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Home > Life Stories > The Skilled Entrepreneur - UK - 1

The Skilled Entrepreneur - UK - 1

This group of entrepreneurs came to the UK with a craft skill that they have used as the foundation for their business. These include carpentry, furniture making, plumbing, sewing, hairdressing and car mechanics. While some of these entrepreneurs mainly serve their own community most work within the wider UK market and as a result are well-integrated and generally have good to excellent spoken English. In many cases these entrepreneurs were married to a British person and found this helpful both in language acquisition and also in negotiating UK regulations relating to their business.  

Miss M came to the UK from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a young teenager and settled in the Midlands. Her mother was a hairdresser who on arrival on the UK noted that while braiding was common in DRC in the UK black women preferred to use hair extensions. Miss M learned her skill from watching her mother and helping her with this work. It can take up to five hours to put extensions in. Miss M finds it worrying that so many black children being brought up in the UK are dissatisfied with their hair. She is often asked to put extensions in for very young children who are finding school difficult because of their hair; they ask for blonde or brown coloured hair, like that of pop star Beyonce, in preference to their own hair.

Miss M started her business to help pay her way through university. She needed money and by advertising her service as a mobile hairdresser she did not need to invest in premises. This also allowed her to fit clients in round her studies. Initially she thought there would not be too much work and she bought her supplies directly from her mother rather than dealing with wholesalers herself. However, she quickly found that she had a significant number of clients, mainly because she was able to offer cheaper prices than salons, simply because she had no overheads associated with premises and staffing.

Miss M found that once she started buying her own good she was able to source products more cheaply, this is because her mother is not able to use the Internet and relied on a wholesale supplier that she could visit. Miss M was able to increase her profits as a result of the ability to source supplies online. She also found that as word of her venture spread through her year group non-African girls were asking for extensions, giving her additional work. Miss M noted that this is slightly more difficult than working with African hair; the extensions are made from Chinese hair and this is coarse and does not take well to the pale colours and finer texture of European hair. She managed to find a training course where she could develop skills in working with extensions in European hair and feels that the investment in this has been worthwhile as it allowed an expansion of her business. Miss M commented that for her this was easy as she speaks good English but for her Francophone friends such options are less easy to access.

Miss M plans to expand her business once she has finished at university, she thinks students' entrepreneurship has huge potential in a range of areas. Many students need to earn money to support them through university and Miss M believes through entrepreneurship students can earn good money and develop their own interests and skills. 

Education and Culture Lifelong Learning Programme
© 2011 ELIE Project
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.