Brave, Strong, Beautiful isn’t your ordinary salon, and Founding Director Kerry Anderson isn’t your ordinary hairdresser. Having worked in the hair and beauty industry before taking a career break to work in social care, Kerry realised a gap in the market to combine her two passions. In 2019, she founded Brave, Strong, Beautiful, a Community Interest Company that supports young people struggling to transition into employment. Since then, the Edinburgh based social salon has opened a second premises and won a coveted Scottish Edge Award. Here, Kerry shares her story.

Qualifying as a hairdresser 25 years ago, Kerry Anderson started her career doing what hairdressers do – cutting and styling hair. But in 2006 Kerry found another calling. 

Stepping away from the hair and beauty industry, Kerry entered the world of social care, and for the next six years, worked in employability services in Scotland.  

Kerry excelled in her new vocation but was made redundant in 2012. Having enjoyed her hairdressing hiatus, the mum-of-three decided she was ready to return to the industry, and in 2013 she set up her own salon. 

Locating the business in Restalrigh, an area Kerry describes as being classed as one of the more deprived areas of Edinburgh, the salon owner began to notice an uncomfortable trend.  

She recalls: “I noticed a lot of young people struggling to find work in hair salons because they felt discriminated against because of their postcode or their background.  

“I felt they were being treated unfairly and it frustrated me. I knew these young people had as much to offer as anyone else, they just needed the opportunity”.  

Kerry realised that by combining her passions, she could help tackle the problem she was witnessing.  

“I started to think, ‘why can’t I pull all my hairdressing skills and my employability skills together and use my experience to help young people?’,” she explains.  

“That’s how I came up with the idea of establishing a social enterprise salon that could support and assist young people who were struggling to transition into employment.”  

The Social Salon

In the summer of 2019, Kerry founded Brave, Strong, Beautiful as a CIC (community interest company). 

The CIC salon supports young people from a variety of backgrounds and situations, providing them with on-site training, work experience, employability support and apprenticeships.  

As well as providing a route into the hair and beauty industry, Brave, Strong, Beautiful also connects trainees with a multitude of services to help them on a sore social care basis.  

Kerry explains: “We support people who are coming from challenging backgrounds, they might be coming through the homeless system or have a lot of issues going on at home.  

“Part of the support Brave, Strong, Beautiful offers is to help navigate the difficult situations our young people might be facing. We can connect them to appropriate counselling or if they need support getting accommodation or filling in document, we can help them. It’s not just about thriving in the salon; it’s about thriving in life as well.” 

Navigating the pandemic

Brave, Strong, Beautiful was growing steadily and supporting more and more young people from across Edinburgh, but in March 2020, when the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit, hair and beauty was one of the most heavily affected sectors.  

“It was tough,” the social entrepreneur admits. “When we were forced to close, I made sure I accessed all of the available funds and support. Doing so meant the young people working in the Brave, Strong, Beautiful salon were kept in employment and received financial backing throughout lockdown. 

“We also offered remote training via Zoom, to keep our young people engaged and keep channels of support open.” 

Kerry and the team’s hard work paid off and in October 2020, Brave, Strong, Beautiful won the coveted Scottish EDGE Award, which included a cash prize of £50,000.  

The cash injection was put towards the creation of Brave, Strong, Beautiful’s second solon, on Lothian Street in Edinburgh, which opened in May 2021.  

Growing the social enterprise is a key part of the Brave, Strong, Beautiful owners plan to continue to help as many people as possible with employability support and skills training.  

“Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen an influx of people needing support,” Kerry says. “At the moment, I have a list of more young people than we currently have the capacity to support, but there are plans in the pipeline that will enable us to support more people.”  

Looking Forward

The salon currently works with Wella to provide high quality on-site training with the goal being that once trainees are fully qualified, they are given the opportunity to work within the Brave, Strong, Beautiful salon, inspiring and supporting the next wave of trainees.  

But Kerry is aware that the more trainees she helps the less capacity she has to provide full-time positions within her two salons. While her long-term plans include opening a third site, Kerry is currently in talks with other larger salon groups, hoping to create additional routes of employment for more young people around Edinburgh.  

The salon owner is also looking at providing mental health first aid training, meaning Brave, Strong, Beautiful’s staff will be able to offer support to trainees and customers who might be struggling and seeking help.  

Sarah Graham and Chloe Bain are both currently training with Brave, Strong, Beautiful. 

Sarah reflects: “Since starting at Brave, Strong, Beautiful I have seen my confidence grow every day. Kerry has always been supportive. She listens to me and helps me see things more positively. If it hadn’t been for Kerry, I don’t think I would have got through my training, I owe her so much.” 

Chloe adds: “I am currently going through a difficult time personally, but Kerry understands what I’m going through and helps me figure things out. I feel like I can just be myself in the salon. I get one-to-one training with Kerry, and she takes her time to explain things to me, especially when I struggle to understand.”  

Like for social entrepreneurs, convincing people to consider purpose over profit can, at times, be a struggle for Kerry. But despite these challenges, she still finds immense satisfaction in seeing the way people’s lives are changed through their involvement with Brave, Strong, Beautiful.  

“Knowing the adversity some of our young people endure and seeing them come into work smiling and watching them flourish is so inspiring and rewarding,” Kerry explains. 

Brave, Strong, Beautiful CIC will continue supporting young people across Edinburgh. By giving disadvantaged and vulnerable young adults a chance at building a highly skilled career, Kerry hopes to transform the hair and beauty industry, with a greater focus on equality and purpose.  

Key Takeaways:  

  • Driven her desire to support young people struggling to find employment, social entrepreneur Kerry Anderson founded Brave, Strong, Beautiful, a community interest company that trains disadvantaged young people with the skills they need to work in the hair and beauty industry.  
  • As well as training young people with the practical skills they need, Brave, Strong, Beautiful also provides social support, as well as connecting them to appropriate counselling.  
  • Since opening its first salon in 2019, the company has won a Scottish Edge Award, receiving a £50k cash prize – the money was used to establish the second Brave, String, Beautiful salon on Lothian Street. 

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Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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