Some men doubt her skills and downrightly turn her down. This, however, has not deterred Dorothy Gakii Mbaabu, 36, from being a cut above the men
“As you begin to live according to your own guidance and you are daring enough, everything changes completely.” These are the words of Dorothy Gakii Mbaabu, a barber in the city of Nairobi. Her love for hair is what drew her to become a barber despite the pressure that came with that career choice.
“I became a barber because it intrigued me. Working with men is also easier when it comes to hairdressing,” she says. Having gone through a school of hairdressing, Mbaabu says she had always wanted to learn an extra skill besides the usual basics taught in class.
“In school, you have specific units that you have to study since you are following the school curriculum but there are other life-skills one needs to acquire that are not in the curriculum,” says Mbaabu. After completing her college certificate in 2001, she landed her first job as a shampoo girl. She says, “I started as a shampoo girl but the money was not enough to sustain my lifestyle in this expensive city.
So, I had to widen my scope.” Mbaabu later became a barber landing a spot at the renowned Queens Salon. She was posted at their Tusky’s Mall branch on Lang’ata Road. She says that despite its challenges, she managed to pull through. “At first, it was tough since I did not have a clientele base.
Being a woman shaving men’s hair did not make it easier and there was a lot of distrust,” she says. Apart from being a barber, Mbaabu is also a professional make-up artiste, a job she has come to love.
She says, “It is challenging to balance the two but as long as the booking appointments are in order, things tend to work out.”
Her typical day starts at 5am and ends at 7pm. “If I am not at the salon, I am at a photo or video shoot,” she adds.
She says the constant challenge of being a barber is the doubt in her ability to do the so called male job. “There have been days where a man steps into the salon and when referred to me, he declines.
This happens, especially to those who are bound by their culture and traditions,” says Mbaabu.
She says the biggest misconception that comes with her job is the fact that some barbers treat the barber shop game as a hobby and not as the business that it is. “They would go far if they took their work seriously.
From the public’s point of view, I would say the biggest misconception is that shaving is not a ‘real job’. But the reality is, it is a job like any other business or venture.We need to put in a little more effort and creativity but it is fulfilling,” Mbaabu says.
She hopes she will soon be able to own a barber shop and also have a team of professional make-up artistes. She says, “I do not want to be employed forever. Sometimes, I get bigger jobs and doing it alone can be frustrating since the work load is beyond my efficiency.” Her advice to upcoming barbers is to be patient and develop a thick skin.
“The effort and work you put in will get you noticed, because this business is about word of mouth. Take your time, be consistent and sharp while paying attention to detail,” she concludes.