My hair stylist was a black business owner – I didn’t realize it

The following blog post is from a contest I entered for website, Vocal, months ago. The store owner’s name has been changed for anonymity.

My mom, big sister, and I would strut into “Fika’s” hair salon every two weeks like clockwork for several years. Little did eight-year-old me understand that I was seeing an entrepreneur every two weeks like clockwork.

I have admired “Fika” for about five years now. It was not until recent years that I understood she was more than a hair stylist. She was a black entrepreneur — which meant she created her own salary, hours, could hire other stylists, and deal with the woes of owning a business.

Salary

While Fika’s hands may have helped my relaxed hair flourish over the span of a decade, her prices increased as the years went on. When I was seventeen and had my first job at Kentucky Fried Chicken, I learned the importance of her changing her rate sheet every other year.

She was creating these prices based on her experience and the cost of living. She put in time to get the education and industry knowledge to be a hair stylist. Women walked into her shop looking like magic was needed for their hair health and coming out as an enhanced kempt version of themselves.

Her prices at the time started at a $50 hairstyle and went up. If she had 10 clients in a two-day cycle with a basic $50 hair style, that was $500 she made in two days. I do not know too many working people with a nine to five that make $1,000 a week. When I say this, I am not talking about advertising executives, insurance people, I am talking about folks in different industries.

Another thing about her salary is that it kept the shop in operation – lights, heating and air, clean dryers, clean utensils, the water was on. Things that made me and other clients comfortable there. Her prices allowed her to have financial stability that many women need to survive. This is how she supported herself for years. When a husband and kids came into the mix — this is how she supported her family. Her prices ensured family vacations could continue, her children could do extracurriculars, build financially with her husband, and still provide for herself if needed.

While I may have been upset that my $100 paycheck from KFC was being used for a $65 hairstyle. I now understand that me and others getting our hair done was continuing her financial independence and we were walking advertisements to increase her salary.

Hours

As the years went on, I understood the importance of her business hours. Her opening her shop at 9:30 a.m. and not accepting a client after 6 p.m. was not just to be convenient for me and her other clients. She did it to create structure for herself. Hell! She was creating her own hours because she could.

Growing older, during the summer or during winter holiday season, I understood why she would post the flyers in the shop as reminders to us of her abbreviated hours or that she was taking a week off with her kids. As a business owner or innovator, you can do that.

Hire other stylists

“Fika” has hired other stylists over the years. While they may have moved on to other roles for their hair care career, she was providing opportunities to them. While there are many hair stylists in the town where I grew up, she still was keeping stylists employed. This was their opportunity to learn industry knowledge, create their own salary, hours, and perhaps hire other stylists.

Woes of Owning a Business

I cannot lie to you; I do not know all the woes she went through. I am only assuming these woes. I am sure she had her days where clients did not want to pay full price for a hairstyle or were divas when she said she was taking a week off. I am sure she wanted marketing dollars to advertise to more people. I am sure she had days when she wanted a break, was being hackled by tax professionals, or other outsiders.

I want to thank “Fika” for showing me that a black owned business can be a hair salon. I want to take this time to applaud her for providing herself financial stability for over two decades, a reliable hair salon for women of color in our community, and demonstrating to me that it is not always rainbows and sunshine while putting yourself out there as a woman of color with her own business.

Even in a small city like Summerville, South Carolina.

Who is the black business owner or black innovator you look up to?

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