By By Francis Mukuzunga
November 2010
Business Ownership
SOME people go into business because ‘they simply have to do it’ while others get inspired by ‘those already in business’.

In the first example, a blindfolded person ventures into unchartered waters taking all sorts of risks, trying to make things work – all driven by the fact that they have grown too weary of serving someone and would like to be their own bosses.

In the second instance, one’s ego can be stimulated by the “if-they-can-why- can’t- I” syndrome. And that drives them mad as they fight tooth and nail to emulate their idols.

Both scenarios offer a great risk factor for first-timers who often cry out foul at the end of the day when their business ideas fail to make the grade achieved by their idols.

Far too often, there are a lot of things many people take for granted and in the end they feel that the world has turned against them.

Here, all sorts blame shifting takes place – from the bankers who had extended inadequate start-up funds, to the business advisor who drafted an intangible business profile and to the unviable business environment ‘ that only favours‘ the more established businesses at the expense of the novice – among others.

The successful ones though, it’s all plain smooth sailing - driven by the passion and desire to work and jump hurdles that may come along the way - driven by the quest for success.

This is what entrepreneur Julia Persaud found out when she decided to go into her own business line – that of supplying health and beauty products, as well as operating a hair salon. Persaud has managed and operated JNP Agencies since 2001 and says she is doing what she has a passion for in her life.

JNP Agencies have various products on offer ranging from hair, wigs, and hair relaxers to cosmetics. The shop opened in 2001 and due to high demand for beauty services, Persaud opened a salon on the top floor of her shop. She occasionally sends her employees for additional training and workshops.

Persaud is a beautician by training and a businesswoman specializing in top quality beauty and grooming products in Windhoek. She has built JNP Agencies from the humblest of all beginnings at the turn of the century.

Her shop and hair salon in the heart of Windhoek CBD have blossomed to become a case study for viable entrepreneurship in Namibia. But it did not just start there it’s a long story of hard work, sacrifice and achievements.

When she completed her Grade 12 in the late 1980s, the country was not yet independent and she had to go into exile for further studies in West Africa. It was during her days in West Africa that she realised the power of entrepreneurs in making brisk business from African women’s beauty .

“The beauty of the women there inspired me and I also got inspiration from Auntie Merriam whom I stayed with in West Africa. She had a hair salon and a clothing shop she operated from home but later moved to a shopping centre and became successful,” she says.

When Persaud returned home in 1994, she was full of passion to start her new business and make use of the ideas that she acquired in West Africa. At that time Namibia had just attained its independence and any business idea among blacks was viewed with suspicion.

She was forced to temporarily quit the idea of running her own African beauty shop in Namibia and looked for other means of survival.

But it didn’t last long before she quit the employment market and started a business in earnest in 1995 at her home village in the Omusati region. Her products included high quality artificial hair pieces, wigs and facial products but Omusati did not offer an attractive market for her products imported from South Africa.

She soldiered on as a sole business proprietor, visiting her clients door-to-door for a few years until she found a place to set up shop in central Windhoek in 2000. She then started off a hair salon with only two employees from the premises she currently operates from at Levinson Arcade.

Business started booming and within six months the number of employees had risen to six and today the number has grown to 15.

A shop was also set up within the same premises but became too small to keep the two businesses running smoothly. Lady luck smiled upon her in 2007 when another shop, directly opposite the JNP beauty care supply shop became available.

She hopes to expand her business line to create jobs for more people. The shop downstairs was immediately converted into a well-equipped hair salon catering for all types of people.

“Our products are for everyone regardless of their skin colour or type of hair. They are guaranteed by our suppliers in South Africa and all over the world. If a customer wants a certain type of hair extension and particular style they simply buy their requirements from the shop and walk directly into the salon to have their hair done by our stylists,” says Persaud.

The JNP Shop also supplies other salons with beauty care products that are imported and sold at wholesale prices locally. The idea seems to work though as the shop is inundated with customers from all walks of life – including men.

Persaud insists that everyone, including men must take care of the way they look and therefore a good product range of shavers, creams and after shave lotions are available. The hair salon next door also employs two professional barbers who take care of all men’s grooming needs.

Apart from just running the shop and the hair salon, Persaud has also managed to offer vocational training to hairdressers at her salon. From time to time, representatives of her South African suppliers often come to Namibia to give training and workshops on how best to use their products.

She also offers advice to those who want to start similar businesses but warns that “it’s not easy and one has to work really hard to achieve something in life”.

When one wants to go into hair salon business, she says, they should not do so just because they have seen someone doing it, but they should do it out of passion and are expected to run professionally.

“One problem I realised was that banks and other financial institutions do not take this trade seriously just like all viable business ventures. Many people who approach their bankers for start-up loans often fail to make it because they get less than what they applied for as reflected in their business plans.”

Persaud says she got by with advances from friends and relatives who believed in her. However, she insists that it is always hard work that pays off in the end. One guiding principle that led her to success was that “you have to dream while you’re awake so that you will be able to live your dream”.
Persaud says she tries by all means to live up to that principle.

She also has a word of advice to the would-business people: “A lot of black people do not know how to manage their businesses, especially when they are starting out. One has to work according to the business plan and stick to it. When they are in business and perhaps not qualified to handle the finances they should perhaps attend short courses in basic accounting, pricing as well as complying with set out obligations such as payment of VAT and other taxes to avoid problems in future.”

Persaud advises her current and potential customers to buy high quality and real Brazilian hair as opposed to fake Chinese imitations that are currently circulating on the market. Some people, she says have been moving around duping women within offices and even at their homes purporting to be selling genuine Brazilian hair.

As far as competition for JNP is concerned, Persaud doesn’t feel much of it as “there is enough space for everyone in this business”. She says, however, that it is very important to give all customers good service satisfaction and high quality products at prices that are worth the product.

Persaud has several qualifications from the Polytechnic of Namibia’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) 2006, Intec (SA) Health and Beauty Care Certificate (2004), Kayec Trust, Ministry of industry and Trade (development certificate) and several Avroy Shlain sales certificates for selling their products in Namibia.

She believes that it is very important for one to equip themselves with knowledge of how to run their business and that people should value their health and beauty by eating balanced diet, doing exercises and having enough rest.

As a mother of two, Jiliana and Gwen, Persaud says she creates time for them out of her very busy business schedule to attend to their needs. She believes family is a very important unit every parent should feel responsible for.

JNP Agencies continues to grow with more women in Namibia realising the importance of looking good and feeling good. Persaud sees JNP Agencies spreading its tentacles to other towns in Namibia within the next five to 10 years, thereby creating its own brand of shops and beauty salons. PF