Mary Obadele, is a hairdresser and a general beautician from Edo State and resident in Lagos. She has been in the profession for 15 years. Here, in this discourse with Correspondent, Nkasiobi Oluikpe, she highlights some of the challenges she encounters in the course of practicing her career. Excerpts:
Duration of apprenticeship
I spent six months in learning the job. When I finished my apprenticeship, I worked for over one year for somebody before renting my own shop. I have been at two different places on my own. First, I was at Yaya Abatan, Ifako, which was where my first shop was situated. At the end of three years, I left there to where I am presently in Okeira, Ogba. Actually, I have spent 12 years here. All put together, I have been on my own for 15 years now.
Experience while working for someone and as an independent hairdresser and beautician
About six years ago, that is, from when I started newly up till about six years ago, the job was very okay. But now, I don’t understand. Many people have ventured into the business, and honestly, I don’t even understand it again. Many of my old customers I don’t get to see them any longer, if I ask them what happened, as to why I have not been seeing them, they will tell me they have a salon nearby their homes. So, they find it difficult to bypass the one close-by for a distant salon, although most of them still come, but that is once in a while. That is the reason why, in order to augment the income, I am selling attachments, weavons and other hair care products.
Ability to meet up, reconciling expenditure and profit
It all depends on the location, but I will tell you that I do meet up, even with where I am staying presently. If you are in a good location, hairdressing is a very good job because all that is needed is your handiwork, which is also if you really did know the job very well. Apart from the cream and comb you need, every other thing is yours. So, I think it is a good job, if you have the money to operate it in a good environment. Environment matters a lot in hairdressing because if you have a good environment, good people will come and patronize you. I mean a place that is commercially viable or even close to a commercial area. Even if it is going to be at a residential area, it should be around people who understand the value of good product, people who will be willing and able to pay.
Reason for not going to a commercially viable area
It is the money, the capital with which to rent the shop. You know how much renting a shop in such areas cost. I know this job very well and I know where I am supposed to have been. But then, the money challenge has made it impossible. If I have the money, I will fill this shop with products and also employ hands to be of assistance to me. It takes a very devoted customer to patiently wait for you to finish a particular hair to get to her turn. Sometimes, you might be having up to three or four people waiting for their turns, all because, I am the only one here. That does not say well of a serious hairdresser.
Actually, I am into one or two contributions, but the kind of money you get from there is not really the kind of money that can solve ones problem. Like the LAPO thing that most people do, I can get more than that in this place. I need bigger money; it is not that kind of money. First and foremost, I need to move out of this environment. With the kind of job and services I offer, this is not where I am supposed to be.
The other problem is that the youth of today do not want to learn work. About six or seven years ago, when you enter a shop, you will find about four to five apprentices, but today, they are nowhere to be found. If you ask them, they will tell you, I don’t want to work, and they prefer to be roaming about. So, what I need now is a stylist who I will be paying and who will take my business serious.
Reason behind the lack of interest for upcoming ones to learn
They just want to be independent and free, showing no single sign of commitment. That is how I can put it. If not, I see no reason why any young boy or girl will not humble him or herself to learn work, after all, we did it during our own time, so why not them. It is not restricted to hairdressing alone. Even the fashion designing people are also complaining, those kids just want to be on their own.
Message for the youth
My advice is that they should have patience. Since this job is not something that you can hurriedly dabble into, they should be patient and humble, by the end of the day, they will reap it. There is no easy and quick way to making money in this life, except if you want to become a thief or criminal. Even stealing itself is a craft, it doesn’t come easy. If you are the type that is not patient or prefers to roam about, definitely, hairdressing is not for you. This is because when you open the shop, you have to be in the shop always. Not only that, besides understanding the job very well, the respectful way and manner you handle your customers matters a lot. That will determine whether or not the customer will want to come back to your shop. Like I told you earlier on, I still have customers who come from a long distance to do their hair here. Courtesy is a very important attribute in hairdressing.
The effect of the youth apathy to learn on the future of hairdressing
Well, out of a hundred, you can still find about 20 per cent who are still learning. All I am saying is that it is not as it is supposed to be. At least those days, if you don’t go to school, you should be able to learn a hand work, but that is not so today. Kids of today do not want to go to school, learn work or even do anything at all. They prefer the easy life. It is the matured ones who are married and probably because things are not working properly in their husband’s houses that you see coming to learn. How can you train someone that is already in her husband’s house? You can’t even control them. Most times that they come to me here, when I consider their ages and the fact that they will always want to look down on you, I tell them, they will not be able to cope. Some of them even come with their children, and you know this job requires maximum hygiene. Can you imagine a customer coming to meet a stylist either breast feeding, or even cleaning the baby’s pooh and using the same hand on your hair? No, it doesn’t work that way. The funny thing is that most customers won’t complain or register their displeasure, but I can assure you that that might be the last time you will set your eyes on them.
Another one I will like to mention is that the hairdressing profession is not being operated the way it ought to have been operated. Take the chemist people for instance, if there is a chemist on this street now, you cannot have another chemist coming to open his shop here. It is their law; you have to move completely out of that street to open another chemist shop. But in the case of hairdressing, it is just like people selling pure water. You are a hairdresser, your neighbor beside you is a hairdresser and in front of you, there is a hairdressing salon and another adjacent you. How do you think it will work, it will be difficult for people to succeed in such, and you know the Nigerian factor, people will rather go for the cheaper one than for the best. My advice is that they should give a little gap, this will help.
Expectation from the government
I want the government to be of assistance to us, if they can help people like us with a loan and we will be paying back gradually, it will go a long way to boost our business.
Records of income and expenditure
Oh, yes I do keep record of everything I do. You know, this is not the kind of job you can say, I will make N30,000 this week or so. Sometimes, it will be higher than that, while in other times, it will be lower.
Achievements so far as a hairdresser/beautician
At least, with this job, I have been able to take care of my family, pay both my shop and house rent, and take care of other family expenses.
Source : Independent