It is an unexpected setting for a beauty salon, tucked away inside a community centre in Al-Hashmi, East Amman. When you enter the small salon – ‘Sabaya Style’ – there’s an excited buzz. The five women running this new enterprise have the salon professionally kitted out with Hollywood-style mirrors and lights around the white walls, with accents of pink from the beauty accessories.
Almost one year since their opening, the women share how they turned their dream into a reality. Rawda explains: “We all took a course in cosmetics, hairdressing and nails here at the community centre, that’s how we met. Soon afterwards CARE approached us and asked if we would be interested in forming a group to set up our own business with their support. Thanks to them, our dream has come true and we are all proud of what we have achieved so far.”
Ekhlas continues: “Rawda has the most amount of experience amongst us, she has worked in salons for 25 years, that’s why we chose her as our leader.” Ekhlas herself has only recently started working, she explains: “I have four children ages 13, 15, 19 and 20, so I spent the last 20 years as a homemaker, occasionally cutting the neighbours’ hair to make a little income. Now that the children are growing up and my husband is working abroad, I am free to start my own project. It’s a nice balance between home and work and my husband is ok with that.”
The three other members of the group are much younger, 25-year-old Shatha explains. “For the three of us single ladies, our parents didn’t approve at the beginning, they didn’t support our idea to set up the salon. They were worried about the long working hours and being out late. For us in Jordan, it is considered culturally too late for a girl to be leaving work at 6:30 pm. We are not free to leave to work and come home when we choose. But we’ve worked out a shift system between the five of us and my father picks me up from work.”
The women talk about facing other barriers, such as securing a business loan. Shatha adds: “I originally tried to get a business loan to run a salon from home but I couldn’t guarantee my income and the interest was too high.” Rawda adds: “We were very lucky to have this opportunity to set up the salon in the community centre. If we were to set up a salon outside we would need to pay to be registered and get a licence, the rents outside are nearly triple what we pay here.”
They go on to talk about what it feels like to be business owners. “When I worked in another salon I knew that I could do a better job than the owner”, says Shatha. “Now we are the business owners, we are the queens of ourselves! No one can control us and it feels so much better. It’s difficult to be in business, even for a man, as the economic situation is tough. But even though our profit is low we are very happy as we are only just starting out.”
20 year old Shahd who sits timidly throughout most of the conversation proudly speaks out. “This has been our hobby since we were really young and we have turned that hobby into a profession.”
When asked what advice they would give to other aspiring entrepreneurs, the advice comes thick and fast: Be persistent. Love what you do. Plan well. Improve yourself. Ekhlas sums it up: “If a woman believes she is on the right path, is determined and believes in herself, then she will succeed.”
When asked about their future aspirations Shatha concludes: “We are willing to learn more so that we can become better and better. We refuse to listen to negativity from the community. We want to have more work, enlarge our salon and have better facilities so that we can all have a better income.” This young woman knows exactly what she wants.