Shrewsbury’s Freestyle Systems Gives The Salon Industry a Green Solution to a Weighty Problem
By Cherie Ronayne
Blair Hopper, President and CEO of Freestyle Systems, located in Shrewsbury, is a professional problem-solver with a green heart. Fifty-ish, with boyish good looks and an unassuming demeanor, this Northborough resident was not on the hunt for the next million dollar idea, but stumbled across it while trying to help a friend with a potentially career-ending physical problem.
As the story goes, when Hopper was living in Worcester in 2000, his neighbor, a stylist, complained to him one day that her Carpal Tunnel Syndrome was so painful that she didn’t know if she would be able to continue to work. She off-handedly said to Hopper, “I wish my blow dryer were weightless.” (Stylists often suffer from debilitating wrist, arm, shoulder and neck pain and injuries due to the weight and repetitive motion of using a blowdryer so continuously during their work week).So Hopper set out to make a “weightless” blowdryer.
Hopper’s background isn’t necessarily a match for designing a beauty industry product, but that didn’t stop him. He was intrigued by the problem and considered the solution a challenge. Hopper has worked in several, traditional industrial professions ~ building, contracting, engineering and auto mechanics ~ where problem-solving is a daily part of the job. So, doing what comes naturally, he simply sat down at his computer and began drafting versions of a system that would allow a professional blow dryer to “become” weightless. What he devised is a system that is installed in the ceiling where a unique motorized mechanism (Hopper’s own original design) that fully supports the dryer is housed. The dryer drops from the ceiling and virtually hovers at a pre-set level that the stylist chooses for maximum comfort and optimal performance during a blow-out.
In addition to the obvious relief it provides for stylists experiencing pain and discomfort like Hopper’s former neighbor was, the system appeals to salon owners for the sleek solutions it offers to the never-ending mess of tangled cords, dropped and broken hairdryers that constantly need to be replaced, and the sexy, high fashion, high tech look it lends to their salons. But another important benefit to the product is its green aspect ~ with fewer blow dryers to replace because the system extends the life of blow dryers so efficiently, the salon’s carbon footprint is decreased from less waste produced and decreased dryer production.
In fact, Freestyle Systems is the first green technologies provider in the beauty industry that offers patented, health-conscious solutions that address two major issues of concern to salon professionals and owners: medical risk factors from injuries sustained by stylists and overall safety, and the need to, while maintaining the integrity of their services and the high-end look of their salons, save money whenever possible. So, who is actually reducing their carbon footprint? Numerous John Paul Mitchell The Schools across the country have implemented the Freestyle System, and top salons in Newton (Ten Spa), Boston (Phillips Salon), and Andover (J. Christopher Haircutters) are on board as well, to name just a few.
And there is no doubt that The Freestylist has been a life-saver to many stylists with work-related, repetitive motion injuries, and they are quick to rave about it as evidenced by numerous testimonials on the Freestyle Systems website (www.freestylesystems.com). Salon owners also report that the high-tech image alone is driving clients through the doors. The unique, innovative system suggests (accurately!) to clients that they are receiving the most professional, cutting edge services available when they walk into salons who have installed the Freestyle System.
In addition to salon owner, stylist and client accolades, Freestyle Systems has been recognized as a revolutionary product in the salon industry with coverage in many of the top industry magazines - American Salon, Modern Salon, Behind the Chair, Salon Today, Launchpad, and Intercoiffure, to drop some very impressive names. Also noteworthy was its national debut on “Extreme Makeover Home Edition,” where it was installed for the very first time, ever, in a salon addition to a new home ~ and The Freestylist was featured on an episode of Bravo TV’s “Tabitha’s Salon Takeover.”
Not too shabby for a guy who just wanted to help out his neighbor.