When Beijing resident Martha Makuena and husband Paul Luyeye realized that the Black hair market was severely under-served in China, they made history by deciding to fill in the gap and opening the Paulma Afro Hair Salon, reports BBC. Martha and her husband, who are originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo opened the salon in an effort to offer proper hair care to Beijing’s Black residents, but quickly found that Chinese locals were booking appointments and enjoying the benefits of the salon as well.
“When we go to local salons, they can’t do our hair. Local people’s hair is oily, but our hair dry. We need products to put on our hair, but local salons don’t have them,” Martha revealed to China Daily.
“The idea came to us because my wife has a diploma in hair dressing. She also has a diploma in fashion design. She knows all of these things and the idea came: Why not set up something like this official in Beijing so that we can help the African and African descendents?” said Paul.
“Everyone is welcome to have an African style in their hair. You might be Caucasian or Chinese or Indonesian. If you like our style, you are welcome and we can do it,” he continued.
Martha revealed that she moved to China in 1998, just two years after her husband’s job transferred him there. All of her children were born in China. For her, a large part of doing business in China is knowing the language, which she speaks fluently.
“Doing business in China is just a matter that you understand each other, the most important thing is the language. You have to understand and once you understand the language, you can understand the person… They don’t look at me as African, they look at me as a person… doing business,” she said.
Paul also shared that establishing a business in China was a bit challenging as investors are eluctant about entrusting their money to foreign businesses.
“It was not that easy. It was as hard as every company in China, as a foreign company when you want to invest, you have to go through a long process…I know it wasn’t easy, but if it were easy, everyone would do it.”
The Paulma Afro Hair Salon currently employs three women who are all from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Check out Martha and Paul’s interview with BBC on the next page.