Ever seriously considered the beauty salon and barbershop business in Africa? You’re about to learn some very interesting reasons why you should.

It’s a basic part of our human nature to always want to look and feel good. It’s no surprise that the personal care services sector was one of the very few businesses unaffected by the worldwide economic recession.

The beauty salon and barbershop business in Africa is worth millions of dollars every year. Especially during weekends, millions of boys, girls, men and women (young and not-so-young) across Africa troop to their favourite salons for a makeover.

This guaranteed flow of customers makes the beauty salon and barbershop business a very lucrative venture when it’s run well.

Let’s explore this interesting business idea and discover all the things you need to succeed in it…

Why is the beauty salon and barbershop business so huge in Africa?

To keep it simple, there are two key factors responsible for the growth of Africa’s ‘looking good’ businesses. We’ll take a quick look at these factors..

Beauty salon business 2#1 – Visiting a hair salon has become a basic need

Just like brushing your teeth and wearing clothes, having our hair done has become an essential requirement of modern society. For people to take us seriously, we need to look well-groomed for both social and business reasons.

Because these hair grooming services cannot be easily done at home, most people have to visit a beauty salon or barbershop at least once every month.

#2 – Africa’s population is large, very young, fashionable and can afford decent hair and skin services

That’s very correct. According to a recent McKinsey research, Africa has nearly one billion people and the world’s youngest population – more than 50 percent of its people are under 20 years old, compared with only 28 percent in China. Africans of working age are expected to number 1.1 million in less than 20 years. (photo credit: Bellanaija.com)Beauty salon business 3.jpg

These young people are aware of, and strongly influenced by, the latest fashions in clothing, looks and style. Looking good is a matter of priority for these guys and many of them are willing to financially squeeze themselves to look and feel great.

Africa’s rising urbanization rate is also driving the demand for beauty services. People who live in cities earn more and usually spend more on salon and barbershop services.

At the moment, our continent has more than 50 cities with populations above one million. This number is expected to grow to 65 in less than 5 years. By 2020, the number of Africans living in cities is projected to exceed 500 million.

How do barbershops and beauty salons make money?

Barbershops and beauty salons offer a wide range of services from a basic haircut to an upscale full-hair, skin and body service.

Depending on the kind of customers you intend to target, the prices for these services can vary significantly. If you set up shop in a relatively poor neighbourhood, price is likely to a key decision factor for the kind of customers you will attract. Middle-income and rich customers may not usually bother about prices as long as the quality of service they get is superb.

There are quite a number of ways to make money in the barbershop and hair salon business. The most popular of these include:

Beauty salon business 4Hair services: This usually includes haircuts, shaving, trims and style (especially for men); highlights/foils, weaving and braids; hair & scalp treatments; hair extensions (including wigs, artificial and human hair), relaxers and perms; colour jobs, shampoo and conditioning; curling, reconstructing and permanent waving.

Nail and Skin care: The most common nail and skin care services are manicures, pedicures, fixing of acrylic (artificial) nails, polishing, sculptured nails, nail repair and hand conditioning treatments. The popular skin care services are facials, body waxing and massage.

Sale of hair and beauty products: Many beauty salons make money though a wide range of hair and beauty products they offer for sale within their shops. This has become a major money making stream for most salons because it’s more convenient for the customer to buy everything they need in one place!

Beauty salon business 5Popular products sold by salons include: shampoo, daily and deep treatment conditioners, hair styling products such as mousse, gel, pomades and other specialty hair products.

Retailing professional hair products is an important strategy for retaining clients and making additional profits.

Spa services: Spas are fast becoming a growing niche in the African beauty salon business. Most entrepreneurs run them as standalone outfits or offer them in addition to all the services mentioned above.

Spas are also becoming very popular due to a growing awareness of its beauty, health and wellness benefits.

The common services offered by spas include: massage/aromatherapy, body scrubs, skin lightening, body wrapping, herbal wraps, derma abrasion, stretch mark and blemish treatments, anti-aging, facials, makeup, skin care, waxing, polishing, and anti-acne treatments. (photo credit: madamnoire.com)

Personalised Home services: This category includes all the services mentioned above and are offered to high-profile clients who prefer to have these services in their homes instead of visiting the salon.

These are usually high-paying customers who are unable, due to time, physical or social constraints, to visit the salon. Celebrities, politicians and physically-challenged people are happy to pay more money to enjoy this type of service.

How to start a beauty salon and barbershop – The most important things you need to consider…

1.  Capital

The amount of investment you need to start up a barbershop or beauty salon business really depends on the type of customers you intend to target. Can they afford a full-scale service including manicures, facials and hair treatment or do they just need a basic haircut or simple hair weaving because that’s what they can really afford?

While you’re starting up, it doesn’t make any sense to invest huge capital in salon design and rent (to get a prime location) if the customers within the area cannot afford your services.

Proper market research is important to determine the kind of people who are likely to walk through your doors and their ability to pay for your services. As a result, startup capital can range from a few hundred dollars (for a very basic and low-end salon) to thousands of dollars (for an upscale salon).

2.  Location and space

The location your salon is one of the most important things you have to consider in starting a salon or barbershop.

You need a location that’s in a safe part of town, easily accessible by road, and very close to human traffic. Densely populated areas like city centres, residential estates, university campuses and markets usually make very good locations.

Beauty salon business 6Just like we mentioned in the last point, it’s important that your potential customers (people who live and work around your salon location) can afford your services.

The location should also have a population large enough to support other salons who may want to compete with you. If the market is only small enough to accommodate one shop, you need to have a plan to keep off the competition and become that one shop!

Space within your salon is also another important consideration. If people can hardly find any space to sit while they wait their turn, it may leave them unsatisfied.

Unless your skills are out of this world, it may only take another competitor with more space to snap them up! (photo credit: guardian.co.uk)

3.  Personnel

Barbers, stylists, beauticians, the receptionist and other personnel are usually the face of every salon and have the power to make it succeed or fail.

Even if a salon has the best equipment, interior décor and all, a customer is likely to never return if they’re not satisfied with your service. Entrepreneurs interested in this business must ensure that personnel have the right skills and attitude to keep customers satisfied and make the salon successful.

Beauty salon business 74.  Tools and Equipment

The types of tools and equipment you require will depend on the services you intend to offer.

Some of the basic equipment every salon uses are hair clippers (for barbershops), washing basin, styling chair, hair driers, supply trolleys, manicure sets and aprons.

Other equipment you may need include shampoo spray machines; facial bed, hair steaming machines, and other body/skin care instruments. If you are planning to sell beauty products, you also need to invest in some inventory.

It’s fine if you can find cheap but good quality second-hand equipment for a start and then you can invest in more durable equipment when you become profitable.

5.  Others

Other important start up considerations include available water and electricity supply, initial marketing and advertising expenses, signage costs and merchant account fees (to accept credit/debit cards).

It’s also important to confirm if you require a license, certification or business registration to open and operate a barbershop or beauty salon in your area.

Things you must never forget if you intend to succeed in the barbershop and beauty salon business…

Get close to your clients and keep them satisfied always.

Beauty salon business 8A salon’s best advertisement tool is word-of-mouth. If a client is happy with your services, they will continue coming back and are very likely to tell their friends, family, and colleagues about your salon.

Satisfied clients are the best and cheapest means of letting everyone know about your business. Another great reason to keep clients satisfied is the volume of repeat business they bring.

The lifetime value of each and every customer is in thousands of dollars – if they continue to visit at least once a month over the next ten to twenty years. (photo credit: bellasugar.com)

However, keeping your clients satisfied doesn’t mean another salon can’t and won’t do the same, or even better. A simple way to keep all your clients glued to your salon is to win their trust by getting personal with them.

Start by implementing a simple customer loyalty program. Repeat customers get discounts for paying regular visits to the salon and referring new customers. Keep records of your customers’ names, phone numbers, email addresses, birthdays, anniversaries etc. Send them hair and beauty tips via SMS or email and remember to send best wishes on their special days (birthdays and anniversaries).

And when a customer has skipped a visit to your salon, call to check up on them and try to find out why they’ve been away. This kind of customer engagement and care always guarantees an addiction to your services!

Provide a cool, clean and safe atmosphere.

Beauty salon business 9Salons thrive on an environment that is clean, safe and relaxing where customers can receive prompt and professional service.

Cleanliness is a particularly important element that can draw customers to your salon again and again. Your clients must be able to trust that the products and tools that you use on them are high quality, sterilised and safe.

You cannot afford to put your clients at risk of infections. This could totally damage the reputation of your business forever.

No matter the size of your salon, you must ensure that it is always clean and equipment is always sterilized. Towels, footbaths must be washed very often and the salon’s atmosphere should be inviting, friendly and odour-free. (photo credit: thecoolhunter.com)


Salons offering a wide range of services under one roof usually have a huge advantage over those who offer only one or two types of services. Most customers (especially women) prefer to have their hair, nails or face done in one place, rather than visit two or more different locations.

While you can focus on one main area (e.g. hair), giving your clients the convenience of a one-stop beauty shop can set your business apart from your competitors.

Beauty salon business 10Hire and keep qualified, trained personnel

Untrained personnel are more likely to cause harm and health problems to your clients (and a liability to your business).

It is important that you hire only qualified and well-trained barbers, beauticians, stylists, and other personnel. It is your responsibility as the salon owner to ensure that your personnel are adequately trained and understand the importance of safe procedures.

You also have to consider providing training classes on a regular basis to help your personnel improve their product knowledge, skills and awareness of the latest trends in beauty, fashion and style. (photo credit: baystatebanner.com)

The hardest thing with personnel in the salon business is keeping them. Good, well trained and professional stylists and beauticians are in constant demand and can leave your staff at very short notice.

The big challenge is to devise a strategy (just like with your customers) to keep them invested in your business. A good strategy is to let your employees earn a slice of money (commission) made from any services they offer. This way, when they work more, they earn more and vice versa. This strategy works better than a flat wage or monthly salary which is usually the single biggest costs for any salon business.

Often times, the best way to get the kind of well-trained and professional personnel you’re looking for is to poach them from your competitors. They may cost you more, but they’re usually worth the money and effort.

Perks, performance incentives and awards are simple but often overlooked ways of reducing staff turnover and ensuring stability in your business.

The beauty salon and barbershop is an interesting business opportunity for Africans

Beauty salons and barbershops will remain a great business opportunity for Africans as long as hair continues to grow on our heads.

If you believe this type of business will work for you, start working on a business plan and take action now!

You could also choose from many more amazing business ideas in the Business ideas section of this website.

We would love to hear from you about your successes, challenges, advice and questions. Do not forget to leave a comment in the section below and share this opportunity with your friends.

To your success!