Words: Helen Brady
Rachael Kennedy is the owner of Grönn, one of the only eco hair salons in Greater Manchester. Grönn is self-described as:
‘North Manchester’s own cosy and luxurious community-minded Eco Salon with both hair and tea made with love.’
Rachael started her own micro business in 2011, working for herself but within other salons. She used this time to learn from others, understand what worked and what didn’t, what she would do differently, and how to avoid the mistakes others had made. Rachael shared what it is was that made her decide to finally take the plunge, “I’d been building up to getting my own salon for probably five or six years. Primarily the reason for opening the salon was needing to create some stability for my future. I turned 40 and decided it’s now or never! My parents lent me £3000 and that’s how Grönn was born.”
Rachael went on to explain why it was important to her to set up an eco, green business, “I’d say over the last 15 years, I’ve definitely become more environmentally conscious, becoming a consumer, making sure I knew were everything was coming from. I’ve always had a loathing of plastic bags, things like that. They’re just my real sort of staunch core values and I wanted to make sure my business mirrored those.”
She continued, “The mission and philosophy at Grönn is that we do fantastic hairdressing, but we don’t impact the planet while we’re doing it. I didn’t want it to be just scratching on the surface of being green so when you drill down further into the business commodities, you’ll also see our green credentials showing through. We’re with Ecotricity, which is the only wind powered, vegan society approved electricity and gas company. It was important for me, if I was going to do this and do it well, it really had to match my values and so I could hand on heart say I work with green integrity.”
With increasing national awareness and support for all things eco, a growing trend for going green, and consumers becoming ever more aware of what products they’re using and where they’re coming from, Rachael explains that there has never been a better time to run a green business.
“I think there’s been a massive shift in people finding eco conscious businesses, green products, natural products because I think we’re more aware now than ever about what we’re putting into our bodies, what we’re putting on our skin and how it’s effecting the environment. When I first opened Grönn, people used to ask ‘What’s an Eco Salon? I don’t understand’ but even in those five years it’s been a real upward curve in demand for eco conscious businesses and that just makes my heart swell. There’s a massive increase now in people wanting to do better and behave better.”
Grönn is situated in Bury, which may seem like an unusual first choice as home to a forward thinking eco business but Rachael explains why it was important for her to set up her business here, “Coming back to Bury was like coming home. I’m a Bury born northern lass from Lancashire and it just felt right. I did much of my hairdressing training and apprenticeship in Bury as well.”
After initially starting her micro-business in Chorlton, Rachael made the move back to Bury in 2016 to open her own premises, bringing with her a legion of eco-conscious, loyal clients. Nearby, Ramsbottom is quite an eco-conscious, forward thinking market town with a growing green community. Plentiful, a plastic free refill store, is based on Ramsbottom High Street.
The current world crisis put an abrupt halt to countless businesses and their 2020 plans, with many small business owners being the worst affected. Rachael shared how the initial shut down affected both her and her business,
“At first I felt a little lost and panicked. I started responding to the crisis in a similar way to other businesses around me but then I thought ‘Why am I doing that?’ The entire reason I set up Grönn is because I wanted to do things differently to other people. So, once I remembered that, and went back to doing things my way, I relaxed, and the business is still solid and still strong. I have a very, very loyal clientele. We’ve kept in touch via social media, sending out marketing to them, emailing, keeping in contact any way possible.”
Rachael went on to explain that after the initial shock of the situation, the unrequested break meant that she could take time to do some of the things building up on her salon to-do list. This includes a refresh for the building both indoors and out, so when the salon opens for business again, customers will have a refreshed surrounding. Rachael has even contracted a Vegan Builder to carry out the refit!
“We’ve been closed for 12 weeks. We actually closed before the officially guidelines because I felt increasingly uncomfortable that I may have been adding to the problems by remaining open. It’s been a tough three months for everybody but I’ve got new clients booking in everyday for when we do open with appointments.”
To Rachael, a sustainable business is also about how it operates, and she believes this approach has helped her bridge the COVID-19 crisis. She said,
“I always wanted to ensure that the business has been able to run independently so to me that meant never taking out bank loans or business credit cards. I wanted to be able to pay for everything and make it as sustainable as possible. In the past I have had a little bit of debt trouble so I wanted to make sure that whatever happened, and if for any reason on a rainy day, I could make sure that that business survived.”
Grönn is hoping to be back open for business on Saturday 4 July 2020.
Here are three more of Rachael’s top tips for shopping eco and supporting local in Greater Manchester:
Earth Friendly Rocker is run by Lauren, a loyal Grönn client. Earth Friendly Rocker is based in Affleck’s Palace in the Northern Quarter and opened in September 2019. Lauren believes rocking out should not cost the earth! (Quite literally!) and she plants a tree for every purchase you make from them.
Veauty – An online vegan and eco beauty store run by another Grönn client, Kate Coop. Kate is soon to be opening a bricks and mortar refillable shop in Darwen that will be plastic free and entirely vegan.
1 Tree Cards – Rachael stocks 1 Tree Cards at the salon. They are 100% recycled paper and printed using only vegan vegetable-based inks. Plus, they come with a flower seed token inside as well!