With voting for The Northern Echo’s Best Hairdresser or Barber competition now well and truly open, your favourite salon needs your support!

Every day over the next ten days, we will be featuring one of our top ten finalists, chosen by our readers.

Kicking off our hairdressing hopefuls is Joanne Somers, salon owner of Era 21 Plus, based in Darlington’s Hollyhurst Road for the last 25 years.

The salon is due to celebrate its milestone anniversary on July 13 and will be marking the occasion with a party which also aims to raise cash for two important charities close to Joanne’s heart.

She said: “We will be supporting The Brain Tumour Charity, in memory of my late husband, who I set up the business with 25 years ago; and Breast Cancer UK, in memory of a friend.

“My daughter Leander, 31, works for me and has been fantastic in helping to organise the event. We’re having a buffet, disco, and a sweepstake in the football.”

Joanne started in hairdressing aged 16 after her mum told her to find a job from the Yellow Pages.

She said: “I will never forget, I’d finished school and my mum went out to work one morning and put the Yellow Pages in front of me – and said I needed to have found a job by the time she got home!

“I got an interview at a salon called Mayfair, and I never looked back. After I had my two children, I became self-employed, and then my husband and I looked for a salon. We initially took a smaller premises in Hollyhurst Road and although I thought it would be too small, we took it on.

“We were soon far too busy for the size of the building so when I spotted another empty premises further down the road I asked the owners about it – and luckily we were able to have it.”

Covid restrictions hit all salons hard – but during lockdown, Joanne and her team decided to enter some awards to try their luck.

She said: “We’d never really entered into awards before, but as we suddenly had all this time on our hands, we thought it was worth a go.

“We ended up winning awards in The Salon Awards in Manchester, where we took home best customer service, best salon and best team; and we also won awards at the North East Business Awards.”

Joanne added: “It is our clients that makes it all worth it. We provide a full range of hair and beauty treatments, including micro-blading, micro-needling and lashes, and are specialists in hair colouring.

“My clients have been so supportive of me over the years – they’re a great bunch and I’m so thankful they nominated me.”