10 Aug 2022

Clonmel couple are taking South East hair industry by storm

London-born sisters and Tipperary man using experiences in Canada, Paris, Qatar and Dubai to shape South East hair and beauty businesses

A Clonmel couple are taking the South East hairdressing industry by storm.

Riona Linnane and Haydn Grace’s journey to setting up their own Clonmel businesses has captured hearts.

Riona’s hairdressing career was on the up in Clonmel when Hayden opted for a move to Vancouver, convinced that his Automotive Technology and Management degree from Cork Institute of Technology would make him a hot commodity on the Canadian jobs market.

The young couple set sail, dreaming of ‘making it’ abroad. “We hit up Vancouver, but I was naive to think that rocking up with a degree would land me a job. I thought I was the only man on the planet with a degree and that I would walk into a big career. I dragged Riona along with me and she wasn’t to keen at the start because her career was on the upper curve in Clonmel,” Haydn tells Waterford Live

“When we got there Riona got five job interviews and got all five jobs, while I was hopping from place to place with no experience or prospects. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be so I worked in every sort of place - from selling gym memberships to tyre shops - just to say I was working right from the start,” Haydn admits.

Haydn found himself at a career crossroads in Canada, while Riona continued to thrive in managerial roles in hair salons. In between jobs, he started trying out different barber shops across Vancouver and unintentionally found a silver lining. “I started going to a barber shop that had a vintage, unique design and I was thinking they must have spent a hundred grand doing up the shop because it was next level. I got a haircut in there and it cost about $50. The atmosphere and experience was unreal, but then I was shocked when the owner gave me the worst haircut I ever got. You would think when someone puts this much effort into their shop that it’s going to be the bomb but it wasn’t. And it was at that point that I thought it might be cool to become a barber, but I tried to put it to the back of my mind and went back to construction because it was paying the bills,” Haydn explains.

Riona had acquired the experience to open her own hairdressers and Haydn’s dream of becoming a barber never faded. “I started trying out different barber shops and was blown away by the lifestyle the barbers have. It’s clean work and they all seemed to be happy at work. It’s creative work and I class myself as a creative person. I told Riona of my plans to become a barber and she said ‘I’ll add it to the list of the other 400 jobs you’ve done’.

“I started to look into it in Canada but it was so expensive to even do a beginners course. Riona bought me a set of hair clippers for Christmas and I started trying it out on some of the boys and really loved it.

“We really enjoyed our time in Canada and it opened our eyes to the opportunities that we could bring back to Clonmel, so we decided to move back to Ireland and take the local hairdressing industry by storm. I done a night course in Cork and it took off from there,” Haydn smiles.

Riona opened RL Hair on Clonmel's O'Connell Street in April 2017, a luxurious salon that employs her experience working at fashion weeks in London and Paris. “I wanted to bring a central London-style hairdressers to O’Connell Street and people have been blown away by it. RL Hair caters for everyone, and I find that my older clients want to know what’s in fashion with the younger generation. My staff get a lot of in-house training, provide Prosecco on arrival and really make people feel good about themselves,” London-born Riona says.

Haydn then took the plunge and set-up The Yard Barbershop on Queen Street last October, an edgy barbers with a razor-sharp, modern twist. From its pool table to 100 year old chairs, The Yard Barbershop is certainly a cut above the rest. “There is no point in having the fancy shop but failing to deliver the final product. The Yard Barbershop delivers on both and it certainly has the wow factor. I really poured myself into the shop and people see that. When customers come in they might think it’s a young person's shop, but in this area there are a lot of retirees and they love coming here for a haircut. The older clientele in particular have really taken to the shop - they appreciate the fine touches and detail that’s gone into the design.

“The Yard Barbershop gets a lot of people in the door that might never have come in the door. For a new business it has grown so quickly and the majority of my customers wouldn't have known me before they came in. The industrial design has become popular across the country but not down here in Clonmel. The Yard Barbershop is bespoke and really stands out in a good way,” Haydn adds.

The feel-good, booming business vibes that are elating the young couple are bolstered by Bríena's Beauty, the brainchild business of Riona’s eldest sister. Former Miss Universe Tipperary Bríena is the driving force behind the popular beauty therapy boutique in Clonmel’s Marystone Mall, providing make-up, nails, teeth whitening, spray tanning and facial waxing services.

“Bríena and I have always been very entrepreneurial. We set up our own dance club when we were in Loreto Secondary School called R’n’B, where we trained with our classmates two nights a week and performed dance routines at local events.

“We also spent a lot of time in Qatar and Dubai due to our father’s work commitments, and we learnt about different cultures and mixed with all ethnic groups. All those experiences were stepping stones and have stood to us since we opened our own businesses,” Riona says.

Haydn Grace (The Yard Barbershop), Riona Linnane (RL Hair) and Bríena Linnane (Bríena's Beauty).

The three businesses have gelled to perfection, bringing career opportunities and exceptional services to the area. “At dinner time our kitchen table is like an AGM, bouncing ideas off each other. It’s great that there are three young, brave business owners in a town like Clonmel diving in the deep and making a go of it. We are trying to give back to the community with employment and apprenticeship opportunities.

“The three businesses really compliment each other - RL Hair and Bríena's Beauty get all the wives and girlfriends, and we get them to send their partners to The Yard Barbershop. It’s all about teamwork and we are so proud of how far we have come. We have brought something new to the area and the plan is to keep growing,” Riona adds.

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