Why did you open your salon?
I started inHAIRitance 2 years ago because I saw a great need. I moved to Montreal, Canada 4 years ago from Berlin, Germany. I was used to not finding good hair products but I was under the impression that in North America it wouldn't be difficult to take care of my natural curly hair. It turned out to be a huge problem. I had to fly to Toronto or New York every time I wanted to have my hair serviced.
I was having trouble finding a job in Montreal that was at the same level as what I left in Berlin, so I decided to go back to my first passion. I wanted to change the landscape of natural hair in Canada.
Describe your average customer
My average customer is a 23 to 36 year-old working woman. 70% of my customers are francophone.
Who is your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from my foremothers. Every time I have a hard moment I think back to Maya Angelou and all of the people who paved they way for us to celebrate our hair. They paved they way for us to be able to celebrate our political rights and black feminism. Whenever I am down it humbles me to think of how hard they fought for the next generation of black women to have diverse opportunities.
What keeps you motivated?
My amazing team. People gave up their jobs to follow my dream. We built a company from scratch. It takes a lot of courage to jump into the boat and decide to make this new idea happen.
How big is your team?
We have 7 stylists, 1 receptionist, 2 sales staff, 1 social media specialist, and me!
What has been your biggest success so far?
One day a woman came into inHAIRitance after surviving breast cancer and she was depressed, dressed in dark colours, downcast. She didn't know what to do with her hair. Her husband wanted it to be straight again but she didn't want to put chemicals on it again. We had a consultation with her and educated her about her naturally curly hair. About a year later I saw her at the opening of our new location and she was dressed in bright yellow.
She was glowing. Her hair had amazing growth, she looked beautiful. She said to me, "Abisara, thank you. Thank you for showing me that I am beautiful the way I was created." I just started bawling.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I love doing consultations. Every time I sit a new person down and educate them about their naturally curly hair they gasp in disbelief and say the same thing: "I can't believe my hair can do this." Every time I hear that my heart jumps. It's all about helping people realize the beauty of their hair and what their hair is capable of doing.
What has been your greatest challenge?
Hiring staff is a challenge. Finding good staff that is committed. We provide our own schooling, training manuals and education and it's important to have staff that are willing to tap into a completely new field, new techniques and new strategies.
A lot of the French laws are challenging as well. The name "inHAIRitance" is a jou jou mot they call it in French or a play on words. Health Canada can also pose a problem because I import many of my natural hair products.
What do you want your business to look like in 10 years?
I want to be in 4 Canadian cities: Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal. I want to continue certifying people. My goal is to give a formula to other hairdressers who want to style natural hair but don't have the structure. I want to spread the news about curlcare. It still shocks me that naturally curly hair is not in the curriculum in hair schools.
Also, I think perms should be illegal at a certain age for children. It is a physical hazard that is detrimental to children's health. More discussion around this topic is necessary.
What advice would you give to new Canadian salons?
Start including trainings and education for curly hair. Invest in the education of your stylists. It comes back to you tenfold. Make sure your stylists stay up to date on the latest techniques.
For those that want to start something and have a lot of enthusiasm and energy: do your homework. There are no shortcuts. Each obstacle is a great lesson that sometimes reveals amazing truth. Become an expert in what you're doing. Consider legal and health requirements. The passion keeps you motivated but your discipline and work ethic are going to keep your business alive.
What is your hairstyle right now? Why?
Right now I'm wearing yarn twists. I usually don't like to wear extensions but yarn provides me with a great new option. It is a protective hairstyle it all its senses. You can hydrate your hair in between. The parts are big because my hair is more on the fine side. It's super light so that it doesn't pull on my roots, and it's really soft. Yarn is different from Kanekalon. Kanekalon is a plastic hair fibre that fights against your hair and because Kanekalon is so strong it always wins. I like yarn braids because I can be confident that I am wearing a protective style that is in no way harmful to my hair. I leave it in for about a month. I love it!
To maintain my yarn twists and keep my hair healthy underneath I spray it with my moisturizing spritz (water, essential oils, aloe, glycerin and others) once a day. Once a week I dry clean my scalp: I take a microfiber towel and put some water and shampoo on it, then run the cloth through my parts of my hair on my roots. I don't like to wash the yarn braids because I don't want to wait for them to dry. It's not gonna happen.
Is there anything else that you want to add?
Our product selection is 95% natural (Diva curl is the only exception, they are 85% natural). We are the only store like that. I want our clients to know that we hand select the products that are best for their hair and they can trust in our selection.
We offer free consultations.
Most of the time these consultations are hair therapy. We give people the opportunity to talk about their hair journey. For many of our clients it's the first time they have ever been given the opportunity to freely express their relationship with their hair.