Every entrepreneur has a story of how they started and what led them on that path. Rumbie Mutsiwa the founder of Rumbie & Co (a Sydney based hair salon) is a Zimbabwean who relocated to Australia 15 years ago and stumbled into the entrepreneurial world.
Her story is one of resilience, pushing the boundaries and taking up space where minorities are often overlooked. She’s been recognised by Vogue Australia for having a unique hair product line that caters for most curly, afro and wavy hair textures.
What was the turning point for you as a Zimbabwean woman living in Australia that prompted or inspired you to start your own business?
Starting a business was never something I thought I would do, let alone the idea of being an entrepreneur. However, I am very grateful that God pushed me in this direction. Early on in my career as a nurse, I started to have this impulse, this impulse was to pray and to work out what I was truly gifted and talented at doing because back then, most people I spoke to and asked whether they liked their jobs were only resigned to sticking to their jobs because it provided them with an income and life doesn’t always turn out to be a fairytale as we know it.
Something within me just couldn’t take that and I went on this introspective journey. To answer your question about what inspired me to start my own business, I would say there is two parts to this. The first being when my sister suggested I go into hairdressing. At the time, I was not impressed with her suggestion and actually found it to be quite insulting and disrespectful. These feelings probably stemmed from my upbringing in an African household and environment. Those of us who have grown up in these environments can probably relate to this because majority of the time you are encouraged to go down an academic path instead of a creative path.
Despite these negative feelings towards the idea of being a hairdresser looming in my mind after my sisters suggestion, I decided to take a step back to find out why I was so upset about what she had said. I started to write down and unpack the reasons why I felt the way I did and began writing my vision.
This was the first time I was truly honest with myself about what my passions were and I remember that process of writing being quite therapeutic for me. As I wrote down the things that inspired me, I discovered that I loved hair dressing. The moment I felt that I had written my heart out on paper and fully expressed my vision, I threw the pen and paper across the room and in that moment it hit me that I was passionate about hair. I loved hair and I loved the transformation and the power of it and a whole lot of other things about hair and the psychology attached to curly hair.
The second part to me realising I needed to push through with my vision was when I had just opened up a salon space. I thought I would just have something small for myself and my clients but little did I know how busy I would get and how booked out we would be during the early stages. From this I started to realise that no matter how many times I tried to push in another direction, being a hairdresser is what I was meant to be doing.
Back when I was still starting out, I tried to focus more on extensions but there were specific types of extensions that I wanted to pursue, yet those doors kept on getting closed. No matter what I did, and how good the work was people never came back. I started to get curly hair clients and that is how we coined the term “texture specialist.”
How do you feel having your unique brand in Australia has had an impact on people who struggle to find hairdressers that with work with curly, wavy or afro hair?
65% of the world’s population has curly hair. To me that statistic is mindblowing because when you look at this space it’s underacted to. I do understand that there may be various factors at play that have shaped this narrative but I do feel it is now long overdue and having knowledge and information around products and on how to take care of your hair is a basic hair need that everyone should have access to. More work needs to be done to ensure that products which saturate the market are backed with research to minimise having people feeling frustrated with products that don’t work, damage the hair or are deer in price.
Being able to work on my brand everyday allows me to cater a service in Australia that is unfortunately not available everywhere. My goal is to change that narrative and reach as many people as possible be it with my services, products or just my story alone of why I embarked on this journey.
Do you see yourself expanding beyond Australia and introducing your brand to the African market?
We are definitely expanding beyond Australia, we want to make Rumbie & Co available to all people with curly hair and we do look to get into the African market because, wearing your hair natural in Africa still is (while it is getting better) something that tends to be shunned upon and seen as a poor persons option for hair styling. When you wear your natural hair, you are seen in an unsavoury light, so collectively with our simple routines and the products, our goal is to definitely bring our brand into the African market. As to when and how that is going to be very interesting because the African market is very new to me even though I was raised in Africa, all I can say is if there is anyone out there who would like to reach out feel free, I am more than happy to link up with people so I do not know the when and the how but I do know this is the goal.
What advice do you have for young African women who find themselves in a similar position to where you have been, in terms of living in a foreign country and starting their own successful business?
My advice for anyone who ever finds themselves in a position similar to mine where your dream or passions might not be the most trendy or popular path to take and the odds seem stacked against you is to always remember that God has the answers. I firmly believe that if I don’t have the power to say whether I live or die tomorrow, then I have to take these things to God. So if you take nothing else away from me here are the top 4 things to always keep in mind when pursuing your own entrepreneurial journey:
- Find a higher power to believe in: “Take it to God or a higher power (whatever it is you believe in) but I believe in God and that he directed me to what I do and continues to do so.”
- Keep your eye on the prize: “Once you are certain on what you love, do not waver. Keep your eye on the prize.”
- Sometimes cheap doesn’t always yield great results: “Do not skimp over price because sometimes cheap things will cost you more if not most times.”
- The importance of having a mentor: “Get mentor, find people who have done it before and have them help you and take you through those spaces.”