean.

T: For sure. Certainly, I lived in Europe for two years, and I know that the weather is very different in most parts of there. So, yeah, interesting that she’s the one who brought you back to Australia.

P:  Definitely. I could have lived in Amsterdam forever. It was such a beautiful city.

From Waste to Glasses

T:  Well, you know, let’s talk about supply chains that you’ve brought it up. You’re talking about the fashion industry and on the on the making side. You’re now working mostly except for Refoil while working on the opposite side, which is the recovery and recycling side. I know that you’re doing some work with Plastic Forests because David Hodge has been a guest on here.

P: Oh, David – Legend.

T: Yeah. And I’ve also read some interesting things about you, and what you’re doing with Dresden glasses. Do you want to talk about some of those products that you’re seeing off the back end of the waste you’re collecting?

Dresden glasses made of  recycled Sustainable Salons shampoo bottles
Dresden glasses made of recycled Sustainable Salons shampoo bottles

P: Yes, sure. Well, first of all, with David.  David and I met very early on in our journey of Sustainable Salons, and David was a great mentor. He gave me great insight and helped us along and really understood some of our, you know, exactly what you told me before in the beginning. When you’re getting off the ground, it’s very hard because it’s so small. You don’t have big volume. Not many people want to work with you.

P: David was different. David’s like, “I understand where you’re at, and I will help you.” And he was a great help in the early stages about dealing with our plastic. Things have definitely grown a lot from there. And we’re still very close and working with David. So, I think it’s fantastic.

P: One of our very latest projects we’ve been working on is actually turning shampoo bottles into to glasses. Let me maybe start with why we’re doing this? It’s not because we wanted to make glasses. Evelina and I we’re really focussed on, “Can we actually (with the whole China problem with China no longer taking the world’s plastic) start doing this stuff locally?” I really wanted to put the challenge to us.

P: So we were walking down the street in Newtown in Sydney, a very cool street. And we saw this shop and they were doing glasses and they were promoting how they can use plastic resins to make their glasses. And I have just walked in there and said, “Hey guys, would you be interested in doing a project with us?” And the guys at the desk were like, “No.”

P: And I was like, “Okay, I’m obviously not talking to the right person.”  So, people like me that, you know, live on the telephone, I found a way to get through to the right person. And they were like, “Oh, my God, of course, we’d love to do this project with you guys.”

P: So very, very quickly, we were building a relationship to turn shampoo bottles into glasses. So, to cut a long story short, Sustainable Salons were then on a mission to collecting thousands of shampoo bottles, cleaning them, getting them ready for pelletising. We then sent them off to be pelletised. They then were broken down into pellets.

P: We then pushed them through the Dresden mould to make glasses and a bada bing, a bada boom. Here we go. We’ve now got these beautiful glasses that are super strong because shampoo plastic is very strong. The HDPE is a very strong plastic that we get. And it’s basically an amazing product.

P: We have 5000 pairs of glasses. They’ve been selling right across Australia and New Zealand and Canada for the last, I think, five weeks. And yes, it’s going really well. It’s just opening up the mind. And we love telling people the stories that this can actually all be done in Australia. We did the whole process within two states.

P:  Yeah, it’s incredible what we could do here in Australia if we actually utilise the resources we have both as raw materials and the manufacturing capability. So, it’s fantastic that you found a way to really close the loop on the products that you’re collecting and then turning it into a product that can be used by humans for a very long time.

P: And can I tell you, the business case behind this, which I think for business people listening, is, “Guys, when turning a waste, which is essentially free into a $100 pair of glasses, the mark-up is huge. Right? You have to see that there’s a resource out there which is technically for free, which comes with the most powerful marketing story you ever gonna get.

P: Because if you use raw materials, there’s no marketing story. If you go and source, good – let’s say you came in for plastic from Sustainable Salons and put it into your product. Well, you’ve now got this amazing story to tell your clients and that’s really what you’re selling out the story, not the glasses.

But isn’t the cost in the cleaning process for recycled materials?

T:  Well, Paul, I mean, you’ve also been able to sort out a way to properly clean these things. I mean, that’s where the cost is often added for recycled material. Right? How are you doing the cleaning – in-house?

P:  Yes. So we’re doing the washing in-house and especially on this project alone, because we needed a very specific HDPE to go into our bottles. So, we handpicked all the bottles out of the stream. Look, thank God, as an organisation like Sustainable Salons, we’ve already done a lot of the sorting processing in the salon before it comes to us.

P: So, like a traditional recycle would say put everything in your yellow bin and send it back to my warehouse, which is called a MRP that’s sort out the material. That’s a very expensive process. What we do is make the salon the MRP, and then when it comes back to us, it’s very organized and quite clean.

T: So, do they actually clean the bottles for you as well?

P:  Yes, we educate them. We tell them, “Guys, if you want to see this bottle definitely going through our stream. Well, these are your processes you have to follow.” So if you saw Sustainable Salons, inside one of the hair salons and talk to the salon, we’re not like a traditional recycler that just drops you off a bin and just comes to collect every two weeks. We’re part of your business.

P: We provide loads of education, videos, documentaries. We engage your staff. We have events. We put on loads of different things all through the year. And we really think of it more like Apple, where you’ve got these amazing brands that are keeping you inside the ecosystem. And it does keep you in there, we can do amazing things together because now I can educate you about why plastic is not getting recycled, why these problems are happening.

Sustainable Salons educational material
Sustainable Salons educational material

P: And when you educate someone, they really want to give it back to you in the right way. So they’re joining our program for a reason because they want these things to be recycled. It’s just that nobody else out there is educating them to this degree. They find that job too hard.  

T: And they’re willing to pay for that, and also the pickup, right?

P: Yes, of course.

T: I mean, it is hard to understand. Like you just said, the products are essentially free. But actually, there is a profit at the very beginning of it when you collect it because people are paying you to pick it up, which is so much different than the usual waste model.  

P: And that’s why I don’t even like being compared to the traditional waste model. I find it too linear. It doesn’t offer any true benefits to the business. There is zero real benefit. Like if I asked somebody, “What is a recycle bin doing for your business?” And they just shake their shoulders and say nothing.

P:  I said, “Does it bring you clients? – “No.” “Does it offer any benefits back to you?” – “No. It makes me feel better that I think I’m recycling because I don’t even know where it’s going and that it is. It’s just in there.”

P:  And I just think that’s so sad because a product like this that people are very passion about want more transparency. They want to be engaged more. They really want these products even to come back to them. They love it coming back to them, I should say. I think when a customer sees that glasses come back to them, they’re like, “Oh, my God, that was my shampoo bottle. And now it’s a pair of glasses I use for reading.”

Why not make a shampoo bottle out of a shampoo bottle?

T: Is there any chance that you’ll be able to make an actual shampoo bottle at some point with this material?

P: Oh, we’re already there. That’s easy. Super easy. Honestly, I said this on the day that that one’s too easy. The reason that we focus on other products is the margin is better. Because when I focus on a product like a shampoo bottle, it’s hard to get somebody to understand the true value of that recycled material. For a pair of glasses, it’s much easier. People are willing to spend for that story. But would you buy a shampoo bottle at twice the price just because it was a recycled bottle? Not really. It’s because that goes in your shower where the glasses go on your face.

T:  I think you’re right. The business case is so much more compelling to the end user when they know that the value is already embedded in the price, and you don’t have to pay extra for it. So that makes a lot of sense.

P: What I suggest with a lot of companies today not focussing on making shampoo bottles and start making more like a Keep Cup model for shampoo bottles. I think you’d be surprised how many people today would happily bring in their specific bottle to fill up for their shampoo.

T: Well, certainly companies that are doing that now.

P:  Yes. They’re slowly growing again. I think they’re going to take off.

T: Well, if Woollies (Woolworths) and Loop or TerraCycle get their program off the shelf, then, you know, their program is meant to do that specifically for the more popular brands that you might see in the grocery store.

P: Yeah, I’m a huge fan of Loop and TerraCycle.  I definitely think it’s the right path, and especially for now, understanding the packaging problem. So, good on them.

T: Hopefully that that comes out sooner rather later.

Has the 14 year old business plan for Sustainable Salons changed?

T: So, Paul I have a question for you that is specifically to the business plan – because you did write this business plan so many years ago, I think you said 14 years ago and obviously very few businesses start the way they were planning to start, and the business model you have in place now that is obviously working. Was that anything like the business plan that you actually first created?

P:  It’s changed a lot over the years. Just like any business, we have to change the environment of what’s happening. If we look back to when we first wrote the business plan, it was much more built on the fantasy of doing good, of course, which we’ve achieved. But when you have to actually look down to the financials about how much it costs to service a new area.

P: And I’ll give you an example. When you’re servicing a client in this type of business that 10 kilometres away, that okay. But when the client starts to get 300 kilometres away and you have to really understand petrol and pricing and traffic conditions and labour costs. Things change very fast. So we only take on new areas to our program with a lot of R&D (research and development) put into it. We won’t just go to that new area. We actually need a few salons to join up before we go. Does that make sense?

T:  Yes

P: So it does change on that level. So I always remind people don’t try to just grow too fast. The best advice I give to anybody is if you can’t make a program to work in your local area, don’t try to send it halfway around the world.

T: Yeah. Think local first.

P: It’s a big mistake because they get so many messages online about I love this. I want this,  and you just want to keep everybody happy. But the problem is, you’re going to drive your business into the ground because financially, could you actually afford to service those people?

T: Makes a lot of business sense and good advice for any entrepreneurs out there that are considering such models.

What are the future plans for Sustainable Salons?

T: You’re talking about some of your programs and what you have in place right now. Do you want to share any your future plans or some of the big goals that you might have in mind?

P: Yeah, sure. Look, some of our future plans is one of the biggest places we’re finding a lot of excitement today is understanding how we can do a circular economy with more and more of our materials. What other product lines? What other things that can we create to really get people excited about what we’re doing, and can we do this all in-house? And we’re trying to cut out as many factors as possible.

P: And the best example I give it that is like Elon Musk watching him build Tesla. And you look at Space X. He’s bringing it all in-house where he’s bringing raw material in one end and rockets out the other. Wouldn’t that be cool if Sustainable Salons in the future was bringing in raw materials on one end, and we’re pushing out glasses and shampoo bottles at the other. You know, that’s a dream of mine.

P: So working a lot more in understanding the processes and how we then can re-educate our clients to be part of that future. So that’s a big part. We want to focus on manufacturing.

P: And another part is also focussing on people that we can’t reach. There’s still lots of people in very remote areas which are in very complex rural areas. We’re trying to build business models to service them and get out to them because we still see a lot of growth in those areas. We just know the complexities we have to deal with. So, there’s two main areas we’re going to be focussing on in 2020.

T:  When you talk about the end to end product, or you bringing in the raw materials and then you have something coming out the other end –  all in house. You did mention shampoo bottles, and you just also talked about the difficulties of trying to do that at a reasonable margin – are you also looking at other consumer products like the sunglasses?

P:  Well, like I said, do they have to be one-use shampoo bottles, or could we be producing the future shampoo bottle – the bottle that never ends? Those will be much more the products we would focus on. So, let’s call it the future shampoo bottles.

P: Other things that we’d love to focus on is definitely consumables. We think that definitely sticks in people’s minds a lot like glasses and other items like that – even coffee cups and a whole range of things that you love to hold every day and have in your handbag. Because we know now you can definitely make very good strength, high strength, reusable coffee cups and bottles and many products, to be honest.

P: So, it’s gonna be an exciting time trying to solve those problems, and seeing what type of product? The tricky part here is you have to really understand the types of material you collect for the type of plastic, because then it’s not like every HDPE plastic can go off to make a pair of sunglasses. It has to be of a certain grade and strength. So, you really have to target the material. I want to get better at that.

T: It is interesting how many different combinations of plastic there are out there, and then once you add the additives on top of it, how can change the properties so quickly. And most consumers are not aware of how complex the chemistry behind the plastic product is.

P: Totally.

Advise for our listeners

T: Paul, do you have any requests or maybe specific advice you want to share with our listeners?

P:  Anyone out there that, let’s say we’re talking on the business side of life – you’re thinking, “You know what? I’m sick of doing my day to day grind and selling the same old usual, boring products that have no real compassion for our environment, our community.” Or even the profit, let’s say that you’re struggling to find a margin,

I would highly suggest relooking at what is it you want to wake up to tomorrow and really start to think about that. What matters to you?

P:  It doesn’t have to be everything that we’ve done or others have done. You really have to find out what matters to you. It might be your local gym, your local school. It might be anything to do with something that affected you in your life. And right now, we’re having big bushfires in Australia. So maybe you want to start solving more of the problems of our fire brigade having in Australia at the moment.

P: But basically start to focus on what is it that you want to wake up to?

What’s your purpose in life? And then build the business around that and basically focus on the 3Ps: people, planet and profit. Don’t just pick one. You must implement all three equally. And when you implement those into the business model, you’re gonna find it’s not going to be a conventional style business.

P: You’re actually going to now be a burger shop that actually gives back to the local community that is supporting local initiative and maybe employs people on a different scale. And that’s something that I think you’ve got to find a lot of purpose in life. And with purpose, you’re also going to have a great story to tell which will bring in the profit that you need to pay your mortgage and workers. So, if you can focus on those three P’s, I think you’re going to go really far.

P: Now, for those out there that have really focussed more on the environmental side, I highly suggest making sure that –  yes, I totally get the passion for the environment and that is number one in their minds. But you do need to understand sometimes that the consumer out there thinks a little bit different to you. You might have to jig your model just a little bit to not scare them off, to make them feel that they’re a part of what you’re doing.

P: And you’d be surprised. We have very liberal boss owners, like very business-minded people joining our program. And they say to me, “Paul, it’s not the green part I joined. It’s because you bring me new clients. So, I’m really happy I’m now a green salon.”  And you  know what, as long as you’re joining, that’s what matters.

T: Well, that’s fantastic advice to both business owners and for people that are really caring about the environment. So, thank you for sharing that.

How to reach Paul and Sustainable Salons?

T: How can our listeners reach you and Sustainable Salons or even Refoil if they’re interested in interacting with you in some way?

P: Yeah, look, the usual channels. We have our new website at and Refoil, which is You can go to any one of those sites to have a look at what we do on a day to day.

T:  And then you’re also on social media, too?

P: You name it. Who’s not on social media? We all are.  So, you know, Instagram, Facebook – just type in “Sustainable Salons,” and you’ll see it everywhere.

T: Great. I’ll make sure that we put the links to all those locations onto the show notes as well.

T:  Paul, thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s been fascinating just to hear what you did, starting at age 11 and going into a very glamorous hairdressing world with celebrities to meeting your partner and then finding purpose. And with that purpose, you’ve come up with a range of business solutions that are sustainable – not just from a profit perspective, but also in driving a very strong environmental mission for a certain industry that you knew a lot about.

T: And then at the same time, helping so many people through your donations to OzHarvest and the other group in New Zealand. So, thank you so much for the work that you and your team are doing. I can’t think of many people that you’re probably not touching in some way because of the various ways that your businesses are doing both outreach and dealing with this problem that we have, which is too much waste in the various industries. So, fantastic work. Thank you for all that.

P:  Thanks for having me on your show.  Really, really appreciate it.

Published by

Tammy Ven Dange

IT Consultant for the Not for Profit Sector | Host of "Executive with a Cause" Podcast

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