Beauty entrepreneurs hope for better days

Smangele Sibisi busy working a client's natural hair.
Smangele Sibisi busy working a client's natural hair.
Image: Supplied

It's not such a pretty sight currently in the beauty industry. With the easing down of lockdown restrictions, it looks like life will come to a semblance of normalcy.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday evening that the country will enter into level 3 as of June 1.

While this is good news for many, it may be too late for some, these including beauty entrepreneurs.

The industry has been hard hit by the national lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

It has been two months of revaluation and hard decisions for Smangele Sibisi, the owner of Indalo Nubian Naturals.

Sibisi closed both her natural hair salons in Tshwane and Johannesburg on March 25. She and her staff had hoped it would be back to business after two weeks but it was never going to be as the lockdown got a lengthy extension.

"We didn't pay the rental for March so we were able to share the money for essentials among the 28 stylists employed," she says.

Sibisi says that the pandemic caught most beauty entrepreneurs unawares because "we live hand to mouth".

"We were not prepared; the other issue is that the landlords are asking for rent every month. It has made me realise that recovering from this whenever it is over, is going to be very hard. It has put me in the position of reconsidering both branches.

"We're currently in the process of shutting down one branch. Because already as it is, we owe [the landlord] over a R140,000 in rent, if we don't open in the next three months it's going to be double that.

"I'd rather stick with the current debt I have than live in hope of opening. Once we have started to recover, to regroup and just pay off everything that we owe.

"We'll come back and set up business again."

Sibisi says she did apply for the small business relief fund but hasn't received any feedback.

She says it makes one wonder who is actually going to benefit from the fund.

"We just have to see how long the lockdown will last to be able to see how much of an impact it has had."

On the other hand, Sibisi says that customers have remained loyal by tuning in to the business's social media account and engaging with the posts and responding on hair tutorials that she puts up.

"They have reassured her that they cannot wait for her establishment to open, and have also come up with some helpful ideas.

"The love we have been receiving from our clients has been amazing and one of the things they suggested was that we should sell vouchers [as we wait to operate again]."

Sibisi has warmed to the idea, as it would help with some cash flow as they await the green light to work again.

She said so much about how she operates her business would change.

For example, clients will be attended to by appointment, meaning there won't be no walk-in anymore.

"We will get to the point where there is a minimum of stylists in the salon. We might get to the point where maybe they'll have to work shifts, just so that everyone can keep their jobs."

Beauty therapists will always be in demand.
Beauty therapists will always be in demand.
Image: 123RF

When asked how she will handle the big rush demand after the restrictions are lifted, owing to lively interest on social media, she says: "The demand will be there but it will be up to us as service providers to do things in a proper and safest way.

The 29-year-old adds that government should take another look at the beauty industry, as she laments the lack of assistance through the different levels of the lockdown.

She is worried about her 28 employees and their families and also on what type of assistance they'll receive once the lockdown is lifted.

"Also, with returning to work we're going to need funds, to get the proper gear, to clean our spaces, to make our spaces functional the way we are supposed to."

Another beauty entrepreneur, Phiwe Mngadi, has also felt the impact of the national lockdown.

Mngadi owns Plush Nail Art Studio in Soweto. Her services include microblading, an eyebrow tattooing technique.

Phiwe Mngadi of Plush Nail Art Studio.
Phiwe Mngadi of Plush Nail Art Studio.
Image: Supplied

She's been working for herself since the age of 16 and has no employees.

Mngadi often travels for her work, locally and all over the continent, but that has stopped due to the lockdown. She is also unable to hold classes through her academy, which is named after her business.

"It's a very stressful time for all of us in the beauty industry, because our industry really depends on daily sales," she says.

The 32-year-old Mngadi is fortunate enough to have savings that she's currently living off.

"A lot of people have taken a huge knock financially, so I will not be raising prices.

"The protective equipment is not expensive, and we already use sanitisers in our industry. I already have stacks of sanitisers because we sanitise our stuff (equipment) in-between clients."

Mngadi feels the government hasn't done enough to assist small businesses in the beauty space.

She also urged that more black beauty entrepreneurs join the bargaining council (National Bargaining Council for Hairdressing, Cosmetology Beauty and Skincare Industry) for the beauty industry, so that they can lobby it to push government to assist.

When asked about her worries on getting back her customer base, Mngadi said that she didn't foresee any problems getting clients.

"The most beautiful part about the industry is that women will always want to feel beautiful, people will always want to do their brows."

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