When the South African government announced the lockdown restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many small businesses were forced to shut their doors with no means of generating an income. While many industries were negatively affected by these new restrictions, customer-facing businesses such as hair salons were dealt the biggest blow – they were only allowed to open their doors under level 1 restrictions.
There have been many inspirational success stories of small business owners who have managed to innovate their businesses to bring in some sort or revenue during this uncertain time. One exceptional example is Yvette Huddy, a Cape Town-based hair stylist who has secured her livelihood by using Payfast to sell essential hair products online during lockdown.
Establishing Just Peachy Hair
Originally from the Netherlands, Yvette moved to Cape Town with her husband in 2011 where she worked as a sole proprietor renting a chair in a hair salon. In October 2019 her dream came true when she established her own hair salon, Just Peachy Hair, in Cape Town’s southern suburb of Claremont.
“Just Peachy Hair consists of a small, five member team who work very closely together. We are on the salon’s floor five days a week seeing to our clients’ hair needs. Before the enforced lockdown, the business’ turnover was generated entirely through the hair care services we provided and the in-shop retail sales made,” said Yvette.
Keeping afloat amidst COVID-19 uncertainty
Due to the physical nature of hairdressers, their industry has been classified as high risk and are therefore forbidden from working during the current severity of the COVID-19 pandmeic. “This means that we are only allowed back to work on level 1, which is absolutely devastating. With my original business model, there was no way of generating an income outside of selling vouchers, which isn’t a great long term solution,” said Yvette.
“As soon as we found out that this lockdown was going to be a long stretch for us, I started to think of different ways I could still generate an income in order to cover the expenses associated with the salon, such as staff salaries and my monthly rental for the salon space itself,” continued Yvette.
During lockdown, some of the suppliers that Yvette worked with were very proactive and involved in helping to get the industry online. Salon Bridge, the booking system that Just Peachy Hair uses, launched an online platform allowing hairdressers to sell retail products and vouchers using Payfast as the online payment method. However, while the financial response from selling the various retail products that Yvette still had sitting on her salon shelves was great, unfortunately it wasn’t sufficient to pay salaries and rent.
Moving online to generate new revenue streams
In desperation, Yvette decided to do something that was deemed as controversial in her industry, and which she would never have considered pre-COVID-19 times. She started asking some of her regular clients as to whether they would like a complete root touch up kit containing their regular colour used and all the tools they would need to apply it safely at home themselves.
“For any new clients requesting these kits, I schedule a one-on-one Zoom or WhatsApp call to have a consultation to see what colour they are most likely to need. Once we’ve decided on the right colour I send them a Payment Request via email, and as soon as the payment has been sent I arrange to personally deliver the root touch up kit to their door anywhere in the Cape Town area,” said Yvette.
“I consider Payfast’s Payment Request feature to be a safe and easy way for clients to make their payments via their preferred payment method. It’s also an easy way for me to keep track of incoming payments because it’s much more convenient than asking every client to do an EFT and requiring them to send through their proof of payment,” continued Yvette.
Assisting hair stylists in the same predicament
A few weeks into lockdown, Yvette led a webinar called “Hairstylist in lockdown, now what?” for about 20 hairstylists and salon owners to show them how to generate some form of turnover during lockdown, from building one’s brand on social media to selling online.
“Over the last few years, social media has played a bigger and more important role in the hairdressing industry itself. Hairdressers now use Instagram to showcase their work and communicate with their clients, and I am no exception. By posting on Instagram daily, you could essentially see our Instagram profile as our shop’s window,” said Yvette.
The second aspect of the webinar was about how to generate an income as a hairstylist during lockdown. “Professionally speaking, there are a lot of things that we can’t let our clients do at home such as highlights, balayage and blondes in general is more tricky and risky, but root touch up kits and virtual hair appointments, where you talk your client through cutting their partner or child’s hair, are definitely options,” said Yvette.
Yvette noted that the big question she is asked (and where the controversy comes in) is if she’s worried that her clients are going to learn a new skill through this and never come back to her hair salon. “I believe that once my clients realise that I’m not only helping them out in these crazy times, but that it’s also way more enjoyable to be seated in your salon chair drinking a cup of tea or coffee, reading a magazine and having a professional attending to their hair, they will return without hesitation,” said Yvette.
Making the most out of lockdown
According to Yvette, lockdown presents a great opportunity for small businesses owners to think about what they want their business to look like once they are legally allowed to go back to work. This includes everything from improving branding, training staff and reassessing cancellation policies.
“The bottom line is we have time available to us now, and if we focus our efforts on determining as to what our businesses will look and how they will operate when we are allowed to return to work, then you will have newfound optimism, energy and direction to help see your business through these times. It’s important to use this time proactively and use readily available tools, like Payfast, to make some money now online,” said Yvette.
“I think we can all sense that things are going to be very different post COVID-19, and I mean that in a positive way. I have been growing my business in ways I never thought were possible and I am planning for what may effectively become a new normal in the hair salon industry. We are all in this together and this will end – it’s just a matter of time,” concluded Yvette.