Dad’s belief turned me from slum girl to successful hairdresser

– Jane Awino was a hairdresser in the slums of Mathare earning as little as KSh 150 per client

-When her dad and sisters continued pushing her to stick to the hairdressing dream, doors finally opened

-She has so far managed to open an opulent salon in Westlands that handles wealthy and well-paying clients.

Forty-four-year-old Jane Awino Okoth has strutted the hairdressing industry like the Colossus.

Having been born and raised in the sprawling slums of Mathare, Jane understands poverty like the palms of her hands.

The little light on her otherwise dim childhood stemmed from the fact that she discovered her love for hairdressing early in life. “I built a reputation as being a good hairdresser early in life and I liked it because it not only gave me money but also kept me away from trouble,” she said.

She attributes her achievement to the fact that her father always encouraged her to follow the passion.

According to her, one of the reasons for his support was that it helped feed the struggling family.

“Every time I was given a gig, I gave 50% of the money to my dad, and he would ask if I had left some for myself. That gave me the impetus to sink further into the hustle,” she said.

The more she made people’s hair, the farther her brand grew and soon she would get a job in a high-end salon.

Not long after, she made the massive switch from the ghetto to a posh salon nestled in the affluence of Nairobi’s Westlands.

The new designation not only changed her outlook on the hair industry but also exposed her to a new world she was yet to know existed.

“I was shocked that hairdressers earned as much as KSh 70,000 and dressed so elegantly while I was used to a mere KSh 2,000,” remembered Jane. When she got a life-changing opportunity to study hairdressing in America, Jane’s life changed for the better, and she has been on an upward trajectory since. She is now the owner of Rapunzel Hair Affair, still in Westlands, and has used her newfound wealth as well as skills to uplift other girls from the slums. That won her the Top 40 Under 40 Award in 2014, a recognition she cherishes. “It was a wonderful feeling to learn that people out there appreciated what I did for girls from the slums, yet I was doing it for the love of it,” said an elated Jane.

Jane is also full of gratitude for her sisters who gave her hope the many times she considered giving up along the way due to the feeling of inadequacy.

According to Jane, one sister ensured that she had nice outfits to fit her new job while the other offered the motivation to keep going on.