‘You have to have balls of steel’ says Nthabeleng Nhlapo, when I ask her what advice she would give to potential retail and service industry side hustlers, ‘It is NO walk in the park!’. She’s laughing, but I see the steely glint in Nthabeleng’s eyes, and I know she’s telling it from the heart.
I met Nthabeleng when she was the Brand sales manager for the powerhouse radio station Metro FM. This in itself is an ‘over extension’ position, and certainly not your run of the mill 9 – 5 job. So for Nthabs to decide to fit in a kids hair salon as her side hustle immediately makes her a #BossLady to be reckoned with. Six months down the line, I caught up with Nthabeleng at her very happening kids hair salon, AfroKids, in Rivonia Village Shopping Centre. I wanted to know how she was coping and if she had any learnings to share with the #BossLady sisterhood.
Q. As a Mom of two gorgeous girls under 6, with a very full time job, AND in the middle of building a new home, what inspired you to add a side hustle to your already busy life?
A. I’d always toyed with the idea of a side hustle, and my tenderpreneur bestie has always been pushing and poking me to get started. My epiphany came once I understood our clan name properly. It is ‘ENkomo Hlambi kaYeNgwayo kaMaphepha kaMazwi abantwana besikepe sikaYeNgwayo Nkomo.’ I had been nervous to ask my father to explain it to me, and when I did get the courage to ask him, I got cold shivers. Broadly translated it means ‘We are people of the Water, we are people of Business.’ As soon as my Father shared this with me, I understood my calling, and I was driven to take my idea forward.
Having two young daughters, I had already toyed with the idea of having a kids hair salon. As a Mom, I appreciated the struggle of finding the right environment for my young girls to spend 2 – 3 hours in every four weeks in.
ADULT SALONS ARE NOT SUITABLE, FILLED WITH ADULT CONVERSATION. FUN FOR ME, BUT NOT MY DAUGHTERS Click To Tweet
And the adult salons have nothing to keep our girls engaged during the long process of getting their hair done.
I had a very clear vision of how my salon would be different. I saw the chalkboard wall, the lego table and the magnetic board. And I knew that my salon needed to be engaging and educational in a fun way.
We all know that it is no fun having to sit still for hours on end having your cornrows or braids done. So I knew I had to pull out all the stops to make this monthly experience more bearable for our little ones.
When I bounced my vision off a couple of friends I knew that I had a hit on my hands. They all shrieked with excitement, and assured me that their girls would be my first customers!
Six monthly down I can finally see my revenue growing steadily each month, which helps me to breath more easily. I have learned so, so much, and I have so much to be grateful for.
Q. What advice would you give to #BossLadies who are keen to start a side hustle in the retail and customer service industries, other than needing to have balls of steel of course!
In retail, it’s all about having enough customers. I know that once a Mom and her kids have tried AfroKids, I have a very good chance of them returning. I even have a customer who drives all the way to AfroKids from Pretoria!
And, although I haven’t solved this entirely yet myself, I thankfully come from a marketing background. Which means that I have been able to tap into my 10,000 hours of marketing experience. I have found that the Facebook groups Brown Sense and Mamahood Gauteng are very helpful, as well as Jozi Kids for my industry sector. I am fortunate enough to have had several articles written about the hair salon, and I run regular promotions. I’ve tried some Facebook advertising and leaflet drops at schools and in the surrounding neighbourhood. I am still learning my way in this new sector.
My top tip would be to measure everything that you do, so that you know exactly what works and what doesn’t.
2. Customer Service
The most important type of marketing that any business can have is positive word of mouth. So I place a great deal of focus on creating a wonderful experience for our little Princes and Princesses. I have spent a lot of energy working with the stylists at AfroKids so that they understand exactly what experience I want every single one of our young customers to have, as well as their busy Moms and Dads.
It’s important that my high standards are maintained from the way we welcome our customer when she walks through the door, to the way that her hair is washed, to the consistent high standard of her cornrows, as an example.
Aside from the engaging activities available at AfroKids, we have lots of fun rewards like gold stars for our little customers, ‘Because you were such a star!’ When I hear that someone has not had the ideal experience, I personally call them to make good.
IT’S ABOUT NOTICING EVERY SMALL PART OF THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE AND IMPROVING EVERY LITTLE ELEMENT THAT YOU POSSIBLY CAN. Click To Tweet
3. Managing from a distance
This is a real challenge. I am by nature a really hands on person, so I want to be involved in every aspect of the salon. Most especially in these early days. This is really not easy with having a demanding full time job at the same time! So, on top of grooming one of my stylists to become the manager, I have had to source some valuable tech tools that give me some sense of control.
The three greatest tech tools that I swear by is the ESP salon and spa software which manages everything from scheduling an appointment to keeping track of the business turnover. The system allows me to remotely have full control over stock, cash flow and daily schedule.
The Mommy Cam is another great win. It is a set of wifi operated cameras that I had installed which allows Moms to drop their child at the hair salon, and then pop onto their phones to check how their child is managing via the Mommy Cam. I also use the Mommy Cams to keep an eye on the salon when I can’t be there myself.
My advice would be to find the tools that give you as much control remotely as possible. And if you do have the budget, I would suggest hiring a top manager as soon as possible.
4. You gotta put on your big girl pants, and have a second pair on hand at all times!
I have learned so, so much in the 6 months that AfroKids has been running. And if I was fainter of heart I would have quit a thousand times over. Like the first time I went to Africa Cash & Carry to buy stock. It felt like the whole of Joburg had descended on the place. Oh Lord, what have you done! I thought to myself. And now, 6 months later, I am so proud of myself. I feel like a seasoned wholesale shopper, and enter ‘the zone’ prepared, both physically and with the right mindset!
Some other big girl challenges have been dealing with center management. As much as I would have thought that they would be in my corner, helping my new business to succeed, I have now toughened up to a different reality. It’s never personal, and it’s up to me to create my success. It’s also been so daunting to see money leave my account every month while growing the business to a breakeven point, and not being able to know exactly when this point will arrive. Real sleepless night stuff!
YOU WILL FACE A WHOLE LOAD OF UNEXPECTED HARDSHIPS, AND YOU NEED TO HOLD YOUR VISION STRONG AT ALL TIMES Click To Tweet
5. Count your blessings daily.
This is what keeps me going. When I get stressed out, I spend a moment appreciating what is working. I am thankful that I am building a great team at the salon. Also that I secured this retail space, in a busy, upmarket center, with decent enough rent. I am thankful that my husband is willing to support me. And I recently decided that the Africa Cash ‘n carry run will become his responsibility going forward, ha ha!
And that, being my own business, I can quickly change something if I see it’s not working. All in all, these are good problems to have, and I wouldn’t change it for a thing!
Well #BossLadies, there you have it. Balls of steel, and big girl panties all the way! We wish Nthabeleng every success with AfroKids Hair Salon. Nthabeleng has offered all #BossLadies with children an introductory saving of R50 on their first do. To make a booking call 072 056 3409 and quote the promotional code “BOSS17”.
Have you recently launched side hustle, retail or other? If so, please share your experiences with us in the comments below.