December 3, 2008

A Hair Saloon

We have recently had a modest expansion to our micro-credit program. Two young women whom we sent to hairdressing school have recently opened a salon, though around here most people pronounce that word as if it is a bar in the Old West and say “saloon.”

Vuyelwa is 18 and has one son, named Bulumko. She dropped out of school in about seventh grade. Nomnikelo is 19 and has a daughter, whose name eludes me at the moment. She also dropped out elementary school a few years back.

This was our most significant loan yet, about $300 (U.S.), because there is so much equipment to purchase. As with our other borrowers, I am cautiously optimistic that they will be able to repay the loan. Lots of people want their hair done during the “festive season” (as the run-up to Christmas is called here) so the key thing is to keep those clients after the holidays are over. We’ve been brainstorming strategies to do so lately.

I have been learning a lot about hairdressing as a result of this salon, particularly as it is practiced in South Africa. And it’s not what you would expect. Most women around here wear hair pieces so the job of hairdressing is attaching the hair piece in just such a way that it looks natural. Last week I briefly thought the hairdresser I’ve been going to had closed and I was desperate for a cut. I thought Vuyelwa or Nomnikelo could help me out but it turns out they are a hair salon without any scissors and neither of them learned how to cut hair in school. They just arrange it and get paid well for doing so.

This is Vuyelwa doing a client’s hair.
And these are two of her finished products. None of that is real hair.
I helped put up their mirror last week. Bulumko really liked it… when he wasn’t trying to do his own hair.


Anonymous said...

Well, this one is particularly dear to my heart. My own mother made her way out of poverty by styling hair in her own "saloon". She made a good life for us by marrying "up" and applying her business savvy. Give a woman a "hand up", and you never know how far she'll make it go.

Anonymous said...

(I still have mom's diploma from "beauty school", and, obviously, I treasure it - along with documentation for all her many later achievements.)