At the time when we discovered AfroKids Salon, Kairo would not allow anyone, except her Glammy of course, to touch her hair. Since then having her hair done has been an absolute pleasure. No negotiations, no tears, just an amazing place with fabulous and professional ladies, “Where Hair Meets Fun”!
Meet Nthabeleng Nhlapo, Founder Owner of AfroKids Salon in Rivonia, Johannesburg.
Please tell me about yourself
Born and bred in Johannesburg, I am a mother to two beautiful girls aged 6 and 2. I am married to a very supportive husband who is there for me to turn to during my entrepreneurial journey. My life story and upbringing is very colourful in the sense that my mother was a domestic worker and I was born into a Jewish family during the Apartheid climate of our country. Both my dad, who was a driver at the time and mom gave me so much from so very little. I was blessed to be exposed to so many wonderful opportunities despite my parent’s financial limitations. I have experienced a number of failures and hardships which at the time were difficult to fathom but when I look back now I realise that every failure and every hardship was the foundation to building the resilient character I have today.
What inspires you?
Definitely my two young girls but also the desire to know that I have made both my parents proud and to be able to provide for them.
Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Getting into business has always been an idea I have toyed with and after years of procrastination I finally decided to take that leap of faith. My dad’s side of the family is quite entrepreneurial as a number of my brothers have started and are sustaining their own businesses. In a sense I think I was born to be an entrepreneur.
Tell Me About AfroKids?
I cannot tell you how the name and concept came to be. I was pregnant with my second child and was struggling to find the right salon for my first child. The name and concept was literally planted into my heart and mind. I decided that I wanted to open a salon that would cater for kids and was conducive to their needs. I wanted to create a place where kids could get their hair done but still have fun, hence the slogan. The salon and it’s equipment is specially designed with kids in mind. The chairs are child-sized with safety belts and our kid-friendly stylists are trained to provide a comfortable playful environment, while cutting and styling kid’s hair with patience and speed.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs and was inspired by my brothers, who started up their own carpentry company, to take the leap of faith and open my own business. I have always procrastinated and never took the leap. After having two girl children, I decided that I needed to venture into this business by offering a unique experience for children as I was getting frustrated at the lack of kid friendly salons in the area in which I lived.
Where did you get the idea to open a kids’ salon?
It started with an idea to change the kids’ hair industry but more specifically the ethnic kids’ hair industry by offering a unique and fun experience. I wanted to do something different from the norm. After conducting my research, it became apparent to me that there we no kid specific salons in the area that focused on ethnic kids’ hair. I was also uncomfortable with having to take my daughter to an adult ethic hair salon where the environment isn’t conducive to little budding minds and stylists just simply don’t have the patience.
Who is your target market?
Children aged 2 – 12 years of age. This is our core target market but we do have younger and older kids that come to the salon.
What is the “AfroKids experience”? What makes it different from other salons?
We offer a dynamically colourful interactive environment for our little customers to unleash their creativity through fun educational play. From watching their favourite kid-friendly cartoons to drawing on our wall sized chalkboard, we provide age appropriate activities for little ones who are not quite sure about this whole hair thing yet. From haircuts to puzzles, cornrows to crayons, Lego blocks to shape sorters if you are looking for a place “Where Hair Meets Fun” then AfroKids Salon in Rivonia is the place to go.
How is business going?
The first 12 months of business were the hardest ever. This journey has been such a humbling experience. During the past 5-7 months the revenue has grown allowing me some room to breathe but there is still a lot of work to be done. There is so much more that I would like to do for the salon and the brand to really take over the kids’ hair industry.
What have been the biggest challenges with AfroKids?
There are a number of challenges but the biggest one I have faced to date would be finding the professional stylists who understand customer service and most importantly children and how to represent the brand. Also, the fact that I work full-time is challenging as I cannot be at the salon all the time to ensure that my vision is being carried out 100%. The lack of access to funding for service businesses as well as creating a greater awareness of the brand and the service we offer, is another huge challenge.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
The fact that despite all the challenges I have managed to keep the salon operating and have kept my stylists employed. The salon was also invited to participate in the business show called “Making Moves” on SABC1. Although we didn’t win the prize, we made it into the final round and it was such a great opportunity. I have received a number of enquiries to franchise the salon in the country and beyond our borders. This makes me so proud and the fact that people are recognising the brand, so much so that they are willing to invest in it, is humbling.
What qualities do you need to succeed in business?
You need to adopt a tenacious attitude with “balls of steel”. Business is not an easy journey so you need to be able to take the knocks and constantly be on the hustle to ensure your dream is realised. There is no plan B, you need to make it work despite the odds that you may be faced with. You need to accept that it’s not easy and that you will get knocked down a couple of times but your faith needs to keep you together so that you can get up and try again.
What are your plans for the future?
When I started AfroKids the vision was to be the next biggest franchised brand. I have a business expansion plan to take the brand to another level. I would like to offer children and their parents a unique selling proposition that no other kid salon is offering at the moment. There is also an opportunity to look at developing a hair care product line and opening another branch. I am currently in partnership discussions with other kid related brands to enhance the salon experience for our clients and provide convenience for their parents.
Founder Owner: Afrokids Salon
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