Douce is very much a family concern – each member of the Benton family is involved in different aspects of this lifestyle brand. Founded by Phil Benton in 2015, when they started out in a 1960 Airstreams, offering high quality hair salon treatments in an innovative environment.
We spoke to Trevor Benton, Phil’s uncle who looks after the business finances, for his award-winning nephew. “Phil’s vision for the business came out of his skill and ambition, as well as a desire to free up his weekends to play football at weekends,” explained Trevor.
Having trained with both Vidal Sassoon and Toni & Guy, plus a spell barbering in New York and other London salons, Phil took an innovative approach to the business, driving his bespoke, renovated Airstream around Cambridge to locations where people soon gathered. An approach from one of the largest UK property developers and investment companies, British Land, led the business to a new location at Paddington Station on a regular basis, which continued to attract crowds of customers.
The business grew, working at festivals, weddings and soon they purchased and renovated another Airstream to locate at Liverpool Street Station. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and for a time, business had to pause while the world came to terms with a new way of living.
Post COVID-19, an opportunity came to operate the salon out of a retail unit in a Cambridge University residential area. Too large for just a hairdressing salon, Phil struck on the idea to incorporate a café/bar in the space, all in keeping with the laid-back culture of the company.
“Bookings are really strong and now, Phil’s brother Nick manages the front of house Bar / Cafe operations, with Nick’s wife Lucy the salon manger,” Trevor commented. However, to set this all up we knew that we needed investment to help us fund it. It was then that they got in touch with Growth Works to see if they could apply for a grant to help with their plans. “We were successful in being awarded a Growth Works grant which helped to cover legal fees, project management, some design work and branded display materials. This was useful as it helped us to move forward with our ideas in a timely manner.”
Phil’s mum and dad, Keith and Cheryl have also played a major role, in everything Douce has done and achieved. Whilst stylist Ali, was a key team member over the last 5 years
They now have a new London location, not far from their previous spot, in the Amazon building where over 5,000 people work. “The site offers great potential in terms of footfall and the Airstream is back in use again – a key part of the company identity,” explained Trevor.
As the previous winner of the Best Boutique Salon in the UK plus Entrepreneur of the Year in the Creative Head awards, the Douce team are planning to enter more categories in these awards to recognise the progress they have achieved over the past few years.
“The Growth Works grant helped us to reach where we are today, and we are looking forward to some time to consolidate the business and grow the team. The awards will also help us to gain more recognition in a very competitive marketplace,” stated Trevor. “Both the family and team members, we are all very focused on the business.
Trevor explained that the new location was key to their continued success in addition to the innovative and appealing culture of a more flexible access to hair styling and treatments, all framed by the eye-catching setting of the shiny, silver Airstream. “The future looks really positive, and we have our fingers crossed for more recognition at the awards later this year.”