When it comes to all things hair, Auckland’s Dry & Tea comes quickly to mind, well-known for their catered hair styling menu and make-up services. Ahead of the trend, owner and Director, Amy Sznicer could see the success of a unique format combining a Blow Wave Bar and Tea House, a vision which has seen the business take out multiple awards for its modern beauty offering. Alongside Dry & Tea’s three Auckland salons, which includes Newmarket’s Kent Street location, Sznicer has expanded the concept to Australian shores to include a Melbourne salon and also presence in department store, MYER. Zara Overton caught up with girl boss, Sznicher, about business, hair, and the evolution of Dry & Tea…
N. How did you come to own Dry & Tea?
I moved to Auckland (from Melbourne) in 2013 for a retail role, and soon after was introduced to Dry & Tea by the original founders who I met just by chance! Intrigued by the sound of the concept, I visited the City Works Depot salon as a client for a Blow Wave. I was immediately taken by the environment and the unique offering – it was love at first sight! I remember sitting as a client thinking, “if this was my business I would add makeup, and nails, and events, and bridal …“ the idea’s just kept coming. Dry & Tea was still very much in it’s infancy (Newmarket had been open under a year, and City Works only a few months) but the potential was all there.
It was a completely unplanned thing, to move to Auckland as a retailer, and eventually move home to Melbourne to expand a business across the Tasman! Sometimes being in the right place at the right time takes you in a direction that you don’t expect. It will be 4 years in June since we took over the business and it has been quite a ride. We now have 6 salons across 2 countries and a brand we love and are very proud of.
N. How has your extensive background in retail (Amy has been the General Manager of Witchery, GAP and Glassons, amongst others over a 24 year period) helped grow Dry & Tea?
My retail background set me up with some key business skills that allowed the transition to be fairly smooth. I have had the privilege of working with some of the retail industry’s best CEO’s and they have taught me so much. The key for me is to always maintain a ‘trading mentality with 100% focus on the customer’ – every decision we make has the client in the forefront of our minds. I will say the move from fashion retail to hair & beauty certainly brought its challenges, and I initially underestimated how many differences there were between the two industries. Nearly 4 years on I am so proud of the progress we have made, I am still learning, it never stops.
N. What drove the decision to include makeup applications in Dry & Tea’s menu?
On my first visit to Dry & Tea (as a client) I remember immediately thinking about makeup, it was probably the most natural addition to our business and was immediately successful. I initially put a trial in place using freelance artists to test the demand and we were fully booked from day one. We now directly employ over 15 makeup artists and it’s a category that just keeps growing. In 2017 we introduced our ‘Signature Makeup Menu’ – our top 5 looks, it makes it so much easier for clients to simply choose their look and let us create it for them. We are very passionate about the makeup side of our business. It makes us a true one stop shop when it comes to event preparation.
N. Hair salons are well known as havens of ‘me time’. Can you tell us a bit more about the ‘tea’ component of Dry & Tea?
Tea is a very important part of our brand DNA. We believe whole heartedly in the ritual of tea, the beauty of a perfectly brewed tea, and the effect it has on your mood. Being a tea house is complimentary to what we always try to achieve – some time out, relaxation, beautiful aromas and a total focus on the client. We have just launched our new menu with a gorgeous brand of tea called Tea Garden Co, and have a new and improved menu of 16 teas to choose from on every visit. For those who still need a little ‘kick’ we have the fabulous Espresso Mar-tea-ni tea – it’s tea combined with coffee beans – and its delicious!
N. What is the most popular signature look?
From a Blow Wave perspective, our New York Femme blow wave is the classic, bouncy style with volume and subtle curl. We create it using all round brushes and pride ourselves in our blow waves lasting several days! There is no corner cutting at Dry & Tea when creating the perfect blow wave. When it comes to makeup, our ‘Shimmer’ signature look has been very popular. It has a hint of smokiness on the eyes using bronze tones and a beautiful shimmering skin finish.
N. Dry & Tea pioneered the concept of the Blow Wave bar in NZ, and this has now become part of many a modern salon’s service offering. Why do you think the concept is so popular with New Zealand women?
Blow Waves make women feel great, and having beautifully styled hair is one of life’s little treats. It’s amazing how having great hair can change your mood and lift self-confidence. We pride ourselves on specializing in ‘affordable luxury’, not many salons specialize in what we do, however there are lots who certainly acknowledge that express appointments have become a part of life for so many women. Having a blow wave allows a little ‘time out’ and relaxation and in under 60mins you feel transformed!
N. Dry & Tea’s interiors, designed by Cheshire Architects, are unique spaces that challenge the traditional idea of what a hair salon should be. How do they enhance your customer’s experiences with the brand?
We don’t consider ourselves a salon, as such. We pride ourselves on having a unique environment that is more ‘spa like’ than salon. We embrace beauty in the form of floral artwork, plant life and are a digital free environment. Each of our 6 salons, all have their own ‘piece of magic’ in the fitout, but there is no doubt it is Dry & Tea when you enter. Nat Cheshire is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant minds I have worked with, his vision in creating the first 3 salons paved the way for the next chapter of locations. He truly brought the vision to life.
N. With 3 Auckland salons under your belt, what inspired you to open a salon in Melbourne?
When we first took over the business, we always knew this was a concept that would work very well in Australia. Melbourne is where we are from, and once we knew the timing was right, and the business was ready, we were really excited to introduce Australia to Dry & Tea. The response was immediately positive and we now have 3 salons in Melbourne with more growth to come. We have a lot of Kiwi clients in Melbourne who love the fact we expanded across the Tasman. Some drive from the other side of Melbourne for all of their hair needs as it’s a brand they know and love. We were approached by MYER to open Express format salons in premium stores, they loved the Dry & Tea concept and we now have the first 2 locations open – it’s a great partnership and fantastic brand exposure for us. Having a partner such as MYER has created a great platform for us, and brings an ‘experience’ into MYER that has been very much welcomed by the MYER customers. After all, getting a blow wave is one thing customers cannot buy online!
N. You’ve got 5 minutes to get ready. What do you do to your own hair?
Running out of Dry Shampoo is like running out of water – it’s a must in the morning when time of the essence! The Redken Pillow Proof 2 day extender is the best. It brings your hair back to life in seconds… blast with the hairdryer and you are out the door.
N. What is your favourite hair product?
Our 2 key hair care brands are Kerastase and Pureology. My current favourite is the Pureology Clean Volume range – it’s light, no nasty chemicals and genuinely adds volume to super fine hair like mine!
N. How do juggle entrepreneurial working life with Mum life?
There are aspects of being a business owner that make the juggle of being a working mum easier, mainly the flexibility you have to truly manage your own agenda. However, there is no doubt it’s hard and I spend a lot of time feeling guilty. Running a business across multiple countries adds to the strain and I spend a lot of time in Auckland, away from my son. We don’t have parents close by to help, but do have a close group of wonderful friends and we all help each other out around the clock. My partner David has made my travel time fun for Hamish, he calls it ‘boy time’ when I am away… I still don’t quite know what happens during ‘boy time’ but I suspect it involves pizza and football. Hamish is only 6, but is well used to Mum working a lot, but I am confident he is very clear that he is my number one priority. Anyone who says it’s easy needs to give me their secret as I haven’t figured it out yet!
N. How would your best friend describe your personal style?
Coming from 24 years in fashion retail I think I still represent the main brands I have worked for and still love so much. Witchery for me is always my go-to and they are all about Simple Style. As I get older I think I am more in tune with what suits me and what I need to steer clear of! I love wearing dresses, so easy, feminine and allows light packing for carry-on luggage. I have always embraced accessories like earrings, scarves and wristwear – it makes jazzing up an outfit so easy.
N. Where are your favourite places to shop in Newmarket?
Newmarket is such a shopping haven, it’s my favourite shopping spot in Auckland. I love Storm, Moochi, and for a little indulgence or a beautiful gift I go straight to Aesop. The eateries tucked away in Newmarket provide a haven of options for a quick lunch on the go, or a night out with the girls.
N. Name 5 things that we would find in your handbag.
Numerous lipsticks, a lot of keys, a tangle teezer, mobile phone that never stops beeping… and usually a random small piece of lego that somehow made it into my bag courtesy of my 6 year old son.
N. Social media has placed an increased importance on appearance, with many women getting their hair and makeup done to attend weddings and events. How has this impacted your business?
The world of social media and influencers has certainly increased the exposure of what we do. Event preparation starts with hair and makeup and has become an enjoyable and exciting part of the process. Our business has seen consistent growth over the past 4 years as we have focused on this area more and more. We have a lot of fun getting women ready for special events, and it’s become something widely shared on social media. We embrace Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest as important channels for advertising and showcasing our work. Social Media makes up the vast majority of our marketing spend and it’s become very effective in gaining valuable brand exposure. We encourage our team to take photos of their work in the salon and are always proud to show it off, the world deserves to see their talent!
N. Can you tell us a bit about working with POP Nails and their latest move next door to your Newmarket salon?
Imogene and her team at POP Nails have become a great part of the Dry & Tea family over the past 2 years in our City Works salon. Having a nail bar onsite has been so popular and so convenient for clients. We have wanted to put a nail bar into Newmarket for some time, and it made perfect sense for Imogene to expand her business into another Dry & Tea location. It’s a great partnership and has added another reason for clients to visit us in Newmarket – now offering hair, makeup and nails all in the one spot. We can now offer incredible nail art and beautiful manicures in all 3 Auckland salons, along with pedicures in Newmarket and City Works also.
N. What are some of the top hair trends at the moment?
We are loving temporary pastel shades – our new Pastel Blow Wave service offers a fun, temporary colour change which have been so popular for events, festivals or just because! Braids are still extremely popular in all different forms for events – our team never cease to amaze me with their creativity in styling braids. From a colour perspective, think ‘contoured’ colour as a new way to wear Balayage – it’s more lived in, deeper at the root and easy to maintain. Hair down styling is soft and less structured and the lob remains a very popular length.
N. What’s next for Dry & Tea?
We are really excited about opening in Christchurch in the coming months, it’s amazing to see the city coming to life and the new developments are fabulous. We have some really great sites that are in the pipeline in Australia which will see us introduce a flagship site into a high profile new development so watch this space on that! Our core business in Auckland is still the heart and soul of Dry & Tea (and always will be), we are very proudly a NZ born business and will continue to stay at the forefront of trend and client experience in Auckland. Collaborations are really important to us and we are looking at different ways to work with key partners in New Zealand for 2018 – this allows us to do some really fun things and get out and about with pop up’s and events (e.g. our Diner en Blanc Auckland pamper bar in March ‘18). There is a lot happening so there is never a dull moment, our brand is still only young (Newmarket turned 5 in 2017) and we always need to remember to stay in our lane, and only pursue opportunities that compliment our offering and not confuse it.