2023 APAC Insider Business Awards Winner: Hair & Beauty Trading Association of the Year – Australia

APAC Insider Magazine is proud to announce the distinguished winners of the highly anticipated APAC Business Awards 2023. For the eighth consecutive year, the APAC Business Awards have spotlighted exceptional achievements across the Asia-Pacific region, acknowledging businesses that have demonstrated resilience, innovation, and unwavering commitment to their missions.

The APAC Business Awards have showcased the remarkable strides made by enterprises in the region, highlighting their significant contributions to the business landscape while staying true to their core values. This recognition underscores the flourishing environment where businesses thrive and positively impact society.

Celebrating the remarkable diversity of businesses and professionals recognized in this year’s awards program, we are inspired by their relentless dedication, hard work, and continual advancement. The future holds great promise, not only for the honorees’ businesses but also for the broader community as they forge ahead.

Hosting this awards program has been an incredible experience. Recognizing and encouraging businesses and professionals across the APAC region has connected us with a diverse array of services and products, shaping the global landscape. I extend my heartfelt congratulations to our winners as they chart their paths forward into 2024 and beyond.” – Jack Ford, the Awards Coordinator

Among the esteemed winners of the 2023 APAC Insider Business Awards is SAHBA Hair & Beauty Association, honoured as the Hair & Beauty Trading Association of the Year – Australia. SAHBA, known as the South Australia Hair & Beauty Association, is a non-profit organization operated by dedicated industry professionals committed to advancing the hair and beauty sector.

“As the Co-President of our organization, I am immensely proud of SAHBA’s remarkable dedication to advancing the hair and beauty industry. SAHBA, under our collective guidance, has been a pivotal force in championing the interests of our members and industry professionals. Our commitment to staying abreast of industry changes, fostering partnerships, and nurturing a supportive community has been integral to our success. This recognition as the Hair & Beauty Trading Association of the Year – AUSTRALIA at the APAC Business Awards 2023 reaffirms our unwavering commitment. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to our dedicated team and members for their relentless efforts and support.” – Merrill Gratton – Co President SAHBA Hair and Beauty Association

For years, SAHBA has been at the forefront, advocating for its members and the industry as a whole. Representing hairstylists, barbers, beauty professionals, and emerging talents, SAHBA acknowledges the importance of maintaining relevance and prominence in an ever-evolving industry landscape.

SAHBA serves as the central hub for the hair and beauty industry, collaborating with various business organizations and government departments. The association keeps abreast of industry developments, legislative changes, educational pathways for students, and industry awards and compensation rates. Moreover, SAHBA remains devoted to fostering a community that benefits from networking opportunities, exclusive discounts, educational events, and initiatives addressing health, well-being, and environmental concerns.

At SAHBA, we’ve strived to create an inclusive and dynamic community for hair and beauty professionals. Our role as Co-President has been fulfilling, witnessing the growth and positive impact of SAHBA within the industry. This prestigious recognition at the APAC Business Awards 2023 is a testament to our collective efforts in providing unparalleled support, resources, and opportunities to our diverse community. It motivates us to continue nurturing partnerships, advocating for our members, and driving positive change within the industry. This award belongs to every member who contributes to SAHBA’s success. Thank you for being an integral part of our journey.
– Marcela Lastra, Co-President, SAHBA Hair & Beauty Association

The association’s inclusive community comprises sole traders, salon and clinic businesses, students, overseas qualified professionals seeking guidance, training authorities, suppliers, board directors with extensive industry experience, and non-profit representatives striving to give back to the community.

SAHBA’s collaborative efforts extend beyond its membership, involving partnerships with SafeWork SA, Business SA, Workcover, Immigration SA, FairWork Ombudsman, Australian Tax Office, and various other industry bodies. These collaborations promote ethical practices, standards, education, and skills training, fostering a robust framework for the well-being and growth of the diverse vocations within the hair and beauty industry.

For the official press release click HERE

About APAC Insider Magazine:

APAC Insider Magazine is a leading publication covering business, finance, technology, and industry news across the Asia-Pacific region. Through its awards programs and editorial content, APAC Insider aims to spotlight outstanding achievements, innovations, and the impactful contributions of businesses and professionals in the APAC region.


Excellent Edges Kit 1 Winner – Getting to know Wildflower Hair and Beauty

To kick off our Excellent Edges Partnership, we interviewed Wildflower Hair and Beauty who won the Hawk and Angel Kit 1 valued at $1K. These kits are designed to take your cutting skills to new heights and inspire your creativity.

Excellent Edges has been providing the Best Hairdressing Scissors and Tools since 1988. Besides making the world’s greatest scissors, they also have a huge range of accessories including combs, brushes, clips, pouches, cases and mannequin heads.

Q&A with Wildflower Hair and Beauty

Why did you decided to get into hairdressing/barbery?

Brigitte- It had been a dream to become a hairdresser and an opportunity came up to start an apprenticeship at Wildflower Hair & Beauty. 18 years later I am still here!!

What do you love most about your job , your team and industry in general?

Valentino -The ever evolving world of hairdressing is amazing, after nearly 50 years of hairdressing.

If you had a magic wand to grant a wish, what would you use it for and why?

We read peoples minds 95% of the time, a magic wand for the other 5% would be great!!

In your opinion, what is 2023’s Summer trend to watch out for?

The Summer look to watch out for in our opinion would be the French Bob.

What is your go to product when finishing of a nice blow dry or up style?

Our go to product to finish off a blow-dry is Divine’s Oi Oil

What is your go to gadget in the salon?

Our go to gadgets are:

  • Valentino- Dyson Blow Dryer
  • Brigitte –  Miracurl
  • Kaitlyn – Dyson Cordless Straightener

Wildflower Hair and Beauty
Salon Address: 86B Murray Street, Tanunda, 5352


Partner Update: SAHBA – South Australia’s Hair and Beauty Association Joins Forces with The French Beauty Academy to Elevate Beauty Education

SAHBA Press Release:

Adelaide, South Australia, 18 October, 2023 – The South Australia Hair and Beauty Association (SAHBA), is thrilled to introduce a dynamic partnership with The French Beauty Academy, recognised as Australia’s premier registered training provider in the beauty therapy industry. This collaboration signifies a significant stride in uniting a distinguished Registered Training Organisation (RTO) with SAHBA’s core mission, which is to advocate for its members and foster collaboration with relevant authorities.

Together, they aim to tackle and resolve issues that impact the overall quality and advancement of South Australia’s hair and beauty sector. This partnership will also bolster the public perception of the hair and beauty professions through the promotion of sound ethics, high standards, education, training, and the maintenance of highly skilled and professional client services.

Established in 1986 as one of Australia’s first government registered beauty academies, The French has a rich history of delivering high quality vocational training and world-class graduates for over 35 years.

The French is an approved VET Student Loan provider and a Registered Training Organization (RTO 32220), offering nationally accredited Diplomas in Beauty Therapy, Salon Management, along with other certificate courses. All qualifications are recognised by the Australian Qualifications Framework.

“Our partnership with South Australia’s Hair and Beauty Association (SAHBA), signifies our commitment to shaping a brighter future for the beauty and hair industry. Together, we’ll inspire innovation, set new standards, and empower the next generation of beauty professionals.”
Luke French, CEO of The French Beauty Academy

The partnership between SAHBA South Australia and The French Beauty Academy represents a union of shared values and aspirations:

  • Expanding Educational Horizons: By leveraging the expertise and resources of The French Beauty Academy, SAHBA aims to enhance the educational opportunities available to aspiring beauty professionals in South Australia.
  • Empowering the Workforce: The collaboration is designed to empower students with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in the beauty industry. This will not only benefit individual careers but also contribute to the industry’s growth and professionalism.
  • Advancing Ethical Standards: SAHBA and The French Beauty Academy jointly commit to promoting sound ethics, high standards, education, training, and the provision of premium client services in the beauty professions.
  • Supporting Industry Excellence: This partnership will engage in research and education initiatives, enhancing business management capabilities within the industry, and further improving standards in the profession.

“Our collaboration with The French Beauty Academy is a testament to our dedication in providing unparalleled opportunities for our members. Together, we’re paving the way for a stronger, more ethical, and thriving hair and beauty industry in South Australia.”
Marcela Lastra, Co-President of SAHBA

For more information about SAHBA South Australia or The French Beauty Academy, please contact:

Daniela Herrera
Partnerships and Marketing Manager
Mob: 0405 928 984

Renee Sheane-Smith
Strategic Partnerships & Industry Relations Manager
Contact: 1300 250 111

About SAHBA South Australia:

The South Australia Hair and Beauty Association (SAHBA) is a leading industry association dedicated to promoting excellence in the hair and beauty sector in South Australia. With a focus on education, professional development, and industry advocacy, SAHBA supports the growth and success of hairdressers, barbers and beauty professionals and businesses in the region.

About The French Beauty Academy:

The French Beauty Academy is Australia’s largest and most prestigious registered training provider for services in the beauty therapy industry. Established in 1986 as one of Australia’s first government registered beauty academies, The French has a rich history of delivering high quality vocational training and world-class graduates for over 35 years. Each year The Academy accepts students into training programs in the areas of beauty services, dermal therapy, laser, make-up, body treatments, nail technologies, and medi spa therapies, with 9/10 French Beauty Academy students secure employment prior to graduation.


Industry Update: Meeting with the Hon Blair Boyer, Minister for Education, Training and Skills in South Australia

On the 22nd of August, 2023, a momentous and pivotal event took place this month, marking a significant milestone for the South Australian Hair & Beauty Association (SAHBA) and its members, as we embarked on a critical discussion with government officials regarding industry standards and trade recognition.

This momentous meeting brought together Merrill Gratton and Marcela Lastra, representing SAHBA as our president cohort, with The Honourable Blair Boyer, Minister for Education, Training and Skills in South Australia and Luke French, Chief Executive Officer at The French Beauty Academy, igniting hope for the future of the Hair & Beauty industry.

The purpose of the meeting was clear:

  1. To address and raise awareness about the pressing challenges that the Hair & Beauty industry faces.
  2. These challenges, ranging from standards discrepancies to trade recognition disparities, have long been at the forefront of concerns within the community.

The gathering with The Honourable Blair Boyer was a proactive step towards initiating transformative change.

The outcome of this vital dialogue was one of optimism and renewed determination. The meeting provided SAHBA Presidents Merrill Gratton and Marcela Lastra with a renewed sense of confidence and direction, offering a glimpse into the potential strategies and actions that could shape the way forward.

A particularly encouraging aspect of this outcome is the establishment of a collaborative partnership with the Education Minister. This joint effort is set to pave the way for a comprehensive roadmap that addresses the intricacies of the industry’s challenges.

Recognising the immense value of our industry network, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to Michelle Jensen, SAHBA Board Director and RTO Representative. Michelle played a pivotal role in orchestrating the initiation of this meeting.

Additionally, we extend our sincere appreciation to Luke French, Chief Executive Officer of French Beauty.  Luke’s contribution involved delivering substantiated insights that spanned the entirety of the Hair & Beauty sector. These insights comprised not only comprehensive industry statistics but also pertinent data specific to South Australia’s industry challenges with training, standards, and trade recognition.

The SAHBA community is committed to transparency and progress. As developments unfold, members and the wider community can expect to receive updates. The value of collective support cannot be overstated, as SAHBA continues to champion positive transformations within the Hair & Beauty industry.

In conclusion, yesterday’s meeting signifies a promising stride towards addressing industry challenges and fostering a more inclusive and dynamic landscape for Hair & Beauty professionals.

The collaborative spirit demonstrated by SAHBA, coupled with the engagement of government stakeholders, evokes a sense of anticipation for a revitalised industry that thrives on unity and innovation.

Please keep a watch out for further updates from this meeting by subscribing to our newsletter HERE and becoming a member HERE.


Meet our Co-President and Board Director Merrill Gratton for the Beauty Industry

Merrill Gratton is an experienced Hair & Beauty Education Manager with a strong background in the VET (Vocational Education and Training) sector and industry collaboration. With a demonstrated history of success, Merrill possesses a diverse skill set including team leadership, facilitation, teacher training, management, project management, international business, and organizational development.

Merrill, with over 29 years of experience as an Educational Manager at TAFE SA, served as a Board Member representing RTOs (Registered Training Organizations). Additionally, she has recently taken on the role of Board Director for SAHBA (SA Hair & Beauty Association) for the past 9 months.

Having graduated from the University of Tasmania, Merrill is a vocational education professional who has made significant contributions to the industry. Currently serving as a Strategic Program Manager at The French Beauty Academy, the largest Beauty RTO (Registered Training Organisation) in Australia, Merrill plays a vital role in shaping the future of beauty education.

Before entering the realm of vocational education, Merrill gained extensive industry experience as a Hairdresser and Technician for L’Oreal, a renowned beauty brand. This hands-on experience provides Merrill with a deep understanding of the industry and enables them to bring real-world insights into their role as an education manager.

Merrill’s commitment to excellence and passion for fostering growth and development in the beauty industry have positioned them as a valued asset in the field. With a strong track record of managing strategic programs and collaborating with industry stakeholders, Merrill is dedicated to driving innovation and ensuring high-quality education in the hair and beauty sector.

Through their leadership, expertise, and dedication to advancing vocational education, Merrill Gratton continues to make a lasting impact on the industry and shape the future of hair and beauty education in Australia.

Connect with her on LinkedIn HERE


Meet our Co-President and Board Director Marcela Lastra for the Hair and Barbery Industry

As a renowned figure in the hairdressing industry, Marcela’s commitment to the hairdressing industry extends to her involvement with the SAHBA (South Australian Hairdressing and Beauty Association) board.

For the past three years, she has dedicated her time and expertise as a volunteer, working tirelessly to represent and advocate for the industry in South Australia.

Marcela is the proud founder of the award-winning Salon Longko Salon, which she established 15 years ago, showcasing her exceptional talent and dedication to her craft. Building on her success, Marcela recently embarked on a new venture, opening her second brand, Mr & Ms Salon.

Recognized for her expertise and innovative approach to hairstyling, Marcela also serves as a Guest Artist for De Lorenzo Haircare, where she travels across Australia, sharing her knowledge and teaching haircutting techniques. She firmly believes in the importance of education for the progression of the industry and actively contributes to its growth.

Beyond her professional achievements, Marcela has made significant contributions to the community. She passionately advocates for hairdressers to become involved in the community, particularly in supporting those in need. Through her initiative, “No Strings Attached,” Marcela provides free haircuts to community groups and hospitals, both within Australia and abroad.

In addition to her busy schedule, Marcela finds immense joy in being a devoted mother to her two growing boys. When she’s not immersed in the hairdressing industry, Marcela channels her passion and creativity into the art of cooking, transforming it into a beloved hobby Marcela’s multifaceted life and unwavering dedication to her profession and community make her a truly inspiring figure in the world of hairdressing.

Connect with Marcela via LinkedIn HERE


50+ Club & Hall of Fame 2019 Inductees

50+ Club & Hall of Fame 2019 Inductees

From left to right: Grace Catania, Rose Bradshaw (SAHBA President), Sandra Sutton, Nilia Annesse accepting for Iliano Puccini, Mario Focarelli, Anthony Gentile, Maria Gentile, Jan Gauvin, Angela Zacharia (SAHBA Board Director), Sue Treloar (SAHBA Board Director)

Grace Catania – 50+ Club Inductee

Grace Catania is a hairdresser, a teacher, a philanthropist and the matriarch of what is becoming a hairdressing dynasty. Grace, along with her husband Valentino (also a hairdresser) became the impetus of the Catania Group International brand that is in over 70 countries. But at the age of 48 Grace received her diploma in teaching from the University of South Australia and so she also began teaching at colleges and other private providers around Australia. And her philosophy of respecting the environment, care of communities, ethical and sustainable business practices and the empowerment of self-reliance, and daring to dream and achieve goals is also carried into her teaching.

Grace and her family have employed many hairdressers who have gone on to become successful business owners and employers themselves – including her 3 sons, grandchildren and extended family – well over 19 of them and who she says have inherited her passion for the craft.

Today, Grace continues to work on the salon floor, mentoring young hairdressers, and with her husband works with local charities and also travels Australia searching for indigenous herbs and plants to for their professional salon only haircare products. She’s says she’s excited about the future of hairdressing and she looks forward to her continued involvement in the industry. And she’s particularly proud of Australia’s high standards and talent being exported around the world and the respect it is given.

Sandra Sutton – 50+ Club Inductee

Sandra Sutton has had her salon in Westfield TTP for over 17 years. She comes from Mt Gambier where she says all her family were hairdressers! She went into hairdressing in 1964 when her mother put her on a bus to Melbourne to do a 14 month full time course at the Melbourne Academy of Hairdressing. After graduating from the Academy Sandra worked for Franquois Kramer who had 14 Salons in and around Melbourne.

After this time Sandra returned to Mt Gambier and worked for her Mum for the next 3 years. From there Sandra came to Adelaide and worked in various salons and subsequently became a salon owner herself with salons in Glenelg North and in Cumberland Park. She made the move from the western suburbs when she set up her Westfield Tee Tree plaza salon where she has been trading for the last 17 years.

Iliano Puccini – 50+ Club Inductee

Unfortunately Iliano was not able to attend so his sister Nilia accepted the award on his behalf.

Iliano (or Ian as he’s also known) says he was destined to be a hairdresser once his dad opened a Barber Shop in Hindley St in 1954. Ian said he started spending all his time, before and after school in the salon; and when his parents opened a ladies salon called Ninettes Beauty Salon for his sister Nilia in 1961, he followed her a few years later in 1965 to start his apprenticeship there.
Ninettes Hair City (as it became known) was into competitions and the salon won numerous Hairdressing Awards including “ nine times – the top salon award in SA”

Ian says his passion is haircutting , and in 1977  he won the State Title  for “ Colour Cut & Blowwave “ and he followed this in 1980 & 1983 with  2nd place in  the national haircutting championships
As well as competing Ian spent 3years on the Hairdressers Registration Board examining apprentices final exams for their Hairdressing Certificate

In 1983 he joined the Board of The Hairdressers Co-op and in 2010 he was privileged to become the Chairman of Board until he stepped down in 2017. In 1994 he moved from the Hindley Street salon and opened a new Salon Ninettes of North Adelaide where he has worked for the last 26 years and where he’s still working today and still enjoying it!

Mario Focarelli – 50+ Club Inductee

At the age of 12 Mario Focarelli would go to his brother’s barber shop and watch him cut hair. This, he says inspired him to be become a barber – just like his brother. So, in 1967 when his brother went back to Italy, Mario took over his business. And here he still is today 53 years later and still going strong – even with all the different hair styles that have come and gone over these years.

Mario says he feels very humble to know that his customers think highly of him. “Many become like family – especially when you have 4 generations of family members all still coming to the salon since 1967” he says.  “Customers enjoy coming for a haircut, coffee and a chat. You know barbering was never just a job. It’s the friendships I made and being there for customers in need. I’ve also been a councillor and a shoulder to lean on.” Mario says. He says that soon it will be time for him to put his scissors down. But he says it’s going to be very hard to leave – though it will allow him more time with his family and friends. And when he retires he will be leaving on a high note and be grateful with all he’s achieved.

Anthony Gentile – 50+ Club Inductee

Tony Gentile left Muirden Business College to assist his mother Maria in very busy shampoo and set salon, which was converted from a garage next to their house.  Tony says he was helping out there, while he thought about what he wanted to do with his life! Obviously, he decided on hairdressing.

Training in London with Vidal Sassoon followed – training that he brought back to his first salon in Klemzig where he worked with his mother, sister, sister in law and his wife Vivienne. Two other salons followed – one in St Peters and the other in Collinswood. But, when he became concerned that he couldn’t maintain his standards in 3 salons he decided to sell two and just kept Collinswood. He says that was a good business decision and Collinswood is an excellent location.

Other accomplishments include: national accredited competition judge; accredited judge for Apprentices to finish Trade School; State Trainer for Schwarzkopf and Haircare for 20 years; and Keune Australia for 25 years – travelling around Australia and overseas whilst enjoying the friendship and support of Geoff and Jan Gavin and Hans and Theresa van der Velden.

Today, Tony still maintains education is key to his success and staying at the top of his field. He says that to keep interested this long you need to keep evolving and keep your staff at their personal best. Tony is now in the process of reducing his hours, go’in fishin’ he says, and so is training his team to eventually take over the business

Maria Gentile – 50+ Club Inductee

Maria started her apprenticeship in Rome 72 years ago. Her father had to pay her boss to train her. How things have changed. Some 11 years later she arrived in Australia with her 2 boys to begin a new life. Maria worked for a short time for Madame Josephine in Hindley St until Maria’s husband Nick built a salon next to their home and in 1969 she took on her son Tony Gentile as an apprentice. Four years later, Tony opened his own salon and Maria followed him and is still with him 50 years later – working 5 hours a week looking after her remaining clients who have become her friends! It is rumoured that next year when she turns ninety, she may hang up her teasing comb and retire! Maria has been an inspiration to her son and all the staff who have worked at Gentiles Hairdressers.

Denis Harford – 50+ Club Inductee

Denis started in Men’s hairdressing 55 years ago before  moving over to ladies hairdressing where he says he had a very strict boss who taught him discipline, giving good service with a smile – at all times – but also expected  him to do a  client every fifteen minutes! In 1972, Denis bought his first salon; and when he sold it 14 years later he decided to take a whole year off and enjoy some R&R. When he returned to the industry he changed from salon work and went into theatre work – first with the State Theatre and later the State Opera where he became Head of Wigs and Make-up. During his twenty-five years with State Opera, Denis received a Churchill Fellowship to study at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London. And during this time he also did short courses with Vidal Sassoon, and make-up courses at an academy in Ealing. Today, Denis owns and runs Lustre Hair Studio in Hawthorn.

Jan Gauvin – Hall of Fame Inductee

Jan Gauvin commenced her hairdressing career in the mid 60s. Her first business venture began with Geoff in 1972 when they opened “De Gauvin salons”. Then in 1974 Geoff and Jan began a whole new chapter in their lives and registered the Haircare Company with a cash and carry at their home in prospect. From Humble beginnings, Haircare Company expanded rapidly with new product ranges and innovations and bigger new premises were continually needed to accommodate more staff and stock.

In 1976 first moved to Norwood then 2 years later Anzac Highway Keswick Cash and new carry stores were opened in Salisbury, Ascot Park, Gepps Cross, Findon and St Peters. 12 years on in 1988 another move to Payneham Rd, Stepney and The Haircare Company rebranded to Haircare Australia and expanded business interstate into WA and Victoria with many new portfolio brands.

Another 11 years forward and another move to Hindmarsh and the business grew into a true family business with all three sons taking on various roles in the company. Once again Haircare Australia ventures into new territories: new product development, the exporting of new ranges and a focus on education for salons and hairdressers.

After 40 years in business the business expansion reached a great height. In 2016 Haircare Australia opened an amazing, purpose built Head Office at Marleston, housing a massive warehouse, cash and carry and educational facilities. Currently, Haircare Australia employ over 200 staff and begun to expand internationally with offices in New Zealand and the UK, with many other countries on the horizon in the future.

Jan Gauvin is a driving force behind this amazing company. Her energy, her attention to detail and incredible determination and tenacity have never waned. She is tireless, work focused, devoted and continuously strives for excellence. Jan Gauvin, you are an inspiration and true icon of the Hairdressing and Beauty industry.