There isn’t anything particularly surprising about a woman changing office location from city bank to home address because her job title changed from IT specialist to Mum.
So you won’t even bat an eyelid when I tell you Wendy Pau pressed the pause button at her job in information technology just before she had her first child and then whilst on maternity leave decided to dedicate all her time to motherhood and quit altogether.
Wendy enjoyed making her family the main priority but after a while she needed some alternative brain stimulation and what Wendy did next... is what’s entirely surprising.
In her own words...“This is completely out of my line of expertise really, I came upon this idea because I’ve got two young children aged 5 and 3.”
When her son had his first haircut, he screamed his head off in the salon, very distressing for all involved. On the second attempt and thereafter Wendy couldn’t bare to repeat the episode and resorted to hacking it in the bath herself but confesses it was still just awful. And then as if by magic, a discovery on a family trip to Hong Kong when her son was two and a half changed everything.
“I saw this hairdressers, it was a normal barbers with a car chair in it and that did the trick, he still cried but at least he got it cut. He wanted to be in the chair and so I thought wow I’ve cracked it. So I came back and started looking online for something similar. There are a couple out there but I wanted something local, I’m not gonna drive 45 mins just for a haircut, there was only one thing for it, I decided to open one myself.”
And so the business idea for a children’s salon was born. Wendy set about looking for the right premises on Essex Road, designing the logo, which came to her in a dream and importing car chairs from America.
Essex Road in particular because?
“It’s a much nicer road for the kids to be scooting along and for buggies and stuff, much more room.”
It took two years to find the right place but it was worth the wait because she found a space large enough to not only accommodate the car chairs but provide a private party space for unique events and hair workshops where girls can play dress up and indulge in sparkle and glitter with friends.
Without any hairdressing or salon owning experience finding the right staff for Mata Mata was crucial. Not just skilled hairdressers but ones who would provide excellent service and could make a child feel at ease and keep them occupied whilst cutting their hair.
As a mum herself, Wendy is tuned in to what makes little ones tick and can tell when they feel comfortable with someone which is why she thought herself quite lucky to find hairstylist and former Mata Mata general manager Sabina. She knew immediately they could work well together and soon after meeting they set about ordering everything for the shop together from stock to car chairs and hairdryers.
‘It’s not just about the cut it’s about making the child feel comfortable especially when you have difficult children. We also have autistic children coming in and they just need to be very welcome and mums need to feel relaxed.”
Sabina has since moved on to pastures new but not before helping Wendy find the perfect scissor hands with happy hearts to complete the team (Mirka Mertlikova, Emma Montanaro, Claire Hicks and Katie Merlino). “It was really important to me to get it right from the get go because from a technical point of view my skills stop at sweeping up and making tea.”
With the help of team Mata Mata, Wendy paid attention to every little detail, all appointments begin with 5-10 minutes chatting and playing time where children can get to know their stylist and get to choose their car chair and DVD.
Then if they are having their hair washed, there are fun stickers on the ceiling to look up at, this stops them fidgeting and constantly wanting to look down. There are a collection of books and toys depending on the age available to keep the little clients happy including strategically placed iPads in laps so they keep their heads down when cutting the back of the hair.... genius.
Wendy is a local N1mum and recommends a visit to Italian deli Saponara because they make the best cannolis and when the weather permits you can sit outside and drink your cappuccino whilst enjoying a clear view of the impressive St James church building across the street.
She is can often be seen wandering on Essex Road and recommends the area around Mata Mata especially if you are a working mum who hasn't got time to get anything done during the week. "They can get the haircut done, go to the fishmongers, Market Garden for vegetables across the road and then for a bite to eat at Food Lab."
That area also keeps kids entertained with giraffes and flamingos to gape at through the window of Get Stuffed and “other interesting things that you just don't see on Upper Street, like live lobster at Steve Hatt the fishmongers. It brings back the idea of what real food should look like and teaches them that food doesn’t originally come in a plastic packet, these are things that are very important for young children to know.”
More importantly Wendy wants mums to know that if they are worried about taking their child for a haircut, Mata Mata has the facilities and expertise to cope with the most difficult of children. Nobody minds if they scream, it happens and once they’ve been that first time they usually get over it and don’t scream again. Besides when all else fails there is always the good old balloon and lolly bribery and corruption as a last resort.