11 February 2022
Meet the successful business owner, mum of four and disability advocate
Sarah McPhillips, a mother of four boys including her son Paddy who has autism, delicately balances her family responsibilities with a thriving hair salon in the outer suburbs of Canberra.
What makes Matriarch Hair Salon so unique is Sarah’s dedication to employing staff with disabilities including her son.
Paddy, now in his 20s, remains non-verbal but works in the salon, helping with towels.
When Survive & Thrive business guru and entrepreneur Mark Bouris sat down with Sarah, he quickly discovered that the greatest roadblock to her success was herself.
Q1. Take us back to the beginning. How long have you been in hairdressing and running a small business?
I've been hairdressing for almost 30 years. I love the industry and I'm very passionate about growing the industry too, I've always been really interested in nurturing young staff and apprentices.
I had a business partner for about 15 years, but I decided to buy her out about four years ago. I wanted to go in my own direction.
My son Paddy was about to graduate from school. He’s autistic and nonverbal and there was an opportunity to bring him in to work at the salon and do our towels.
There aren’t many job opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities, so I guess I just wanted to do things a little bit differently and, you know, fit where I was in life into my business as well.
Q2. When the pandemic hit early in 2020, how did you navigate the situation?
We went into what then turned out to be a voluntary shutdown. All up we were closed for about a month.
We decided to use the time to try and stay engaged with our customers. We just tried to reach out on social media and engage our clients by selling retail to them. Paddy went from providing a towel washing service to a product drop off service.
Q3. You got to sit down for a one-on-one mentoring session with Mark Bouris as part of the Survive & Thrive series – what did you want to ask?
I was so nervous. I was worried about what I wanted to really be my focus. What did I want to ask him? I've got so much going on at work and in my life, that he said, “you just need some bloody clarity”. He told me to sit back for a minute and find out what it is that I want to do and where I want to take my life and business. So, the confusion about not knowing what to talk to him about, well it kind of answered the whole point of everything! You can't pour from the empty cup. You can’t give your all if you're physically not OK.
Q4. What’s the best advice Mark gave you?
The best advice that he gave me and the one that I could totally just be at peace with is, you need to take some time away from everything and get some clarity as to where you want to go next. And if the busiest, most incredible entrepreneur and businessman in Australia tells me to pull back and just take a minute, it's almost like he was giving me permission to do that.
He talks about roadblocks and what's stopping you in your business. That was the big thing that was stopping me, I had no clarity.
Q5. What advice would you give to other people thinking about starting a small business?
It’s your name on the door. It's your name that's being represented. That that's a very big responsibility, but it’s also a very big opportunity too. Don’t have regrets and don’t leave any stone unturned.
Q6. How important is it to have small business insurance?
I think it's something that I wasn't really aware of before I went out on my own. It's absolutely vital. It is one of those non-negotiables that has to come first. And we all know that anything can happen in our world, floods, fires, lockdowns, pandemics, you name it. It’s all about being prepared.
Season 1 of Survive & Thrive is available now on Mark Bouris’ YouTube Channel. Episode 3 is live this Wednesday February 16 featuring his in-depth chat with Sarah from Matriarch Hair Studio.
From hairdressers to tradies to retailers, hospitality and more - make sure you’re covered with NRMA Small Business Insurance.