This Regina couple bet on Black hair and opened a new business in the pandemic
Lucky and Ediri Okurame say there is a need for salons specialized in cutting and styling Black people's hair
Over the course of Black History Month, we are hoping to learn more about the rich dynamics of the Black experience in Regina through the stories of people from different backgrounds and professions.
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With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to threaten the livelihood of entrepreneurs across Canada, Lucky and Ediri Okurame knew they were taking a risk when they started their hair and beauty studio in Regina.
But they also knew they had found a niche that was not being catered to enough in the city: Black hair.
"There is a style lacking here," said Lucky. "The educational system here teaches a different way of cutting hair than is needed for the texture of our [Black] hair. We don't have a lot of professionals who know how to do Afro hair because they are not being taught at school here in Saskatchewan."
Although they knew they were taking a risk, especially during these pandemic times, the couple opened Lucky Hair & Beauty Studio late last year, becoming one of only a few businesses in Regina to offer expertise in Black hairstyles.
"Our business specializes in a number of services that cater to all people, especially Black people, such as haircuts, split-end trims, beard trims, dreadlocks, hairline lineups, makeup, wig repair, hair replacements, weave and frontal installation, eyelashes, extensions, hair tattoos, custom hair colour, cornrows, box braids, and the list goes on," said Ediri.
Working through challenges
Along with the business opportunity came the challenge of adapting to COVID-19 regulations, which the couple met by making the studio "COVID ready," Lucky said. To do that, they put limits on how many people could be in the studio and made sure work stations were properly spaced out to meet social distancing requirements, he said.
COVID-19-related challenges are not the only hoops the Okurames have had to jump through. Ediri said starting the business was especially difficult for her, being a mom to two young kids: Gabriella, 3, and Lucky, 2.
"Thankfully, we were able to find them a babysitter and a good daycare," she said. "Balancing motherhood, being a wife and work is tough, but I am so grateful to have such a supportive husband."
The couple came to Canada a few years ago from Nigeria, where Lucky had been cutting hair. In Saskatchewan, he started cutting hair in his basement before eventually co-owning a barber supply store in Regina.
He and Ediri say that so far, the experience of running their own shop together has been a dream come true and has made their union stronger.
"I love working with my husband. We were best friends before we got married so every day of this journey has been nothing but fun as we figure out what's next for the business," Ediri said.
While the official business launch of Lucky Hair & Beauty Studio is scheduled for March 20, the salon opened up to customers three months ago and has been received warmly by the community.
"We've had a lot of people reaching out to work with us," Lucky said. "It has actually been overwhelming. The people of Regina have been supportive so far."
More inclusive businesses
The Okurames say they would like to see more businesses like theirs that cater to unique hair needs for a diversity of people. About three per cent of Regina's population is Black, according to the 2016 census.
"Saskatchewan is a diverse community filled with people from different parts of the world. It would be nice to see different hair-making techniques from these different parts," Lucky said.
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Lucky hopes to play a part in educating hair stylists and beauticians all over the country, he said.
"We are trying to make our business a franchise venture all over Canada. Our goal is to build a global brand," Lucky said. "We are hoping to have a setup in Toronto and Calgary. Once we have more opportunities to expand as much as we can, we will definitely do that."
LISTEN | Lucky and Ediri Okurame tell CBC Saskatchewan's Morning Edition why they opened a salon in a pandemic:
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.