In the middle of the year, my birthday month was fast approaching and I had events galore! Three weddings, one award ceremony and a family photo shoot. I would be putting it lightly if I told you that, even the butterflies in my stomach had packed up and moved out because they were also as nervous as nervous could be. Little did I know that natural hair clip-ins would rescue my month.
Let me first mention that in terms of my hair, I had just Big Chopped (BC’d) earlier in the year; and I was in that awkward stage of natural hair growth. Yes, I have been known to be scissor happy in previous years, but this time, my BC happened due to post-partum shedding on my crown. So it wasn’t a BC I was pleased to do; and try as I might I wasn’t really happy with my short Afro look.
Enter Joanne Huguet, owner of Waves & Lengths Salon, which is based in Ruaka. I had been admiring her hair online for a while and when we met for breakfast one day, she revealed her secret. What she had on were bunch of Natural hair clip-ins! I was like, “Say what now?” She had styled it so well that it really blended in with her hair. I was curious to find out if it would work with short hair. She promised to find out and get back to me.
Fast forward to a few days before the crazy month, Joanne called, she had experimented with a client with short hair and it worked! The very next day I was in a salon chair on the 3rd Floor of Ruaka Square where she was gracious enough to install the clip-ins herself. I won’t lie that I was nervous because I had neither worn a weave nor human hair in my entire life, so I really didn’t know what to expect with the combination of the two.
As she did her magic, I sought to find out about the science behind the Natural Hair Clip-ins. How was there such a thing as natural human hair extension that were kinky/curly? Which Africans, where, were cutting and selling their hair to achieve this? It even made it more fascinating the clip-in hair would react the exact same way to water as my natural hair would. She explained that they’ve found technology that makes Brazilian human hair kinky and I honestly decided to take her word for it.
I queried as to why she would think to create a line of natural hair clip-ins. “I had chopped my hair and was suffering from withdrawal of having long hair; and I needed to cheat my way through length & volume as my hair slowly approached the awkward stage. I also found out that a number of customers had similar problems, which explained why our first batch order run out fast. Reading and responding to your customer’s needs is one of the many ways a salon business can diversify,” Joanne intimated.
Joanne further explained that the Waves & Lengths Hair is sold in in three lengths 12”, 14” and 16”. In each packet there are 7 pcs that are divided into the number of clips per weft. Some have 2 clips, others 3, 4 and one has 5 for the longer part of your head. Joanne also explained that to further match the hair to your own, they offer dyeing services at an extra cost. However, initial installation once you buy a pack is free.
I decided to move on from the hair to the salon of the same name. I enquired when Waves and Lengths Salon started and how business has been so far. “We opened shop in August 2014, so now it’s going 3 years. I was tenant number 2 at Ruaka Square,” she shared. I was duly impressed, because pundits tell us that once Start-Ups makes it to the 3rd year, things start looking up, was this her experience?
Joanne shared with me how she left a good job with Emirates, in Dubai to come home and start her business. She’d always loved hair and it made sense to her to open a salon. She quit her lush expatriate job and came home excited to start the salon business of her dreams. However, she was rudely shocked by the Nairobi CBD’s good-will quotations. She quickly regrouped and found Ruaka Town quite by accident on her way to a golf date; and as luck would have it what would become Ruaka Square was at its finishing stages of construction.
I ask her what her business challenges are 3 years down the line. She cites that controlling costs is always an ongoing battle. That coupled with hiring the right staff. Joanne shares that she was lucky when she opened shop, as Ashley’s Hair & Beauty Academy were just graduating a class at their Ruaka branch. However, despite hiring new people, she still had to find experienced salon employees to balance it all out. Her other staff challenge were finding well-trained nail technicians. She would hire someone who claimed to be good at their craft; however, once they did the work it was sloppy. Joanne had to step in and train them herself.
I asked her how she went about pricing her services at the beginning of the business. Joanne shared that she would just benchmark with salons in the greater Ruaka area and in Nairobi’s CBD. She would schedule visits to other salons, take up a service and try understanding their pricing via her experience. She also used these research sessions to know the shortcuts that were being taken by the staff and/or business.
As her business grew, she learned that her Ruaka customers were not so quick to spend money as their Nairobi CBD counterparts. She became an expert in asking the customer what service they required and their exact budget. She would then help them customize it all to the best service possible at their price; while still considering her overheads. “There is nothing wrong with letting a customer bargain,” Joanne counsels.
I posed the question that many entrepreneurs get asked, “When did you break even?” Joanne shared that initially she didn’t set out to get a return, she wanted first to build a customer base and to invest in training of her staff. While she focused on these she found herself breaking even around month 7 of the business. She then noted a break-even plateau that lasted for 6 months. It was after this, nearly a year later that she began to see a profit.
With hindsight being 20-20, I asked her what her learning’s have been running the Waves & Lengths Salon. Joanne shared a story of how most veteran salon owners did not want to share information about where they bought their equipment or products; and those who shared directed her to bad suppliers. Joanne advised that a salon business owner should always do due diligence on any recommended supplier. In the spirit of paying it forward, when one finds good suppliers to refer them to new salon owners.
Her second lesson was that salon owners should learn that their relationships with the staff are not meant to be parasitic. One should always aim for a win-win, symbiotic relationship. Also if the relationship between the owner and staff isn’t working, it’s ok to release the staff immediately. Holding on to a staff member who is not gelling with other staff or with the business culture is detrimental.
Her final piece of advice was for business owners to know that pilferage will happen whether they like it or not. The best thing to do to mitigate it is, to get a good administrator who buys wholeheartedly into one’s business concept. Despite having a good person running the day to day, it is the business owner’s responsibility to always have a keen eye to look out for anything that is amiss. “At the end of the day, your business is your reputation and your bread and butter. Don’t let anyone mess around with it.” Joanne shares.
We had this interview took place in May, while she installed my hair in preparation for my busy month of June. A few weeks ago, luck was on my side again. I was preparing to moderate the Talk Bar Tent at the Hairitage Chronicles 3.0 that was to happen on the 7th of October 2017. I met Joanne at an event earlier in the week and shared with her that I didn’t have a hair-do for the day. She offered to go my hair again! All I can say is that I was slaying with my Mohawk! It was a combination of flat twisted sides using my hair and coloured natural hair clip-ins on my crown. To make the treat even more delightful, Wagio Mokaya of Thy Natural Hair was at hand to document the styling session.
My personal experience with the Waves & Length Natural Hair clip-ins has been that they have saved my (hair) life on several occasions. Initially, it was a hard concept to wrap my head around, but the University of YouTube is a friend. The natural clip-ins are quick to install and light on the head. They also create fancy and striking hairstyles every time. Finally, the fact that once the day’s events are done, I simply unclip, pack them away; and sleep with my own hair is even more of a win. A pack of Waves & Lengths natural hair clip-ins should be in every Naturalista’s arsenal kit.
Are you interested installing natural hair clip-ins? For enquires, to book a consultation and hair orders all the W&LH team on +254 (0) 707 665 490 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow Waves & Lengths Hair on their Website and Instagram Page.
Featured Image: Wambui JL, Creator of Hairpolitan Magazine; at the Hairitage Chronicles 3.0 event held on the 7th of October at Ngong Racecourse, Nairobi. Hair styling: Joanne of Waves & Lengths Hair • Make up: Stella Njuguna using Pauline Cosmetics • Jewelry: Embody Accessories • Photography: Sami Khan
Wambui is the creator of Hairpolitan Lifestyle Magazine. She's a Graphic Designer by profession and has run her company Idea Agency Ltd since 2008. She is passionate about the growth of female entrepreneurs and Emcee/Moderator for hire at events that educates and uplifts women.