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Barber proves to be a cut above the rest

Richard Marshall of Pall Mall Barbers talks to Denise Beedell in the ninth of a series of articles featuring the winners from the FSB Celebrating Small Business London Area Finals held on 19 March.

Richard has been interested in barbering since his first job at the age of 12 working as the Saturday junior in Bedford. By the age of 14 he was cutting his friends’ hair and winning awards when he was 16.

However, he faced a lot of challenges in life because he was unable to read or write until he was 30, due to dyslexia, and left school at 15 without any formal qualifications.

But you can’t keep a good man down, and he forged a career in men’s grooming. By the time he was 21 he was working on Saville Row and Mayfair, and had built up an impressive clientele.

One of those clients persuaded him to look at some business premises just off Trafalgar Square. They were quite dilapidated, almost derelict, but Richard fell in love with the original sinks and taps and knew that he could make it wonderful again.

He worked 7 day weeks, doing much of the labouring and renovations himself, to bring everything up to scratch. 

During this time, he found an old business card for the Pall Mall Toilet Saloon established in 1896. Although he didn’t feel he could use that name, he opted for Pall Mall Barbers to bring it up to date, to keep a connection with its past.

Twelve years on and Richard now employs over 40 people in 5 stores across London and is putting the finishing touches to a store due to open very soon on Fifth Avenue, New York.

He offers several treatments, including haircuts, wet shaves and beard trims, using his own award winning product range.

Richard says, “I wished I had believed in myself sooner. I always felt that I had failed at school, but the reality is that school failed me. 

“Being my own boss brings me freedom, the ability to control my own destiny, to innovate and make my own choices.

He continued, “I have so much ambition for my business. The products are currently sold in seven different countries and I hope to open more stores in other parts of the UK and worldwide, through private partnerships.”

To relax Richard mixes business with pleasure; visiting spa retreats and travelling. 

As someone who has made London his home, he simply loves the variety and atmosphere of the capital. Listening to jazz at Ronnie Scott’s, walking through St James Park and Horseguards Parade, enjoying the view of London from Waterloo Bridge or sampling best of China Town or London’s markets.