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Meet International Hairdresser and Philanthropist David Charlton

by laurahusband / last updated June 11, 2019

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David Charlton is CEO of David’s Salons, which has 256 salons in the Philippines, and he gives 25 disadvantaged young people a career in hairdressing every year as part of the Schwarzkopf Professional Shaping Futures programme. HJ caught up with him to find out how he made it to where he is today.

What was your route into the hair industry?
My uncle was a hairdresser – he had his own salon in Sunderland. As a child I would take drinks out to the clients and sweep floors so it was a natural next step to become an apprentice when I was 16. I studied hairdressing in Durham and advanced hairdressing in South Shields. I taught hairdressing part-time after I’d qualified and at 22, I told my uncle I wanted to work in Hong Kong. I applied for a role I’d seen in HJ and spent a few months in Hong Kong before being invited to manage a salon in the Philippines.

How did you start your own salon chain in the Philippines?
I worked for a successful salon company in Hong Kong and he was expanding and growing his business. He took me on as a partner and eventually encouraged me to buy him out. The economy was growing in the Philippines and one of our clients asked me to open a salon in a new shopping mall. He provided the money and we became partners. After that, I was asked to open salons in the new hotels that were opening and that’s how it started.

What are the pros and cons of running a 250-salon chain?
Any business, if it’s your business, never stops. The pros are that we’re set up as a corporation so that means we have more freedom than if you’re just working in the salon. The cons are that you’re responsible for everything. It’s one thing being responsible for the salaries of half a dozen people but we’ve got nearly 3,000 employees to consider so it changes our mindset. I have to think about how everything we do will affect the majority of our staff.

Can you tell us about your charitable work in the Philippines?
We do a lot of our own outreach programmes. We work with undereducated young people, orphans and mothers with children who struggle to make ends meet. I heard that Schwarzkopf Professional’s Shaping Futures was going to Philippines to help disadvantaged young people to become hairdressers. I offered to give all 19 hairdressing students a job in David’s Salons and where possible, in the towns where they were originally from. The initiative is coming back to the Philippines again this year, so I’ll be helping them to give young people jobs in our salons once again.

Why is it so important to give back to the community?
My attitude has always been if you’re working with me and I’m successful then you should also be successful. I would feel very uncomfortable driving an expensive car if all of my staff were walking past me in slippers and a t-shirt. We pay good salaries and commission to keep good staff. We do a lot of outreach projects because we should help others. We always give back – if we see something wrong, we want to help fix it.

What advice would you give to someone who aspires to have a career like yours?
Hairdressing is a career that you’ve got to love. You’ve got to love working with people and looking after them. You’ve also got to love fashion, seeing new looks and recreating them. If you want to be a successful hairdresser you’ve got to live and breathe it and be working all of the time. 

What’s next for you in terms of your career and charity work?
I can’t imagine retiring because I love what I do. We’ll always support Shaping Futures and every two or three months we work on our own outreach programme where we go into orphanages, villages and schools. We’ve even gone to the president’s palace and cut the staff’s hair for them – we’ll always be doing something for charity. 

This interview originally appeared in the May issue of Hairdressers Journal. 

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