WHILE pursuing her studies in Sweden over nearly a decade ago, Albertina Ndishishi (AN), who was 19 years-old at the time, was introduced to a hair vendor who assisted in caring for her natural hair. The encounter also led to the birth of her renowned hair business, Virgin Hair Boutique cc (VHB) after she returned home. She graduated with a double major in Psychology and Sociology.
Today, Ndishishi now 29 years-old has distinguished herself by bringing a different approach to the hair industry. Her business, which has grown in leaps and bounds, now offers services in three towns – Windhoek, Swakopmund and Ondangwa with a workforce of 20.
The company has also diversified by opening up amongst others Phileo Babies cc, a baby company she established to honour the memory of her late baby boy.
The entrepreneur hopes to grow the company to several retail stores and visual e-commerce stores catering to the international market.
In an interview with Confidente’s Marianne Nghidengwa (MN), Ndishishi reflected on her business that has given effortless beauty and confidence to her clients.
MN: Briefly tell us about yourself and upbringing.
AN: My name is Albertina Ashisheoshange Ndishishi and I’m 29 years old. I was born in a small village called Onekwaya west, in the Ohangwena region. I spent the first formative years of my life there until I moved to Windhoek when I was nine years-old. Growing up in the village with my grandmother and great-grandparents meant that they instilled in me discipline, good manners and strong values from quite an early age which laid the foundation of the woman I am today. We ploughed the fields, pounded mahangu, herded livestock and all traditional chores you can think of. Although it was a blessing in disguise, the transition from rural areas to the city proved to be very challenging for me. For the first time then, I was concsious of the socio-economic differences between myself and other children. I truly knew what it felt like to ‘come from a humble background’. My entrepreneurial spirit however, was born out of a need to lessen the burden on my family. I wanted to help myself as well so I sold goods throughout high school up until varsity and by the time I graduated from the University of Namibia, the entrepreneurial bug had already sunk in .Today I am the sole owner and managing director of the Virgin Hair Boutique cc and Phileo Babies cc.
MN: Tell us about the establishment of VHB and services it offers. What were key lessons you learned during the process?
AN: Contrary to popular belief, I never planned on venturing into the hair industry. While I was on an exchange programme in Sweden, I was introduced to a hair vendor that could assist me with my hair. Before that, I had already a rather successful sweets business on campus and it was not until I got back home and saw the interest of people in my perfect weave that I thought perhaps a change in business was what I needed.
I was 19 years-old at the time and with my savings from my sweets business as well savings from my scholarship, I ordered my first batch of hair and the rest as they say is history. Today the Virgin Hair Boutique cc is a fully fledged company in its own right, with three boutique branches in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Ondangwa. I have 20 fulltime employees across the branches.
Virgin Hair Boutique cc
Based in Swakopmund, Ondangwa and Windhoek, we sell exclusive high end, premium quality extensions catering for the modern beauty conscious women as well as beauty on a budget which is more for women on a budget line of extensions that come in 11 different lengths and up to five different textures. Together with our partner company in Argentina and Singapore, we have come up with our own exclusive hair care line which has 10 different products under the VHB brand aimed for both individual home use and professional use in hair salons.
VHB Hair Studio
We also have three hair studios in the three towns we are based. We offer professional wig making, manufacture wigs by hand and install other protective styles using lace systems as an alternative to the traditional weave-in techniques, which have caused much damage to women’s hair.
VHB Transport Logistics
This part of the business offers in and out of town transport logistics to both individuals and companies.
VHB Salon Supplies
This is a subsidiary of the Virgin Hair Boutique cc, and with our first containers in transit we will be offering advanced and affordable salon equipment as well as accessories such as dryers, washing stations, mirror stations and wig making equipment amongst others.
Phileo Babies cc
My experience as a mom in 2017 and losing my son that same year prompted me to start a baby company in his name, Phileo Babies cc which is a baby company that manufactures baby cots, beds and furniture, importing of baby equipment and infant formula. Most importantly it manufactures and distributes alternative, sustainable baby diapers for modern parents. This is my way of keeping his memory alive and preparing myself for motherhood again in the near future. In a way I’m also sharing my dreams for him with other children and mothers. One of the most important lessons I learned in starting and running my businesses is to have faith in God. I truly believe that we are able to do all we can by his grace and power, thus never think you can go far without believing in him. Consult him in all your decisions for guidance and wisdom. Believe in yourself and in your abilities to accomplish the goals you set for yourself. Sometimes most people will never believe or understand your vision and that is ok, but believe in it and pursue it wholeheartedly. Be a self-starter and pro-active in everything you do, this means you have to lead from the front and be exemplary to your team. An entrepreneur generally, is a risk taker but you need to be careful and learn how to take calculated risks
MN: How did you promote your business initially, and how did the market react?
AN: At first it was by word of mouth. I got a lot of clients through referrals, but once the business started picking up, I started advertising in newspapers. With the popularity of social media, I moved into that as well. Today we mainly advertise a lot on radio and social media using corporate image branding .We have a whole team dedicated to producing quality images and video content for our consumers.
MN: What are challenges and opportunities facing the business today?
AN: Our greatest challenge is the bad economy right now, we mostly deal with international currencies and when they fluctuate, it has an effect on our profits because our prices are fixed. The high taxes and duties imposed on importers also makes it difficult for us to offer high quality goods at affordable prices to our clients. Although the economy is quite weak right now, our drive and passion keeps us consistent in our delivery until the economy changes for the better hopefully.
MN: What makes your hair boutique stand out compared to others?
AN: I think that our competitive advantage lies in the fact that we’ve been in the industry for close to 10 years. We have accumulated a lot of knowledge in the industry, which I believe made us pioneers in what we do. We’ve learned what works and what doesn’t as well as how to best get in touch with our market. I am a hair fanatic and I personally oversee everything that goes on our shelves. I always allow for a three month testing period before we introduce a new product to the market to ensure quality. We also have a studio that creates video and image content of our actual products used for advertising. Customers can get a real look and feel of the actual products that we offer. I believe the fact that we not only sell the goods but also teach our clients how to use our products and also install them at our premises gives us that competitive advantage. This whole process has enabled us to build a brand that people trust and always go to.
MN: What latest hair trends should people consider?
AN: People should consider investing in wig units and lace systems. These products are excellent at covering and protecting natural hair while giving a natural look. Wearing a lace system whether installed directly on the head or turned into a wig, gives an illusion of hair growing from the scalp while covering up everything and allowing edges to grow back and hair to also grow. This also means that one no longer has to use chemicals in an attempt to match hair with extensions.
MN: Just what do you do for a little fun?
AN: When I’m not so busy, I like to read a good book, spend some time with friends having dinner and cocktails and most importantly hanging around my sisters, plotting something crazy.
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