Opening a salon is not for the faint of heart. What exactly does opening a salon during a global pandemic say about one’s heart? It says one thing: badass. Amanda Bagri never expected that when she signed the lease on her yet-to-be-built salon, the opening date would fall smack dab in the middle of the first COVID-19 wave in Canada. Then again, she also never expected to be a Hairstylist at all. And yet, to hear Amanda tell her story, she does so with complete calm, charm, and even a couple of chuckles at the stressful parts. But it’s all paid off! The Blanche Macdonald Pro Hair graduate is now at the helm of Mod on Main, one of Vancouver’s pinkest salons, dedicating her life to “great hair and authentic connections.”
When I was in high school, I knew I didn’t want to go to college or university. I loved the beauty and esthetics industry, so it was like, “Oh well then that’s what I’ll go to school for!”
When did you decide being a Hairstylist would be your career, and how did you land in the classrooms at Blanche Macdonald?
When I was in high school, I knew I didn’t want to go to college or university. I loved the beauty and esthetics industry, so it was like, “Oh well then that’s what I’ll go to school for!” In my mind, I saw it working out that I would do Esthetics first and then do Hair so I could have this well-rounded skill set, but I always intended to focus on Esthetics mainly. Both the Esthetics and the Hair programs were super professional and organized.
When I was applying for the program, there was a bit of a waitlist for the Esthetics program, but there was a Hair program starting a month after graduation, so I jumped in! I never expected to love it as much as I did or to be a Hairstylist as my career. I just kind of thought, “If it works, it works” because I thought I was still going to go back for Esthetics. But my teachers were great and I made so many friends fast—it was very cool! I never actually did go back for Esthetics in the end. I worked at a salon later, and the nail girls gave me a bit of a crash course in nails, and it is SO HARD! I’m very happy I stuck with Hair.
It's nice to be my own boss, handle my own schedule, and everything else about my day.
And now, after over a decade in the industry, you own your own salon Mod on Main! What made you take the leap to be a salon owner?
I was renting a chair when I was looking for a place to lease. I rented a chair from 2016 – 2020 on Cambie and Marine at a hair and nail salon. So I had all these different salon experiences, and then I simplified it down to just renting a chair, and I found I loved the simplicity. It was so nice to be my own boss, handle my own schedule, and everything else about my day. I knew that I’d probably own my own salon at some point, so I got a leasing agent and casually started looking. I wanted something that was mid-Vancouver—Cambie, Fraser, Main, something like that—but it had to have good parking because my clients come from all over the place.
I couldn’t find anything for so long, and if I did, someone would swoop in and take it before I’d even had a chance. I got pretty discouraged. I felt that perhaps it was a sign that the time wasn’t right, so I started renting a chair and focusing on my clients. Then one day in 2018, I was driving on Main and 20th, and there was a commercial lease sign for a building that was going to be built—and there were three units available! So I went in with my leasing agent, negotiated and signed the lease, and I started planning to open the salon in two years from then—early 2020.
Early 2020, so the beginning of COVID-19 in Canada. That must’ve been a wild time to start a business. Can you share that experience with us?
It was pretty stressful! March of 2020, I was getting close to getting possession of the unit, and I kept thinking, “Oh, the virus will blow over in a few months. It’ll be fine, it’ll be fine.” But of course, it didn’t, and I was really starting to stress like, what am I going to do? Around that same time, I had a girlfriend who was opening a spa on Kingsway, so I talked with her about it. Her attitude was basically like, “I’m going to continue on with my life as normal as I can within our reality,” and that inspired me to be like, “I’m doing this!” and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, and it probably won’t be the end of the world if it doesn’t. I just have to try. Thankfully, I had enough clients to survive, and they kept coming! So, I made it!
I’m doing this! If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, and it probably won’t be the end of the world if it doesn’t.
You’ve got some very dedicated clients! Can you share the inspiration and vision behind Mod on Main?
I had a team of designers who I hired right away who helped me create Mod on Main as it is now. For some reason, I had the colour pink in my head. I didn’t even know if it would look good, but I wanted it to be fun and girly, and pink just seemed to be the colour I had in mind. There’s a barbershop right by the salon as well, and I wanted to stand out from them and make sure there was no competition. My designers were so great. They came up with the slogan—Mod about you—and the logo, which has a very 60s feel to it so that I ended up with a salon that was girly and fun but not childish. From the name, the slogan, and the colour, it all just came together!
I’m not just their hairstylist, I’m part of their lives, and they’re part of mine.
What does a typical day look like for you as a stylist and salon owner?
I’m a lot busier now than when I was simply a stylist. Like, I run the salon! If there’s a problem that needs to be taken care of, I have to address it—even if I’m with a client. My clients are so great, and they understand that I’m doing so many other things to make sure that the salon is taken care of for the day while I’m doing their hair. My team is also so great at working well together. I’ve focused on finding team members who want to work together for the good of the salon and the clients. My rule is that everyone helps everyone. Staff is obviously a very important part of upholding that rule so when I’m looking for someone new, I always get in touch with Phil [Loiselle, Hair Program Director]. He’s how I found one of my stylists!
What is your favourite and least favourite part of your day?
My favourite is definitely my clients. I’m not just their hairstylist, I’m part of their lives, and they’re part of mine. I have clients that have supported me through my whole journey and sent their friends to me who have sent their friends to me…I have a salon because of them! I’ve been invited to my clients weddings, events, and one of them even helped me with my first property I bought! They are absolutely the best part of my day.
My least favourite thing is running behind. I think all of my clients can say that I’ve never been late for their appointments. If I’m even five minutes late, I’m beside myself! I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been late for a client. But there again, my team can now step in and get a client started if need be. We know that we’ll be the most successful if we help each other and we’re all good with that.