From the outside, Aroos Hair and Beauty looks like any other business trading on Pitt Street, outside Merrylands train station. However, inside, a determined mother and daughter are working tirelessly towards a shared dream: having their own business, and their lives, firmly set up in Australia. SSI’s Ignite Small Business Start-ups initiative is supporting them on this journey.
Zeynab, who arrived in Australia from Iran with her daughter Mobina in 2013, has never liked the idea of working for someone else. In her home country, she ran her own business for many years and this mindset hasn’t changed in her new country.
“My mum started working as a hairdresser when she was 21 and hasn’t stopped,” said 17-year-old Mobina, who was interpreting for the interview. “Back home, she owned her own salon and used to teach hairdressing students, as well.”
However, after arriving in Australia, Zeynab realised how different her profession is over here. In Iran many women wear a scarf (hijab), so not a lot of attention and efforts is placed on the hair, everyone focuses on make-up, she said.
She knew that she had to learn everything she could about hairdressing in Australia if she wanted to open her own salon one day. Given she was still waiting for her working rights to be approved, she decided to volunteer at different stores, where she learned the basic vocabulary of her profession in English and the Australian preferences for styles.
Determined to achieve her dream, she also started studying a Certificate III in Hairdressing, which she completed in January this year. Then, with the local experience and qualifications under her belt, Zeynab opened her beauty salon in the Merrylands a month later.
However, the business did not grow as she hoped and Zeynab admitted they were struggling. Despite opening seven days a week and putting in all the hours of the day, her lack of knowledge about the local industry and how to run a business in Australia became a major problem.
One day, she went to see her Case Manager at SSI and she told her about Ignite Small Business Start-ups, an initiative that facilitates business creation for people from refugee backgrounds. Ignite enterprise facilitators can help entrepreneurs who are keen to establish a small business or expand an existing one, as in Zeynab’s case.
Through her Case Manager, they organised a meeting with Ben Benazzouz, one of the initiative’s facilitators.
“When she was referred to Ignite, the business was already open but we detected several gaps that explained why it wasn’t running properly,” Ben explained.
“Payments were only available in cash, so we linked her to a bank that provided her with an EFTPOS machine and a savings account free for the first 12 months.”
Over the next weeks, Ignite volunteers, who have a experience in areas such as marketing and business, assisted Zeynab in creating a marketing plan for her salon and in organising her statements to keep track of her earnings and expenses.
“We are so grateful to Ben and to the Ignite team,” said Zeynab in English. “We feel very lucky to have them close to us, as we had no idea of how these things worked here in Australia.”
When asked about the future of her business, her daughter steps in quickly.
“In a few years, I’ll be managing the salon and my mum will be finally able to rest,” she said. “I’m now studying to become a make-up artist at TAFE. I have many innovative ideas of what I want to add to a traditional beauty salon like this one, so that it is more appealing for people of my generation.”
“She’s right,” said Zeynab nodding her head. “I am building this business for her, so she can be an independent woman and contribute to society, without depending on anyone else.”