#GirlBoss - Denise Walsh & Sabrina Hill


Denise Walsh Rustiq

I’m really savvy at the business aspect and Sabrina is really into her colour techniques and her social media is phenomenal. We met through social media six years ago – I asked her for help with colour and she asked for help with the business and that’s how it started. Sabrina came to my team a couple of times a year to give training and I used to visit her salon to discuss P&Ls, budgets and help her get back on track. We decided to restructure our own businesses and came up with a sound education for our salons which we put into place about two years ago.

About a year ago, we began getting messages on social media and emails asking could we do training elsewhere, could they send their staff into our salon. We began doing live Q&As on social media and I was being asked to write up business plans.

Sabrina and I decided to put together a structured programme of educational courses for salons that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg – I worked with a mentor some years ago to write a business plan and the price is phenomenal. There are seven courses, six of which involve Sabrina and I going into the salon and teaching anything from the fundamentals to advanced cutting to upstyling.

One of the six courses is called Let’s Talk Business of Hair and it’s our most popular in- house course. The salon owner hires us to come in for the day and Sabrina works with the staff teaching a technique and I work with the salon owner. I request certain reports before I arrive: P&Ls, colour percentages, and we go through their roster: what stylists are on, are senior stylists doing everything themselves, what is their client retention, what is staff utilisation percentage. There can be tears and hand wringing – a lot goes on in that three hours. Then we rejoin Sabrina to do team exercises. We talk about stock and consultations and walk through the salon, starting at the front door, viewing it through the eyes of a client. It brings everyone together – staff, managers and juniors. I then make them up a plan for the next 12 to 18 months depending on the challenges that the salon faces.

We launched a couple of months ago and we are fully booked until November. We want to offer a really professional hair education programme that no-one else here or the UK is providing which is commercial looks, not competition looks with crazy vivid colours. We are producing stuff that salon owners and stylists can bring back into their salons easily and start producing straight away.

As salon owners, Sabrina and I have made massive mistakes in the past and we’ve learned through experience. I don’t want to see anyone go through what I went through, it was horrendous. I have taken running your own business with the Enterprise Board. I found an accountant who teaches me about my accounts. I may not have time to do it but I want to be able to read my own books. I do my own payroll so I am able to speak to students about stock percentages, wage percentages – the two most important factors when opening your own business.


When I took over my salon we were in the middle of a recession so I decided the only way forward was to pump money into education. I started retraining myself and part of that was going online. Instagram had just started and there were very few hairdressers on it and some of them are now close friends: Stevie English from Australia, Jenny Strebe, Confessions of a Hairdresser and Larissa Love. I began posting before and after shots and I think I was the first person in Ireland to do that and that’s when a lot of people asked me was I teaching any of this. There were no courses for senior stylists doing something commercial, creating celebrity looks or looks that are on social media that clients will take to salons and ask for. When we qualified, there weren’t any courses for us – they were geared towards junior training or the basic knowledge of colour.

Sabrina Hill Kopper Hair

When you go on a lot of branded courses, you are learning from technicians, whereas Denise and I are hairdressers and business owners. When I have taken courses, it’s very technical. When people come to our courses they get so much more on a personal level, especially when we talk about the struggles in our business. We still educate ourselves, we’re travelling to America this year to train. We are two separate businesses that have come together with very complementary skillsets and to do this programme right, we have to be one step ahead.