The story of Melbourne-based business owner, Martha Kourtidou, and her Hairdressing salon, Boda Hair Boutique, has made headlines following her recent gesture of solidarity towards her staff, left struggling in the midst of yet another lockdown.
Though heavily in debt herself, due to the repetitive closures across her five salons, the Greek Australian entrepreneur, feels that there is was one thing that is more important. The mental health and wellbeing of her staff.
“It is not just the businesses feeling it. It is really hard on the employees as well. It is very taxing on them and on their emotional wellbeing and that is what I am really worried about,” Ms Kourtidou told Neos Kosmos.
The last lockdown especially, was a very hard one for her staff, she said. It took the government over a month to pay the entitlements to some of the 55 employees that work across her salons, and she couldn’t look away.
“We got an overdraft on our business and spread $650 across all the employees so they can get by, an amount they can pay back whenever they can.”
More than financial support, Ms Kourtidou offers emotional support.
“We try to do as much as we can during the lockdown period. The managers of each salon connect with their staff. Some of them live close by, so they would go for walks together, and we also do company zoom trivia nights to have some fun together during lockdown,” Ms Kourtidou said.
She said that when the last lockdown was announced, she felt so upset for staff members that she bought all of them cocktails that got delivered to their houses.
A big trivia night was also organised on zoom to keep up morale.
“It was really fun, it was a really good night. It kind of cheered everyone up.”
It is clear that in every step of the way, the young entrepreneur has looked out for her employees and community whilst also trying to stay afloat.
Hairdresser with a mission
Seeing salons close across the world early last year, Ms Kourtidou was already starting to think of a plan, as she knew it was only a matter of time that her salon would need to deal with the pandemic.
“I knew we had to innovate, because if we didn’t, our team and community would feel that there is no purpose,” she said.
“We created a home colouring kit service.” Based on a photo of their clients, they would see what their hair needed, mix the colour and set up a virtual appointment with a hairdresser who would walk them through the process.
“And it worked. We got over 600 orders and it was amazing. We even got to service interstate. And that kept us going which was great. It was a very long lockdown, and women still want to look after themselves and look beautiful. It wasn’t really about the money. My mission was about giving everybody a purpose, joy, something to do.”
She admitted though, that it hasn’t been easy. “During a lockdown any revenue you were going to receive, you lose, but you still have to pay all your bills, rent, Super and all these other expenses that people don’t even realise.”
Her newest salons in Moonee Ponds and Bendigo have suffered as they haven’t been able to stand on their feet, since opening.
“If lockdowns are going be part of the government’s strategy, then we need to have some certainty around the support we will get, so we are not living in fear all the time.”
After a two- to- three-week lockdown, months may be needed to recover.
“Mentally and emotionally, people come back a little bit more broken after every lockdown,” she said.
But the young entrepreneur and mother of a toddler, tries to stay positive and cheerful for herself and the people that surround her.
“What gets me through COVID, is knowing that this is not going to be forever. Soon there will be sunshine, and we’ll be back on our feet. This is just part of life unfortunately, and we have to be strong and hope that the next couple of years we can get back to a pretty strong economy.”