How Thornhill-based Fratellis became a local hub
12 years ago, brothers Marco and Danilo joined forces to open a hair salon in Thornhill, a neighbourhood in Toronto, Ontario. Named after the word for brothers in Italian, Fratellis has continued to grow and has become a community fixture. What helped them stand out was a commitment to doing their best, an ethos of hard work and entrepreneurship, and a belief in their business’ growth. We connected with Marco to learn about what makes their small business thrive and what lessons he’s learned along the way.
Rogers Business: Where did the idea for your small business begin?
Marco: I was already in the industry and my younger brother Danilo saw the lifestyle that I was living. At that point, I’d won a pretty prestigious award in the industry, and he saw that I was doing well. He decided to come work with me. But knowing we wanted to own a salon one day, I suggested we go our separate ways, get our own experience and clientele, and then in 5 years we could match up and start our own business. And that’s exactly what we did. We started in a 500 sq ft space and now we’ve got 2500 sq ft, 32 chairs, and 20 employees.
Rogers Business: Is there someone or something that inspired you to start this business?
Marco: I was 18 years old and I met a guy named Dewey Fanone, who was running Fanone International with his brother. I loved what he was doing with hair so I reached out and asked where I should study. And instead, he took me under his wing for 2 years. I trained every day from 8am-12am, and I was on the floor within 6 months. Then I won the North American Hairstyling Awards (NAHA) Student of The Year and that skyrocketed my career. Eventually, I had to decide between being well-known in the industry and well-known to the public. And that’s why I opened Fratelli’s and started serving my community.
Rogers Business: What made you choose your business location?
Marco: A lot of people start in Thornhill then move downtown, but I wanted to stay near the clientele I had and in my own community. We intentionally planned to grow in this one spot and never expand to franchised locations. We will grow out from this location, even if that means we have to take over the space next door. We want to be a landmark in Thornhill. It’s paid off because again this year we’ve been nominated for Salon of the Year in our community.
Rogers Business: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a small business owner?
Marco: I’ve learned not to fear. I face everything and rise. As a small business owner, you learn that there are situations that only certain people can handle. Sometimes it’s up to me and I’m the only person in the salon who can take something on. It might not be fun, but you need to tackle it and face it head on.
Rogers Business: Who or what was your biggest source of support when you started?
Marco: My ex-boss Dewey was a huge support. But then I also have a massive family and when I needed clients and to get the word out, they really supported me with that. And that expanded to my friends and their families, and the business just grew from there.
Rogers Business: What is your best-selling product or service?
Marco: My best product is me. It’s my hairdressers. When you run a small business, you’re your best product. It’s the customer experience the person feels when they walk into your salon. That’s why we go the extra mile and get personal with our customers. We want to be a place that people can feel happy, talk to us, and leave feeling like they got a nice break from their lives. That’s what keeps them coming back.
Rogers Business: What advice would you give to someone else looking to get started?
Marco: Never say no, especially in the beginning. You never say no to anyone. You keep saying yes, no matter what time of day it is, no matter what day it is, even if it’s your day off. There’s going to be a point where you’re in such high demand that you can dictate what hours and days you want to work. But until that, if you don’t want to do that kind of work, there’s no point of you coming in this industry. I tell my assistants: “The more you learn, the faster you get onto this floor.”
Rogers Business: What’s one thing everyone should know about your business?
Marco: It’s a guarantee of mine that you will get the best out of me and my team. We always try our best and that’s what we have to offer. You need to believe in yourself and believe in what you know how to do and don’t try to be anybody else.
Rogers Business: Where can people find your business online?
Facebook: Fratellis Salon