Hairline frustration: a wig, then a business

Barbara Thandeki and Khunjulwa Makaluza are founders of Khubar Hair & Beauty.
Barbara Thandeki and Khunjulwa Makaluza are founders of Khubar Hair & Beauty.

A receding hairline after years of harsh chemical hair treatment set the wheels in motion for a Gugulethu woman to turn restoring her own crowning glory into a business that helps other women do the same.

For Barbara Thandeki, 47, establishing her wig-making business has been a personal journey that started with developing a solution to her own hair-loss problem, and then realising that her solution wasn't just personal but could fill a gap in the market for affordable, fashionable human hair wigs.

"As a woman and an entrepreneur, I love beauty - and beauty without hair is nothing. It is our crowning glory," she says.

The enthusiasm of fashion-conscious Gugulethu women for the pixie-style wig that Thandeki made for herself after unsuccessfully trying a range of hair-restoring treatments and synthetic hair wigs, prompted her friend Khunjulwa Makaluza, 37, to suggest a business opportunity - and Khubar Hair & Beauty was born.

"Barbara wanted to teach me to make a wig for myself and I told her 'don't just teach me only, let's make this a business'," Makaluza recalls.

Eighteen months later, the business is profitable and the pair plan to take their home-based business online and into retail spaces, ramp up production and eventually franchise the business.

Thandeki was a senior procurement specialist who "felt a calling to be an entrepreneur and empower others", while Makaluza recently gave up her full-time job in fashion retailing to focus on the business.

"I know I made the right decision to resign my job for this. Yes, there are challenges but you are in control of your own destiny," says Makaluza.

They credit the Small Business Academy programme of the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) with giving them the practical tools not only to manage the business but also to "dream bigger, set a vision and a plan for growth".

The partners are among 32 township entrepreneurs selected for this year's Small Business Academy-sponsored programme to support small business owners in the areas of Khayelithsha, Langa, Mitchell's Plain, Stellenbosch and Gugulethu.

Both women see being in business as more than a means to make a living, but also a way to share their experience and knowledge, to teach and empower other women to go into their own businesses too.