As every parent knows, a trip to get their child’s hair cut can be an exercise in frustration, starting – and ending – in tears and tantrums.

But Cheshire’s newest entrepreneur Michelle Gerrard has found instant business success - by launching a new hair salon exclusively for children that’s equipped with tablets, kids’ movies and enough toys to distract even the most uncooperative child.

Now the only children crying are those who don’t want to leave, says Michelle.

“I wanted to take out stress of getting kids hair cut,” said the inspirational single mum-of-three, who launched the aptly named Hairy Tales, in Winsford, Cheshire last month, with support from the Government’s New Enterprise Allowance scheme.

“If my customers don’t want to sit down, then I’m happy for them to crawl around the floor. There is nothing like this around here and even though we’ve only been open two weeks, we’ve been really busy and getting great reviews.”

Inspiration for the new business came after qualified hairdresser Michelle, 33, had a young client who was petrified of having her hair cut. “I got onto my knees on her level and realised how an adult salon environment could be scary for a child with the strange smells, noises and huge hood dryers everywhere,” she explained, “It needed to be child friendly.”

Despite being a single mum and juggling the responsibilities that come with caring for three children, now aged between six and 14, Michelle had been determined to return to work after her youngest started school. She enrolled at her local college to further the qualifications and training she’d had before becoming a mum, and was eager to start a new chapter.

Nothing seemed right until Michelle discovered the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) scheme, which offers support and guidance to budding entrepreneurs as they develop their business plan and through the first six months of trading. The scheme is available to claimants of Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (or their partners) and lone parents or sick on Income Support.

Recalling her first meeting with NEA advisor Beverley Leslie, at our PeoplePlus branch in Crewe, Michelle said:

I never thought I’d be able to launch my own business, but when I sat down with Bev all my ideas just came pouring out. The next thing I was writing down my plan on paper and, all of a sudden, it started to happen.

“Along the way, I’ve cried and I’ve agonized over it. Bev has had to cope with me ringing her at nine o’clock at night and explain all sorts of things I didn’t understand. But never once has she said ‘you can’t do that’. She has always been so encouraging.”

With a relatively small budget, Michelle had an unexpected bonus when she set about finding new premises for her business. There was enough space in the building in Delamere Street to open a separate gents’ barber and ladies salon as well. “That was the silver lining,” said Michelle, “I’ve got three salons in one, and I’ve been so busy that I’ve taken on another hairdresser to cope with demand.”

Even bigger plans are underway, with Hairy Tales also offering special pampering sessions for children.

Having my own business has made my life so much better, and it’s good for my children to see mum’s doing it by herself and setting good example,” she added.

“They’re all dead proud of me. Audrey, my youngest, thinks it’s amazing her mum’s got a salon and she wants all her friends to come here for a party. Even my son Euan has decided he wants to be a barber.”

The first reviews on Michelle’s Facebook page have provided further proof that she’s done the right thing, with one parent describing her as a ‘miracle worker’.

But Michelle’s best day so far was the second Monday after the launch. “It was when I went back to PeoplePlus and held up the keys to my new salon to Bev and showed her the pictures,” beamed Michelle, “It was nice to show her what our three months of work has led to.”

Beverley is also thrilled by Michelle’s success. She said:

Michelle is a lone parent and faced massive barriers to set up this business. She went through things that would have made lesser people give up. She found the premises, decorated them herself and basically moved mountains to get the business off the ground. I’m really proud of her and wish the business every success.”

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