The owner of one of the most prominent hair salons in Dhaka, Sabikun Nahar, sat down with us and shared her journey of breaking down barriers and de-stigmatizing her chosen career path. Here is her story:
Growing up in the hubbub of Dhaka, where people tend to undervalue creative professions, Sabikun Nahar always knew that she wanted to try her hand at hair-styling.
"This profession was my first choice, not my last resort," declared Sabikun, upon being asked why she chose to pursue hair-styling as a career.
Knowing exactly what she wanted from a young age worked in Sabikun's favor, making her more decisive about her life choices. Right after completing her O' levels from Scholastica, she moved to Malaysia for a couple more years of studies and consequently relocated to Australia to receive her hairdressing training. Sabikun credited her achievements so far to her excellent educators. She received rigorous training in Australia – in fact, she was told to drop out on the very first day. In Sabikun's opinion, her trainers' harsh teaching methods was what pushed her to reach her full potential.
After returning to Bangladesh, Sabikun took a job in a salon in Dhaka, but the experience of having to work for someone else left her unsatisfied. This eventually led her to start her own salon – Hair Bar, which gave her the creative liberty and flexibility that she was missing in her past employment. By creating an establishment that specifically catered to females in all departments of beautification – hair, makeup, manicure, pedicure, etc. – Sabikun became the youngest entrepreneur to dabble in the hair salon business.
Prestigious Fact: Sabikun's salon business was initially started in her balcony, but when her number of clients started to exceed the number of people her balcony could hold, Sabikun had to expand. Currently, she has two operational salons in the heart of Dhaka – one in Mohakhali DOHS and another in Gulshan.
Even though Sabikun's parents paid for her hair-dressing training, they were very unsure of her future career as a hair-stylist in Dhaka. This was not at all surprising to Sabikun, because she knew that people in Bangladesh were still stuck in their old ways. Nonetheless, Sabikun remained determined, never letting people's narrow-minded opinions hinder her from achieving her goals.
Aside from being the owner of not one, but two successful hair salons, she is also a Business graduate from the University of London. Upon returning to Bangladesh, Sabikun decided that she wanted to complete her education and started taking classes online. According to Sabikun, pursuing a degree and running a business simultaneously was an incredibly hard process, but she pulled through.
"I earned my business degree at the age of 30. Take it from me – it's never too late for anything," remarked Sabikun.
In Sabikun's opinion, hair styling is an art with a lot of technicalities – it involves a lot of knowledge of science and mathematics. Even though the profession of a hair-stylist allows a lot of opportunities to experiment, there is little room for error – direct service either leads to instant gratification or immediate aggravation. The real challenge of this occupation is client management, which, according to the gnarly entrepreneur, is quite a hectic job.
"Every day is a test where we have to make sure that every client who enters our premises leave satisfied," said Sabikun.
Additionally, the hairtastic trendsetter is immensely proud of being able to support minorities through her venture. As stated by Sabikun, the needs of the minorities of our country often tend to be overlooked, and she is very glad that she is being able to contribute as little as she can to her employees' (the majority of whom are minorities) growth and to the betterment of the society.
Sabikun feels as if women's voices are often drowned out by the much louder, intolerant opinions of society. She feels like women want to do so much more – not just with their hair, but with their careers and lives – but are often held back by the standards and norms that society sets for them.
"In the past, I have had my hair painted in all the colors of the rainbow. I'm not asking girls to follow my example and go all out – all I'm saying is that never let them restrict you or your imagination," advised Sabikun.
In terms of the future of Hair Bar, Sabikun has thought about releasing her line of hair products, but she doesn't want to rush into anything. She wants to take her time and build her business slowly. In addition to that, Sabikun wishes to start her very own Hairdressing Academy in Bangladesh, which, if she can accomplish, will be our country's first educational institution to provide training on professional hair-styling.
However, Sabikun clarified that for this business to obtain success as an industry, a lot of changes have to take place in our country – firstly, people will have to stop looking down on hairstyling as a profession. Through her venture, Sabikun has been trying to create a change. She has been trying to make people understand that not everyone needs to study Medicine or Engineering to be prosperous – that some people would rather be happier following their passion.