Five minutes with... Stell Andrew and Andy Phouli, founders of Rush

How the childhood friends went from a single salon in Wimbledon to a chain of 91 outlets.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 02 Nov 2017

Why hair?

Andy Phouli: Hair is important. It enhances everything about your appearance. You might spend money on shoes or a dress, but if your hair ain’t right, you’re never going to feel great.

A haircut can change the way you feel completely. A dentist doesn’t make you feel like that, does he? When you’re a hairdresser, there’s a lot of power in your hands. 14,000 clients leave our salon every single week with that amazing ‘I just had my hair cut’ feeling.

What are your ambitions for the business?

Phouli: When we started in 1994, we wanted to hit 12 stores in five years. It took us a little longer than that but we got there. Now, we’re at 91 stores and we want to hit 150 stores in the next three years. We want to roll out nationally too. At the moment we’re mostly condensed in the south but go as far north as Manchester. When you’re an entrepreneur, you never stop wanting more. You never stop pushing. In 25 years, we’ll be a superbrand.

Have there been any surprises as you have expanded nationwide?

Stell Andrew: If I show you stats on our salons in Liverpool, you’ll see we do more blow dries there than in any other salon. It’s a younger crowd coming in, and they just want blow dries. From 3 o’clock, the salons are blocked out with blow dries, and we’re learning from that. There’s a different culture there and you can’t be arrogant. In this day and age, you have to be aware of cultural differences. 

What could hold you back?

Phouli: We know we have a great product. We’re know we’re good at opening salons down south. We’re also good at doing 12-15 stores a year. But ask me how to open abroad. I don’t know. Ask me how to open 50 stores a year. I don’t know.

Why did you do the £16m management buyout backed by private equity house LDC?

Phouli: We had a lot of family members involved in the business who wanted an opportunity to exit. And we needed the help to scale. That’s why we did a deal with LDC. We needed help building the infrastructure to grow.

Were you always entrepreneurial?

Andrew: My parents were in the restaurant business. I was brought up from a young age believing I would run my own business one day. I guess it started when I was a kid, hearing that being your own boss was the best way forward.

Why the name Rush?

Andrew: The word was bouncing around during the party scene in the nineties. Think 'Ministry of Sound', people having fun; it was wild in them days. It was party time. If you’d come to Rush in the early days, our salons used to look a bit like clubs. We were ‘street’, the team was cool, and music was loud. The brand has evolved so we’re a bit different now. But I remember when our stylists used to look like punk rockers with their hair all spiked up.

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