Stigma and Business Failure: The story of Somali barbershop owner

Ahmed Jeyte is the founder and owner of a barbershop in Abudwak, Galmudug.
I have a passion for the world of entrepreneurs. I tried many different types of business for many years, but my last one was different. In August 2020, I visited my native place, Abudwak district in Galmudug state. It was my second trip to the town since I moved to Mogadishu in 2014. Other than visiting my family, I had another plan. I had to focus on business opportunities.
When  I  observed the market, the idea that suddenly came to my mind was a barbershop. It was a niche idea that I think is very profitable for my future. I toured around the only three active barbershops in the town. What I  saw was poor hygiene, unpleasant surroundings with poor lighting, and also lack of skilled personnel, these were the main problems I noted.
To implement such a kind business by a young and educated person like me is not easy. Running a barbershop business is taboo according to my people’s culture. I remember my uncle once asked me what I have learned and what I was supposed to do? I told him “I studied Health Sciences, and I want to start a barbershop business in the town.” “Have you said barbershop?” He asked.  And I said, “yes uncle”. “How come you are educated and own a barbershop?”  He continued, “You know well such business is unacceptable in our cultural values as a family. It is an insult to our sub-clan (mentioned clan name)”. I showed him an article written on an Indian TV show about Ramesh Babu, a billionaire barber who started his journey from one barbershop.
I remember, a girl called me a barber although she knew my real name! You feel ashamed of yourself when most of your surroundings are not welcoming your idea and against your plan. but my strong determination and the prospect of this business encouraged me to start it.
I recruited two professional barbers from Ethiopia and created a suitable working environment with the latest equipment.
I faced a range of challenges from family to community. In addition, the location was not right for the business; it was far from town. The price was another challenge. Since we were offering world-class services, we made the price higher than ordinary barbers.
After a month of preparations, we officially launched the business, which earned approximately 30-40 dollars each day. It became a home for youth, business people, and children to shape up their hair. We have also got primary clients in the town.
Although I sold it after I returned to Mogadishu, the barbershop is still working and has its customers. Young educated Somalis are suffering from unemployment and some of the valued jobs are taboo in the community.  The dilemma of preserving their culture and putting food on the table is ailing them dangerously.
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