‘Too often these days we mistake a hectic schedule for a full life, yet the time that truly belongs to us is the moment when we pause…’ Founder, Amanda Dicker
Our story is Amanda’s story, Amanda being our founder who established The Chapel in 2001.
It’s a story of rewriting rules, overcoming challenges, and, ultimately, a belief in encouraging us to pause, if only for the briefest moment.
Amanda approached school life differently. As a child with dyslexia, she boosted her confidence by taking extra care with her appearance. Even from this young age, she understood the philosophy of look-good-feel-good. It was no surprise then that she gravitated towards the beauty industry, not just because she wanted to help others look their best, but so she could also help bring out their inner confidence. By the time Amanda was 25 she headed a team of over 50 stylists across seven salons, as well as creating and running training schools.
In 1994 Amanda started thinking about her own company, one that would take a new approach and change the industry. She took a sabbatical year to travel the world, gather her thoughts and gain inspiration. During this time she experienced her ‘eureka moment’ that would later have a huge impact on her business - the key factor that made one hotel more memorable than another, wasn’t location, décor or any other special detail, it was the people and service. And so her vision for the salons are inspired by moments of great hospitality, remembered from hotels and restaurants on her trip.
On returning from her travels in 1996, Amanda took a job at a brasserie in Tunbridge Wells. One evening, while chatting with a customer about bad hair experiences, Amanda spontaneously invited the woman for a haircut upstairs. What followed changed the lives of both people. Over a glass of wine they discussed how she ‘wanted to feel’, and from this conversation, Amanda quickly created the perfect style while gaining important insights. An inviting ambience, coupled with a relaxed discussion, removed fear and replaced it with trust – leading to a fantastic result. This fortuitous wine-bar was also the place where she would later meet Toby, her husband and business partner.
A year later Amanda opened her first salon, Number 9 colour & style, taking its name from the location street number. Everyone thought she was mad to change the tried-and-tested formula of the typical hair salon. Regardless, it was here that she first created the feel of a boutique hotel and introduced a first-class service. She trained her stylists to conduct friendly ‘conversations not consultations’, working hand-in-hand with guests in an inclusive decision-making process. She educated guests about their hair in an everyday language. From the moment they stepped into Number 9 they sensed something was different. It was instantly welcoming. Every detail was about building a bridge between how they spoke about their hair and the language of salons and about signalling that this was going to be a different experience.
And so the seeds of many new ideas were sewn at Number 9. Four years later it was time for a new, larger space.
In 2001, on walking into the beautiful, old Baptist chapel that was to become The Chapel Tunbridge Wells, Amanda was immediately struck by the architecture of the building and the wonderful ambience. It was unique and exactly what she was looking for to bring her vision to life on a large scale. So like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, Number 9 transformed into The Chapel. Further one-of-a-kind locations followed. In 2007 a Victorian pub was converted into the Islington salon in London, and then in 2011, it was the turn of an old school house in Sevenoaks. None of the salons look the same, but all are influenced by the original concept and raison d’etre.
As is often the case building a business and pursuing passions, it wasn’t all plain sailing. Far from it.
After years striving to create the very best experience and give her very best to everyone, Amanda had an epiphany. Juggling so many balls had left no time for herself and, realising she was feeling less of a human being (and became more of a 'human-doing'), she downed tools one day and took time out to re-evaluate her life.
With a clearer head to think more about ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’, she realised how living in the moment was making her so much happier than reflecting on the past and chasing the future, things that have been key to getting her life back into balance.
Amanda discovered that to give our best on behalf of others it’s vital we take time for ourselves. ‘In an evermore demanding and distracting world, it’s essential that we make the most of our often all too brief opportunities to rest and revitalise so that we can maintain our well-being.’ And it’s this philosophy that lies at the heart of The Chapel experience.
Although the seeds of The Chapel experience were well and truly sown in the early days, it was Amanda’s epiphany that spurred her on to ensure her philosophy is lived and breathed every day.
This is captured in The Chapel brand values of Relaxation, Education, Service and Tailoring, or REST.
Each salon has four areas for each stage of the visit and is designed to encourage a moment to pause and reflect.
The ‘conversations, not consultations’ still lie at the heart of the initial welcome. Guests are welcomed by their stylist, who works with them on a 1-2-1 basis and looks after them throughout their salon visit, giving them their undivided attention.
“My aim is to let every guest have a moment to pause and put themselves first so that ultimately they can feel at their very best. At the end of the day, delivering an outstanding experience to our guests is my team’s top priority. A great haircut, well that’s just a bonus.”
News of The Chapel and its different approach is travelling fast, with happy clients spreading the word, some from as far away as Australia. Despite this, Amanda and Toby never stand still, they are constantly looking to create new experiences to inspire and delight.
On such experience is the recently introduced lifestyle range.
Amanda recalled how a familiar yet half-forgotten scent has the power to bring us to a standstill, pulling us from the here and now into the landscape of memory. And in that instant, she understood the potential of creating exquisite, evocative fragrance.
Teaming up with a world-renowned ‘nose’, Amanda has created a range comprising three fragrances each captured within sublimely scented candles, soothing hand creams and pulse point perfumes.
Each of these exquisite products has been specially selected to encourage quiet reflection either by applying cooling perfume, gently massaging the hands or setting a beautiful candle aflame. In every instance, these small actions create a necessary pause and a moment of comforting ritual. The complex yet subtle fragrances, Oparus, Mellifera and Noctula were inspired by different times of the day and are evocative of their associated moods.
Who knows where The Chapel’s path will lead but wherever it is you can be sure that it will continue to encourage everyone to take time to be wise.