With its RAF base and picturesque location on the Moray Firth, Lossiemouth has long been a place to visit for both plane and dolphin spotters. But now you’re as likely to spot a trendy cut and colour or fashionable up-do, thanks to the efforts of Karen Thomson and the team at KAM Hair and Body Spa.
Located almost 200 miles north of Scotland’s two major cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, and almost 600 miles north of London, KAM had everything against it when it comes to becoming a must-visit salon in Britain but that’s exactly what has happened. Although Lossiemouth has a population of just 6,000, KAM can count on a constant stream of designer hair tourists, travelling from miles around for the most stylish looks.Lossiemouth born and bred, Karen has built her business from scratch as a teenager and looking back now, it’s unbelievable how much she’s achieved.
“From starting the business when I was 17, I can’t believe how far KAM has come, 25 years on,” the British Hairdressing Awards finalist tells us as we reminisce on a quarter of a century success. “I would have never imagined we would become the leading hair and beauty destination in the North of Scotland and I am extremely grateful to have come this far and to have gained an enviable reputation.” How it began It’s a story of risk and reward, with a young woman passionate about the hair industry receiving the backing of her parents to make her dream a reality.
Karen explains: “From a young age I have always been interested in the hairdressing industry and have been obsessed with hair. At the age of 14 I started as a Saturday girl. It was hard work but I loved every minute of it and felt like I could wind perms in my sleep!
“I started the business at 17 and was lucky that my parents were able to lend me the money to get it started. This was a business agreement and was paid back in full ASAP. My main challenge was finding a team and gaining respect as I was so young. I started small and threw myself into lots of courses, I was never scared of hard work and loved to please people and have happy clients.”
Being in such a remote location can’t have been easy for Karen’s ambitions, but KAM’s development doesn’t seem to have been hindered too much by being in the far North East of Scotland and Karen is vocal in her love for her hometown.
She says: “Lossiemouth is a small, beautiful coastal town and although it’s not on a bustling high street, clients come from miles around to visit the salon. Lossiemouth has regular holiday clients too, which is lovely to see as guests can come to our salon, having a break from their usual salon, and it’s a pleasure to give them the chance to try something new. I’m from Lossiemouth, grew up here, went to school here, and the town has always had a close place in my heart. It’s a great community, we have fantastic clients who love trying something new, and it’s great to support the town.”
Creating an exceptional environment for clients to come in and feel pampered while receiving gorgeous, bespoke hair and top of the range beauty treatments has been key to KAM’s success over the past 25 years. The salon itself is has been lovingly designed to accommodate the full range of services they provide. Karen walks us through it.
“When you walk into the salon there is a large retail area and reception desk and the salon opens out behind, with exclusive styling stations, a colour mixing zone, and a quiet zone for shampooing and treatments. All the chairs recline with massage options. The salon is very deceiving from the outside; clients are always commenting on how big it actually is.
“A door in the salon leads up stairs to the KAM Beauty department. We have four treatment rooms, a separate room for spray tans and a nail desk situated in our reception area. Our clients are always amazed how tranquil, calm and quiet our beauty area is in contrast to the buzzing, busy hair salon – it’s like a separate world! “Our reception area is open plan with a light airy feel and a hint of our beautiful, coastal location. Our rooftop windows provide a view of the sky and the weather outside. Clients enjoy the social aspect of getting their nails done within the reception area as they can see what others are having done, get ideas and have the time to browse through our colour options.
“We make it our priority to see things as a client does, keeping the salon up to date and fresh, decorating regularly as needed. The same can be said as us as a team as we are constantly learning and evolving.”
Training and Education KAM is truly a team effort and keeping the rest of the team at the top of their game is as important to Karen as improving her own skills.
She tells us: “Being a part of the Matrix Education Team, I know that training is of paramount importance to the hairdressing industry, not just for those at the beginning of their career, but also for the more established individuals who want to stay at the very top of their game. Not only do our weekly in-house training sessions cover important issues such as customer service and health and safety, we also make sure we have a lot of fun with inspiration sessions where we explore new cutting, colouring and styling ideas. We go through magazines, talk about what films are coming up and predict what styles our clients will ask for. The whole team experiments on mannequins – they are encouraged to let their imagination run free and even when the hair doesn’t go quite according to plan, they will still learn something. I get great feedback from my team at each of these sessions and they are a brilliant way to keep the team motivated and inspired.”
As everyone in the industry knows, customer service is the lifeblood of any salon and the response KAM has received from its clientele has always been secondto-none, and that’s down to the effort that Karen and the team put in.
“Our professional hair stylists work hard to deliver fantastic results for our clients, taking into account the client’s personality, lifestyle, everyday maintenance, as well as their skin tone and face shape and our beauty therapists are trained to the highest standard and have a wealth of experience in a range of beauty treatments.
“We constantly re-evaluate ourselves and aim to keep improving, it’s hard work but the day we stop is the day standards will slip, it’s so important to strive to be the best you can be. Customer service is on the top of our list, treat clients how you would like to be treated yourself is our motto! Clients always comment that the salon is so friendly, how much everyone gets on, and that there is never an atmosphere and this is extremely important to us we are so big on customer service. We have clients that drive two hours to come to the salon, which is great as we know that they really value our services.”
25 years of quality
With such a catalogue of both individual and team honours collected over the past two decades, Karen admits it’s difficult to pick a favourite moment overall. Winning Trainee of the Year and Educator of the Year are both up there, as is being a finalist in the British Hairdressing Business Awards in two categories, but Karen says that her “biggest accomplishment is starting my business at 17-years old and growing it to the salon it is today, with an awesome team 25 years later. Having a happy team and seeing them do well is probably the most satisfying part of my career.”
We can’t wait to see what they do over the next 25 years, but we’re sure it will be special.