AN Umlazi-born businesswoman is making inroads into the local hairdressing industry.

Lungile Zulu, 45, ventured into this relatively difficult industry by opening the first black-owned salon in Durban's upmarket Florida Road in Morningside.

The area is renowned for its exotic restaurants and top-of-the-range hangs-outs frequented by socialites and big spenders.

Africare Salon, the first of its kind in Durban, boasts private rooms for clients who need privacy and has wireless connection for businesspeople to do their business while having their hair cut.

Zulu also owns an outlet in Sandton, Johannesburg.

"We black people need to maintain the same standard set by white people," Zulu says. "There is no need for our salons to be third class.

"This is why I decided to open a salon of this nature in this province. To me quality and keeping our clients happy is very important.

"We value their money and the service they get must be of a high quality."

She said her salon is different from others because it caters for all racial groups and various traditions.

"For example, Muslim women cannot have their hair cut in front of men, which is why we have private rooms for them," she says.

"We value every customer's needs and that is why we went a bit further in keeping up the standard."

Zulu says cleanliness is very important in this business.

Durban Chamber of Business president Clive Manci says the opening of the salon in an upmarket street fits in well with the city's objective of minimising the effect of the economic meltdown.

"It's definitely going to bring a lot of money to the city since, as we all know, this part is frequented by the haves," Manci says. "So we are very excited about it."

The opening ceremony, which was held last weekend, was attended by politicians, socialites, businesspeople and celebrities.

Among them was Linda "Mr Magic" Sibiya and Khetha Gwala, both of Ukhozi FM, Noluthando "Mamgo" Ngubane of iGagasi FM, eThekwini deputy mayor Loggie Naidoo, and political analyst Protas Madlala.