Who knew that a black hair salon could create a lot of buzz — especially in a country where most of its patrons are not black.
Martha Makuena is credited for starting the first black hair care salon in Beijing, China, an East Asian country that she and Paul Luyeye migrated to from the Congo in 1999. Makuena has no regrets about moving to the country and has found ways to combat some of the challenges that presented themselves to her along the way. One of those challenges was the fact that she couldn’t find any place in Beijing where people were capable of styling her hair.
So, she started her salon and has been scoring big from non-black customers. In an interview with BBC, Makuena described how Asians come to her salon to pick up black hair-dos because of their uniqueness.
She says that these patrons come in and say, “I want to look cool so they come to braid their hair.”
Makuena who learned to speak Chinese fluently, has also had to overcome the stigma of her skin as a business owner, claiming that “language” is the most important aspect about doing business in China and setting residents at ease about her work.
“People when they look at Africans they think about bad things,” Makuena said. They think that some Africans set up shop, come for a second, and disappear, taking advantage of China’s economy for a passing moment. However, her determination to create a business in the most unlikely of places has paid off for her. Her skin color no longer creates issues or resistance of customers.
“They don’t just see me as African, they see me as a person doing businesses.”
“They are respecting me and the way I am.”