Getting a head start

Co-founders of Kcuts (from left) Samuel Pei, Bernard Ng and Brian Ng.
Co-founders of Kcuts (from left) Samuel Pei, Bernard Ng and Brian Ng.ST PHOTO: NIVASH JOYVIN

Singapore’s population growth and a price hike at existing express hair salons inspired the three founders of Kcuts to launch their own service in 2013.

Co-founder Bernard Ng, 35, says: “That year, the Government announced the White Paper. So we thought, what is a good business to start with more heads coming in? Hair.”

The White Paper projected that the population may hit 6.9 million by 2030. At the same time, express salon chain QB House increased the prices of hair cuts from $10 to $12.

Mr Ng and fellow founders Mr Samuel Pei, 35, and Mr Brian Ng, 37, were all former customers of the chain.

“When we saw the price increase, we thought, let’s give the express salons a run for their money,” says Mr Pei.

And indeed they have.

“In 31/2 years, we have 30 outlets. And we’ll open more soon,” says Mr Bernard Ng.

The three Singaporean friends, who met when they were studying accountancy at Nanyang Technological University, have been business partners for 14 years. They are directors of the KC Group, which includes other beauty businesses such as Apgujeong Hair Studio, a full-service Korean hair and make- up salon; and Yakson Singapore, which offers non-invasive Korean aesthetic therapy.

They also founded eatery Rong Hua Bak Kut Teh.

On the Korean theme for Kcuts, Mr Ng says: “QB House and EC House are Japanese, so we wanted to position ourselves differently. We also had Korean friends in the beauty business whom we could consult.”

Mr Pei says about half of Kcuts’ clientele are male PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians). Children and the elderly make up about 40 per cent of the customers.

The chain has seen more female clients in the last two years, with an increase to about 10 per cent, from 5 per cent.

Kcuts employs about 100 staff who are mostly in their 30s. Only experienced stylists are hired and their initial training takes two to seven days. Staff also attend quarterly training sessions.

Service standards are closely monitored through closed-circuit television cameras that are set up at each outlet and observed by a team at the headquarters.

Mr Pei says the chain’s family- friendly culture and attractive salaries appeal to stylists. Those at Kcuts can work flexible hours three or four days a week, an ideal arrangement for many working mothers.

Stylists can earn between $2,400 and more than $3,000 at Kcuts – a sum that Mr Pei reckons is higher than the pay at many full-service salons.

He says Singapore is a cosmopolitan city where people are looking to save time and money.

“If my three kids and I all get our hair cut at a full-service salon, that could take hours and would cost maybe $100. That’s just not affordable. So a $10 cut in 10 minutes is a great solution.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2016, with the headline 'Getting a head start'. Print Edition | Subscribe