Ever wondered what it takes to set up and run a successful hair salon? We chat to Ama Safo, hairstylist and founder of Ama Hair Salon based in north London for the last 20 years.
What inspired you to want to create your own hair salon?
I started my career as a professional hairdresser more than 30 years ago and have run my salon for just over 20 years. The idea to start my own hair salon all began from the negative experiences I had with hairdressers. With long waiting times, and unsatisfying customer service, I was often told to relax my natural afro hair as it was deemed more desirable and “easier to manage”. So, I turned to taking care of my hair myself.
Growing up in Ghana I had experience in braiding, cornrows, treatments, washing, trimming, weaves and wigs and this motivated me to take the plunge and start styling other women’s hair. I applied everything I had learnt from my positive and negative experiences at hair salons to provide Black women with better services and hair care treatment. It was very exciting, but it wasn’t easy!
Lounging in Charlotte’s web
How did you grow your clientele without social media back then?
In 1991, I rented a chair at a shared hair salon in Tottenham, working alongside other barbers and hairdressers. This enabled me to learn new hairstyles quickly and to grow my clients in the local community. I focused on establishing rapport with each of my clients and provided them with personalised hair consultation allowing them to understand what their hair needs. Word of mouth helped grow my business too! I also invested in creating a loyal customer base, so I often communicated with them outside of their appointment by sending them text messages of offers and producing business cards and leaflets.
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How did you build on your skills?
I often spend time creating new styles and looking at global trends while keeping up with industry news – this is something I’ve done for decades now and I’m always learning something! In the past I studied hairdressing at CONEL (College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London) to be officially certified as a professional in both Afro and European hair textures including barbering. I also have a fantastic team of stylists and barbers who each have their own specialisms such as cuts, colouring and braiding.
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When did Ama Hair Salon officially open?
Ama Hair Salon officially opened in 2001 on St Ann’s Road, Tottenham. My business was growing, and I needed more space to accommodate my equipment and growing customer base. With my own studio I had to put more effort in purchasing the industry leading equipment and interior design. These days the interior design has to be aesthetically appealing to match the excellent service customers receive. With African hints throughout the salon, we’ve been able to create a welcoming space that embraces all sorts of hair types for both men and women.
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What’s your most and least favourite thing about running a hair salon!
What I love most is seeing people grow in confidence and glow with beauty when they see their new hairstyle! It’s a wonderful feeling to see. I also enjoy working with my son Silas who makes my job fun! He is a barber and stylist and typically helps me manage the salon as he takes care of recruitment, operations and marketing. My least favourite thing would be how tiring it can get, the days are often long and physically demanding, but I make sure to take some time out to rest and eat well.