In December 2019, the ThriveNorth program successfully completed its five-year mandate. Managed by Futurpreneur Canada, the program helped young entrepreneurs in Northern B.C. launch and grow their businesses by connecting them with resources, financing and mentorship.

Growing up in Northwestern British Columbia and practicing as a hair stylist for over ten years, Andrea Harmel wanted an outlet to create beautiful hair as well as the ability to build a workplace that encouraged staff to be creative and also have work-life balance. Kory Yamashita was born and raised in Terrace and grew up fishing and exploring the great outdoors. This childhood taught him to respect and embrace the natural environment. He works full-time as a civil engineer but brings analytic problem-solving to the table when it comes to their business, Butter Hair & Co.

Butter Hair & Co is a boutique hair salon specializing in the art of balayage, colour melting, foils and cutting. Butter has been open for 2.5 years and has grown from having only a single stylist, Andrea, to having a staff of nine. “Our success comes from our goal of treating our staff the way we would want to be treated, a commitment to exceptional quality service and our efforts to tread lightly on the environment,” she shares.

The goal of creating a workplace that staff loved was to create an atmosphere that employees felt supported and yet in control of their work lives. “By empowering them, we’ve found that they’re committed to working as a cooperative, feeding off each other’s inspiration and most of all being positive and helping on another out,” Andrea says. Butter allows staff to select their own schedules and holidays and provides them with ongoing education in theory, techniques and products so they feel prepared to offer the quality of service their customers have come to expect.

Outside of developing an amazing place to work, Butter strongly believes in treading lightly on the environment. They work with Green Circle Salons to recycle up to 95% of their waste which makes Butter the greenest salon west of Prince George, BC. “Hair clippings get used in floating booms to clean up oil spills, extra colour chemicals are collected and sent to Vancouver where they are de-watered in a centrifuge, and the remaining chemicals are incinerated with the resulting power being fed into the BC Hydro grid and the leftover ash being used as a beneficial concrete additive.” The salon also has a product line created by Davines which is an Italian company that is a 1% For The Planet member and Zero Impact Ambassador which believe in eco-packaging and biodiversity. “As you can probably tell, we’re very passionate about making our little business a positive influence in the world. I think the positivity is a bit contagious, since our clients tend to walk out feeling great about themselves,” Andrea shares.

Kory and Andrea competed in this year’s ThriveNorth Business Challenge which took place in May and walked away with the Audience Choice Award where they won $5,000 for their business. Andrea described the experience as being one that pulled them out of their comfort zone and forced them to really get to know their business and critically assess their growth plans. “We made some great friendships and connections to passionate and talented young entrepreneurs. It didn’t feel like a competition since everyone was friendly and encouraging,” she shared. The award that Kory and Andrea received was the only award that was selected entirely based off of audience and online votes. An honour that Andrea explained as being incredibly humbling.

Since the competition, Andrea and Kory hope to expand their business into the space next door to their current location. With this they’ll be creating four full-time positions and will be able to accommodate more appointments and expand their offerings to include barber and esthetician services, as well as bringing in new product lines for their customers.

The ThriveNorth family can’t wait to follow along on their journey!

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