Barrie Stephen and Phil Burley are self-made Leicestershire businessmen who have become global names in their respective industries. A hair magnate and gin maestro, long-time friends Stephen and Burley have shaped their fields worldwide – but they have never abandoned their Leicestershire roots.
From humble beginnings building his loyal client base by balancing a job at Moda Greco with his own kitchen-sink haircuts in the evening, Barrie now boasts a salon group of five Leicestershire properties with a turnover of over £3m, employing more than 70 staff.
In 1996, Barrie Stephen defied critics by turning an unassuming butcher’s shop in Anstey into a successful hair salon. ‘I brought big city styling to a village environment’ Barrie smiles. ‘People said it would never work, there were no quality salons out in the villages at that time. Being told I can’t achieve something just makes me more determined.’
Barrie has been revolutionising hairdressing for over 20 years. His group’s Private Jet Promise sets a platinum standard for service that has been replicated across the world. More recently, Barrie’s Colour Responsible campaign is raising awareness amongst consumers and salons alike about the importance of skin testing in the prevention of allergic reactions to chemical treatments.
However, it has never been Barrie’s intention to leave the county, although his business model would sit comfortably in London, New York or Milan. ‘I’ve always wanted to be king of my own kingdom, not king of the world’ Barrie enthuses. ‘I’m a Leicester lad and it’s important to me that I continue to bring the cutting edge of hairdressing to our county, and to give local homegrown talent the opportunity to become the next generation of leading stylists.’
While Barrie’s passion and drive was making sure Leicester was enjoying cutting edge style, another revolutionary was also building his empire. Phil Burley grew up in Countesthorpe and began his career in the motor industry. He is now one of the most important names in the booming gin industry.
Having moved across to working within the drinks industry, but on the engineering side, Phil saw a gap in the market for a super-premium gin – inspired by and distilled in Leicestershire. ‘Leicestershire is my home county and with a history steeped in food and drink it seemed the obvious choice to build a brand and business from a region that I know a vast amount about’ Phil says. ‘Gin was the obvious choice as it is a spirit that I enjoy drinking.’
The first bottle of Burleigh’s gin was sold on 1st July 2014 and now commands an impressive market share. Across the UK total gin sales were worth £1.4b in 2017 and there are now more than 100 British gin brands on the market. Burleigh’s success rests on the points of difference provided by its quality and its story. The gin is made with a special blend of 11 botanicals including five that are found in Burleigh Wood, just over a mile away from Phil’s original Bawdon Lodge distillery. Even the still itself has developed a personality and become a part of the brand, being affectionately named Messy Bessy.
Just like Barrie, Phil’s success can also be partly attributed to his sleek business model. Along with the physical product, Burleigh’s quickly expanded into offering distillery tours and a gin school which increased brand awareness as well as giving consumers open and transparent access to the distillery so they could see the quality for themselves.
Such is the success of this model that Phil, along with business partner Graham Veitch and Master Distiller Jamie Baxter, have developed a sister company in consultancy. They have led on the development of 12 other distilleries around the country that use the same structure.
Now Phil’s city centre presence has increased dramatically. His three Leicester venues ooze class and sophistication. 45 West was the first venue, a high end gin and cocktail bar. The recently opened 45 Gin School has brought the gin masterclass to a more central location. Just around the corner, 45 St Martin’s offers an unparalleled bar and bottle shop experience, including an exclusive contract with the premium brand Champagne Billecart-Salmon.
Friends for over 20 years, Barrie and Phil have built two of Leicester’s biggest and coolest brands. These brands now sit shoulder to shoulder on Hotel Street in the heart of the city. 45 West opened its doors in November 2015. Barrie’s fifth salon, B Styled, opened in the unit next door just four months later.
‘We could both see the potential of the area’ says Barrie. ‘It was clear that it was up and coming and no surprise to me that Phil and I got in on the ground floor and became next door neighbours. The 45 brand and B Styled are the perfect match – aspirational and achingly cool. This is why B Styled clients enjoy a Burleigh’s gin and tonic during their appointments – it’s the touch of class that they deserve.’
The pair continue to innovate and drive their industries forward. 45 West has recently undergone a major refurbishment. As well as opening up the stairway to give easier access to a refined new basement bar, the venue has also worked in collaboration with Pioneer Europe and The Audio Group to install a state of the art sound system. Meanwhile B Styled is about to announce an unparalleled new pricing model that is set to revolutionise the way the hair industry operates.