Miss Edwards won the Next Generation Award at the recent Australasian Wella TrendVision Awards in Sydney, one of the most prestigious live stage salon events on the New Zealand and Australian hairdressing calendar.
Ms Gallagher and Ms Whiston did not come home empty-handed either, securing first and second, respectively, in the Craft Visionary Category. Ms Gallagher also won the People’s Choice Award.
"Jazz has achieved in one year what it took us 10 years to build up," Ms Gallagher said this week.
"We were so stoked. ... Confidence doesn’t always come naturally, but she has grown into it and smashed it," she said.
Miss Edwards decided to become a hairdresser last year, while in year 12 at Mount Aspiring College, after chatting to a careers adviser.
"It was quite busy so I got chucked into the deep end ... I’m really good with hands-on stuff and I was able to get into it," she said.
A few months into it, she was invited to enter the TrendVision competition, which her employers have attended before.
"I was ready for the challenge. Their photos were up on the wall and I saw what they had done in previous years. We had a chat about it and what the judges might be looking for."
Wānaka waitress Echo Wang was Miss Edwards’ model and her excitement really helped with her confidence, Miss Edwards said.
Ms Gallagher trained and worked in Southland, where she experienced a high standard of training and won multiple awards.
She owned the Runway Salon in Gore for 11 years before joining Ms Whiston in business partnership in Wānaka four years ago.
Ms Whiston, also a multiple award-winning hairdresser, previously operated Zaibatsu Salon in Dunedin.
"I wanted a change of direction and lifestyle. I came up here and never worked so hard in my life," she said.
Ukiyo Salon opened in February 2020, four weeks before the first Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.
They initially feared Covid would be disastrous for business, but a strong marketing campaign drew clientele to their door when lockdown restrictions lifted. They now employ nine people.
Ms Whiston said many Central Otago women had been flying to Auckland to get their hair cut. But because Auckland was locked down for longer, they needed to use local hairdressers.
"We came back to work with a three-month waiting list and grabbed those clients who used to travel away to get their hair done," Ms Whiston said.
They are proud their 2023 awards were won by a small team on a budget of just a few thousand dollars, with locals, including Alpine Imagery photographers, backing them up.
Some Australian entrants committed tens of thousands to the competition, they said.
"Winning these awards, I feel like — honestly, this might sound cheesy, but — it is like a dream come true. And it was the third time I had won that specific award. I think I am the only one in the world that has done that three times. It was really special to be able to share that with Jaimee and Jazz. It felt like we had done what we set out to do when we opened," Ms Gallagher said.