A HAIRDRESSER has opened a new salon in a bricks-and-mortar building in York city centre after a successful year in a converted shipping container at Spark:York.

Jody Toner says it was probably only thanks to Spark - the innovative business start-up and social space which opened last May in Piccadilly - that he was able to fulfil his dream of running his own business.

“It was the opportunities offered by the social enterprise that enabled my aspiration to become a tangible reality,” he said.

He said he had decided to launch his first solo venture last year after 14 years of building up his experience in working for other salons, while also working as a regular stylist to models at London Fashion Week.

He felt that having won a string of awards, for example the L’oreal Colour Trophy Finalist, and having worked for some of the most respected names in hair and fashion, such as Allion, L’Oreal, Westrow and Topshop, the time was right to have a place of his own.

He said he had never been one to take a conventional route, and chose to locate his up-market salon in a recycled shipping container, and set about transforming the 20ft structure into the start up business Toner & Co.

Jody said Spark’s city centre positioning and the affordable rent he paid on a one-year lease, within the complex’s ‘vibrant neighbourhood,’ had ensured he could flourish in his first year of business, and that had now enabled him to progress to a more permanent fixture at 50 Gillygate.

He had made an investment in converting former shop premises into a salon with ‘minimalist and industrial finishes which exudes Scandinavia.’

He said: “An accredited L’Oréal professional salon, Toner & Co is dedicated to embracing the diversity that the people of York have to offer, catering for all, with an inclusive and accessible brand ethos.

When plans for Spark were drawn up, critics said it might add to the problem of a growing number of empty shop premises in the city centre by persuading would-be entrepreneurs to move into Spark instead of vacant buildings.

But directors of Spark said the aim was to provide a location where independent and local tenants could have a chance to build up resilient, confident businesses, who would then be able to go on at a later stage to secure tenancies in some of the many empty premises across the city centre.

The Press previously reported that there's been a £600,000 investment in delivering Spark, with more than £50,000 reinvested in improvements and capital investment. Businesses pay between £80-£250 per week in rent (average: £150) and 70 per cent of businesses had no previous permanent location.