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The business with a big heart that took people off long-term benefits

How Andrew Seery changed lives and hairstyles

The first cut

When Andrew Seery came out of foster care aged 14 he worked with his birth mum in a hairdressers’. Having a clear talent for the profession he was soon offered a job and progressed to become a partner in the salon. Aged 21 he met Geraldine, his wife-to-be, through work and was given the ultimatum by his then partner to choose between the two.

Andrew followed his heart, and he and Geraldine opened their first salon in Basingstoke in 1991. It was a rapid success, the only hold back was the skills shortage locally – particularly for good men’s hairdressers. Andrew soon found himself training staff and apprentices before and after hours alongside cutting his clients’ hair, and he soon had a team of 12 fully-trained clippers.

From hair to fraternity

In 2008 Andrew approached the local college to offer his teaching skills with a view to helping more people to join the profession, but he found the experience disillusioning; “There was a real ‘bums on seats’ approach to recruiting students and the college wasn’t really helping the people who didn’t offer it the income it sought. It seemed that mature students with kids, those on benefits, the homeless, people on probation, those with special educational needs and others who, like me, had come through the care system were actively avoided,” Andrew explains. 

So Andrew and Geraldine set up the Trilby A independent training academy to train people to cut hair and manage a hairdressing business. The academy offers accessible, affordable and flexible training to its students – some of whom don’t pay because of their personal circumstances. From day one the academy’s models were also people in need in the local community. 

Helping those in need to help themselves 

Word of his work soon spread and Trilby A partnered with the local Housing Association to secure lottery funding for courses specifically to help people get of long-term benefits.  Trilby A has also worked with the DWP on similar schemes. 

As more people qualified a third salon was opened where many of them secured work, while others secured jobs working for rival salons and even established their own businesses. 

In its 25 years Trilby A has helped hundreds of people to acquire practical skills with which they can start a career at a fraction of the cost of colleges.  

Andrew says, “we don’t just give people skills, we give them their confidence back, the opportunity to have a different life.”  

Has your small business got a big heart like Trilby A?  If so tell us your story by completing our short survey here and watch this space for details of the 2017 Small Business Big Heart Awards.


Jo Thornley

About the author

Jo joined Dynamis in 2005 to co-ordinate PR and communications and produce editorial across all business brands. She earned her spurs managing the communications strategy and now creates and develops partnerships between, and and likeminded companies.



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