Anthony Llobet - Hairdresser, salon owner and media consultant
Most foreigners living in Barcelona will be familiar with the Anthony Llobet hair salons. The company's phrase 'Don't let your Spanish come between you and your hair' is a telling one about the experiences of many regarding getting their hair done here, and, since getting started two decades ago, Llobet now heads up a true Barcelona institution.
1. Where did the original idea come from? I was born and brought up in West London. My mother is English and my dad, Spanish. We used to come to Spain every summer and I used to hate going back to the UK. When I turned 20, I came to live in Spain with my whole family. I was already a hairdresser and got to work straight away.
Twenty years on, I now own four salons in Barcelona. I myself work more outside the salons now, working on TV shows, the fashion weeks of Madrid and New York, doing hair shows around Spain and Portugal and i write articles on hair for magazines like Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Woman. I am the Spanish ambassador for Tresemme which is owned by Unilever, this job keeps me very busy indeed. I work a lot with the press teaching them how to get the most from your hair. It's an amazing job and i get to work on the hair of celebrities and very interesting people. It's great fun!
I have always liked antiques. I have my salons set up in the style of barber shops from the Twenties and Thirties. I feel it gives a much more interesting feel to the salons. Other salons have caught on to this and i can see the retro touches happening more and more in salons.
2. How long did it take to get your business off the ground? Around two years—six days a week and 12 hours a day. And on my day off only thinking of the business!! This is the typical answer to any business, I guess!
3. What do you wish you’d known when you started? Never trust anybody!!!!!!
4. How easy was it get the financing for your business? I had money saved, so I just paid for the start-up with that. It was great to be able to do that without a loan and start with no debt.
5. Did you find the paperwork difficult? Not in the beginning. But now I have had to hire a bookkeeper, financial advisor, receptionist and a PA to keep on top of it all!
6. Did you get help from any particular official organisations or associations (e.g. Chambers of Commerce)? If so, please describe I went to Barcelona Activa but the help they offered didn't interest me in my field. There was no discounts or help basically for the small company.
7. What is your business experience / background / qualifications? Zero. I was expelled from school at 15 with no exams. I had basically played truant since I was 13 and worked at fun fairs and sold fruit and veg on the side of a motorway. I once went six months playing truant before any education officer came to my house and told my parents!
At 15, I got into Amway [direct selling company], which gave me the desire to earn good money and got me reading books about making goals and thinking positive. With Amway, I made no money though.
8. What are the positive aspects about having a business here? Not a lot really apart from you get to live in Barcelona!
9. And the negative aspects? It's not easy. There is so much against the small business and the costs are very high. There is no help, it seems, and the workers are so well protected that you can hardly take the risk of giving permanent contracts. Once you have a worker on permanent contract, if your business is not going too well and you need to let them go, it could cost you thousands. I recently had to let someone go just after just 16 months working for me. It cost me €5,000.
10. Are there any other useful contacts, tips or information you think would be useful to other foreign entrepreneurs in Barcelona? Please describe Now that I need to do a lot of presentations, I go to Toastmasters and have found it very helpful. They teach you how to public speak. I have always found that terrifying but only two weeks ago i did it in front of 300 people in Lisbon, so that was very useful.