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“Hair and hairstyles are an artistic expression of self.” - Sammy's Braids
Black hair businesses have been growing in numbers within the Peterborough-Nogojiwanong community over the past couple of years. Prior to this, you would often hear of people having to travel as far as Toronto for stylists that specialize in textured hair. If you are new to or currently residing in the community and have been wondering where to find these Black hair businesses, this article is for YOU. Arthur interviewed four local hair stylists, asking them about the services they provide, what inspired them to start their businesses and what their experience has been thus far as Black hair stylists in town.
Black hair is an area that is not given as much focus within most hairstyling schools. It requires precise care and maintenance that is specific to each individual. From washdays that can take up to two days, to different protection styles that can take up to eight hours - it’s truly a laborious work of art. There are over a dozen different hairstyles, cuts and protective styles for a wide range of hair types from Type 1 to Type 4.
Given the restrictions that COVID-19 has required of local businesses, hairstyling was one of the first few to be directly impacted due to the close proximity between stylist and client. Fortunately as Peterborough-Nogojiwanong has advanced to Phase 3 of re-opening, stylists are once again welcoming new clients. In what follows, we interview Sammy's Braids, BraidsbyMarilyn, Trimz by T, and Irun Elewa.
Sammy’s Braids is run and managed by Samantha Banton, a member of the Peterborough-Nogojiwanong community, and a proud Trent University alumni from the class of 2018. Samantha learned how to braid hair when she was ten years old and has been braiding professionally for four years. Her passion and entrepreneurial mindset were the inspiration behind opening her business. As a child she often “watched her grandmother weave baskets and fans from a tatch tree, turning leaves from a plant into a beautiful functioning item using a braiding pattern.”
I always watched, intrigued but was never allowed to indulge. I believe I transitioned that into creating my first set of braids known as plaits.”
Along with the inspiration from her grandmother, Samantha was also motivated to start her business because of the lack of textured hair stylists in Peterborough: “The business inclination mostly came from an experience that made me realize the lack of textured hair stylist in Peterborough was a problem that I could solve. I went into a salon inquiring to get a bob cut and the stylist said ‘Sorry, but I don’t know how to cut your hair type.’ I respected her response but walked out of the salon feeling inspired and motivated to turn my hobby into a business.”
Since then, she has been running a successful business that operates services in both Peterborough and Whitby. The extent of services offered by Sammy's Braids are mostly protective styles for kinky/coily/curly hair types, which include everything from braids in all variations (single braids, cornrows, twists etc, all forms of crochet hairstyles, weaves, dreads, washes, and treatments).
“Though our services are based in the black hair community, our doors are open to everyone which reflects our values: Sammy's Braids is the home base for unique braided hairstyles. We cater to all hair types from kinky to fine textured hair. We strive to create a hair culture on the realization that all hair types are uniquely beautiful and should be treated as such.”
When asked about her experience as a hair stylist in Peterborough that specialized in textured hair, she mentioned how fulfilling and eye-opening it has been:
“Being a braider in Peterborough has been equally fulfilling as it has been eye opening. I am blessed to be able to do something I love for an amazing set of people as my clientele is mostly Peterborough based. However, braiding hair in a small town which is still growing on the diversity spectrum, I get to realize through the lens of my clients, that there are people who unconsciously discriminate against certain hair types or hairstyles. This leads to discussions such as ‘I want to do this hairstyle but I can't do it for the first week at this new job because I don't want to be stereotyped as ‘ghetto’ before they get to know me.’ On the flip side, there is more love and appreciation for what I do and those I do it for that drowns out the ignorance of those who are yet to be educated. Hair and hairstyles are an artistic expression of self.”
The impact of COVID-19 had a minimal effect on Sammy’s Braids due to Samantha’s business model which follows an appointment-only protocol. Although the pandemic led to a three month pause in operations, Samantha has adopted safety guidelines to ensure the safety of her clients and herself.
Sammy’s Braids can be found on Instagram under the handle @sammys_braids, on Facebook under the name ‘Sammy’s Braids’ and her website sammysbraids.ca. If you would like to get in touch with Sammy personally, she is also open to emails and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Hair of the beautiful”
“Irun Elewa” translates to “Hair of the beautiful” in Yoruba. The business is owned by Comfort Adekanye, who is a Media Studies and Philosophy student at Trent University. She specializes in wig making and fixing, braids, cornrows, and more. She encourages clients to reach out with the style of their choice, as she is always eager to work with her clients in reaching their needs.
Comfort has recently just started taking calls and has implemented safety precautions for herself and her clients. Clients are required to wear masks and wash their hands before the appointment begins.
I asked Comfort what inspired her to start her business, and she shared a story similar to the others I heard - she was someone who once had a hard time finding stylists in Peterborough-Nogojiwanong that specialized in her hair.
“[I] just really wanted to put some of my skills to use and help people style their hair in affordable ways. When I got here, I couldn’t find anyone to help me style my hair. I knew there were other people with that same problem and since I know how to style hair, I decided to put those skills to use.”
I asked Comfort about her experience as a black hair stylist in Peterborough. She touched on how the rise of other businesses have increased competition for clients, but nonetheless she enjoys what she does and supports other businesses.
“I find that it is very competitive now because Peterborough is a small place the hair business has grown with a lot of people making hair now. Trying to make your services affordable as well as making them good enough to keep drawing customers is really competitive. Other than that, I really like it because I can put my skills to use and it keeps me on my toes to constantly keep researching and adding more services to keep my customers happy”
You can find Comfort on her Instagram page under the handle @irun.elewa, where photos of clients showcase her work, and you can find more information on her price lists and booking information.
Tokoni Edmund-tam’nabo, a current undergraduate student at Trent University is the owner of Trimz by T. Tokoni became a barber in 2018, and has since then been offering a variety of services to clients all around Nogojiwanong-Peterborough. These services include different types of fades (ie, bald, mid, high, drop, burst), along with many other types of fade haircuts “done with perfection and precision”. They also offer low cuts, line-ups, beards, comb over haircuts, taper haircuts at all affordable and student friendly prices.
I also asked Tokoni about the inspiration behind his business, what led him to start his business, and what his overall experience has been as a Black barber in Peterborough-Nogojiwanong.
His inspiration is one that stemmed from his homeland Nigeria, and is tailored to students with a focus on affordable prices for all. “The reason I started Trimz by T was simple, I have always wanted to own businesses and manage them to my own definition of success. Businesses that are leading in innovation and world leaders in their different industries. Businesses that will bring healing to communities and provide wealth for the common man or at least meet his needs - which is what brought me to start Trimz by T. I am the common man, an average student who did not have a lot of money, [in] fall of 2018 getting a haircut would cost an arm and a leg on my student budget. After doing a bit of research, it became apparent that I was not the only one who could not really afford a haircut as often as I needed. The summer of 2018, I had interned for a month at a barbershop back home in Nigeria, West Africa where I learnt the basics of cutting hair. Using the knowledge I had acquired there combined with powerhouse barbers like 360 Jeezy and Vic blends I had been watching on Youtube, I decided to start Trimz by T. Giving my clients haircuts at student friendly prices, of course!”
When asked about his experience as a barber, he brought attention to an often unnoticed assumption, that as a Black barber, people often think that you are only capable of style black and curly hair.
“Being a barber in Peterborough is quite interesting, and if you are a Black barber, it gets even more interesting. Being a Black barber in Peterborough, there is the illusion that you may only be able to cut curly or black hair which is not true. If you are a barber you will be good at a particular style or texture of hair nonetheless, you can still cut all types of hair and do a great job on them. As an entrepreneur, I view Peterborough as fertile ground with endless possibilities of growth for my business. I intend to cultivate the soil and reap its harvest either as a business owner or as a barber.”
Tokoni mentioned that COVID-19 has drastically slowed down his business, and overall been a negative experience for both his businesses and his clients. We hope that as we move along stages, Tokoni is able to rebuild his clientele and have his business back up to how it was prior to the pandemic.
“With regulations from the government easing since we’re in phase 2 of the re-opening of businesses in Ontario, I plan to take all the necessary precautions to keep both my clients and I safe which is why my reopening process is slower than all other barbershops and hair businesses. Upon re-opening, it would not be business as usual. Both my clients and I would be required to wear masks at all times during the business hours. Handwashing would be an essential part of the daily business operations and pricing may be slightly different from what they were prior to COVID-19.”
You can find Trimz by T listed on www.fresha.com to book an appointment. Trimz by T is also on Instagram under the handle @trimz_by_t, and on facebook under the name Trimz By T.
Braids By Marilyn is owned and managed by Marilyn Nwokolo, a recent Trent graduate who has been braiding hair for two years and counting. Along with continuously learning more skills and techniques, she specializes in a variety of hairstyles such as braids (box and knotless), twists, crochet, cornrows and more.
Marilyn has recently started her business using Instagram as the main platform, and has since been gaining a tremendous amount of support from friends and other community members. When asked what inspired her to start her business she shared how her university friends helped her recognize her talent and passion for hair.
“My mum enrolled me in a braiding class after high school but I did not take it seriously at the time. When I came to university, one of my close friends allowed me to braid her hair and I noticed I was actually good. I then decided to casually braid hair and increasingly fell in love with it. I only just decided to make it an official business recently because my passion for braiding grew and I loved the constant joy clients got after getting their hair done by me.”
When asked whether COVID-19 has impacted her business, she shared that it did the very opposite. Although the pandemic led to a pause in business, it helped expand her customer base, by having the extra time to invest in her business and gain the motivation to open an online hair page. She plans on revamping her business as the city advances through phases of reopening, and will be posting the reopening guidelines and updates on her page. You can find Marilyn on Instagram under the handle @braidsbymarilyn.
“I love being a hair braider here! Braiding is what I love doing and I literally have the best clients and supporters.”