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If you’re looking for a salon that’s just like a picture on a chocolate box, then you don’t need to search any further than The Oast Hair & Beauty. 

The salon really does occupy a converted oast house on a quiet street on the edge of Maidstone, Kent’s county town. They don’t dry hops for beer there any more – but they do provide luxurious hair and beauty treatments for their many pampered clients.

The Oast may once have been surrounded by farms, orchards and hop gardens, but today it sits in the middle of new housing estates, with a giant Tesco just up the road. In fact, the salon’s location proved to be a major benefit during lockdown. “People from the estates were just out walking and, to their surprise, they found us on their doorstep”, says Wendy Davis, The Oast’s owner. “So when we re-opened, we suddenly gained lots of new clients. It seems very strange to say, but in the end lockdown really helped us.”

Like so many salons, lockdown was also the time when The Oast team decided to review their allergy screening policy. They chose to go with Colourstart. “The messages coming from the manufacturers, colour houses and insurers were so confusing. And blob testing every 6 months just wasn’t practical any longer. We realised we had to find a better way that would work both for us and our clients,” says stylist Ashley Miller, Oast’s manager. “We’d heard of Colourstart through several facebook groups. It looked worth exploring and so we decided to try it.”

At first, The Oast offered both Colourstart and the old AAT, and the take-up by clients was slow. “But then Colourstart’s Susan Ringsell came to talk us through the system”, says Ashley, “and once we’d all fully understood how to make it work for us, we decided to abandon the AAT and adopt Colourstart as our sole salon testing protocol.” They told all their clients by email and phone, and put all the Colourstart details on their website. The reaction was very positive: “We explained that we believed this was the right and safest way to go, and we’re very pleased to say that 99.9% of our clients have agreed with us. And the fact that there’s a charge for the patch test just wasn’t an issue,” says Wendy.

The Oast currently has 4 stylists and an apprentice, with 2 beauty therapists providing a wide range of eye, brow and body treatments. Both the hair and beauty teams use Colourstart – the beauty team adopting it for their brow and lash tinting services. So how do the teams go about explaining Colourstart to their clients? “We put together a little script that we could use when talking to clients,” recalls Ashley. “We describe the process, and explain that it’s more convenient for them. We help them set up their Passport if they want – the app is really useful for that. And they see that their Passport is just that – it gives them freedom to colour when they want and how they want. It puts them in control.”

The advantages are very clear from the salon’s perspective too: “Colourstart is integrated with SalonIQ, our software system. It saves us time spent chasing clients before their colour appointment. Also, we don’t have the stress of diagnosing whether a client has reacted to the blob test or not, and we know that Colourstart’s own insurance will cover us if anything were to go wrong”, says Wendy. “And, what’s really great, we can be as creative with our client’s colour as we like – we can suggest changes without having to retest every time. Which means we can deliver an even higher quality service.”

And a final message from Wendy for salons thinking about using Colourstart? “I’ve been in the business for over 30 years, and I’ve always been committed to doing the best for my clients. Colourstart means I can continue to keep that commitment. It’s professional, simple to use and cost-effective. What more could you possibly want?”