business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The New York Times had a great piece over the weekend about Dr. Aude Livoreil-Djampou, a scientist with a Ph.D. in chemistry who found herself heading up a laboratory at L’Oreal overseeing straightening and perm hair products.

But one of the biggest hair-related challenges she faced was close to home:  she couldn't find a salon where she could take her daughter, who has coiled hair.

The Times writes that "The dearth of salons specializing in textured hair has been a common and longstanding complaint among curly-haired Parisians, especially those with ties to North Africa, West Africa and the Caribbean, but Dr. Livoreil-Djampou felt she was uniquely positioned to do something about it."

She worked to address the problem by developing home-use products at L’Oreal, "but it wasn’t until Dr. Livoreil-Djampou - whose own hair is straight - went shopping for a salon for her daughter, whose father is from Cameroon, that it dawned on her that it wasn’t only products that needed to do a better job of catering to different hair types."

The Times writes:  "While Paris was not entirely without salon options for curly hair, they were hard to find, especially in the center of the city … So she switched roles, from scientist to entrepreneur.

"In 2015, she opened her first hair salon in Paris, Studio Ana’e, and has since added two more salons in the French capital and one in Lyon, with further expansion planned.

"Nestled in the fifth district of Paris, an upscale neighborhood home to the Sorbonne and the Panthéon, the original Studio Ana’e has the feel of a sanctuary. On a Friday in September, soft music played while a client closed her eyes as a hairdresser massaged and shampooed her hair.

"In theory, Studio Ana’e is a place for all hair types, and for men and women, but on that September day, the steady stream of clients was almost exclusively women with textured hair.

"The salon offers haircuts, coloring, braiding and custom-made wigs, and it has become common for clients to stay for hours, sometimes stepping out to take work calls. Other clients isolate themselves in a space that can be closed with shutters, a room often used by women wearing hijabs who want more privacy."

There were other challenges in opening the salons:  "While her hair salon venture has been a success, she faced a big challenge right from the start: finding employees trained in treating textured hair.

"The hairdressers who work for her were for the most part trained in-house, in private institutions, or by foreign professionals — because the French education system didn’t offer a certification in the styling of textured hair.

"But that changed this year.

"Building on the work of Black French activists, who for years advocated more inclusivity in the training of hairdressers, Dr. Livoreil-Djampou used her scientific background and her determination to help influence government officials to create a certification program in curly hair for the country’s coiffeurs."

I found the story to be Eye-Opening - a person identifies a problem, creates a solution, and then builds the support infrastructure necessary to make the solution possible.