What drives her are dedication to her work, having loads of patience and providing excellent services to customers. Kathleen Li, founder and director of Katbalou Hairdesign, has had the passion for hairdressing since her teenage years. The professional woman, today, shares with us the ups and downs of her 30-year-career in the field and her advice to the youth.
She knew straight away what professional career she would opt for. “I have always been attracted to this field ever since I was a Form 5 student (Grade 11). My aunt had a hair salon in Vacoas and I used to go there during weekends to help out. I would also cut my friends’ hair during school breaks,” shares Kathleen Li. Indeed, following her secondary studies, the young woman decided to fly to London to study the techniques of hairdressing for two years. After that, she followed a course in make-up in a beauty centre in Paris.
Kathleen came back to her motherland with her head full of dreams but also with plans to open her hair saloon. “In 1989, there were not many hairdressing saloons in Mauritius and I remember that as soon as I reached home, people would come over and asked to do their haircuts. When I was a student in London, I would also practice on Mauritian students who were living nearby.” In the same year, she opened her saloon in her parents’ house in Quatre Bornes and spent the next 15 years working from that location.
It is in 2004 that she launched her hair saloon ‘Katbalou Hair & Beauty’ in a public location, at Trianon Shopping Park. Further extending her services to a wider clientele, Kathleen opened another branch of her parlour at Cascavelle Shopping Village. She trusts that nowadays, “there are many saloons all over the country and people have a wide choice. They can choose what is most convenient for them.”
What or who inspires her in her career?” Foreign and local trainers inspire us to progress and improve, as we are always learning something new every day. Our clients inspire us also by always demanding for new techniques and new products. With the advent of internet and social media, it is easy to be informed about new trends and we need to challenge ourselves constantly in order to improve,” trusts Kathleen.
Not an easy profession
The women professional does not hide that she has been through many ups and downs during her career and especially that the beauty care profession is not an easy one due to several reasons. “When you deal with the human factor, it is not always easy. When you expand (your business) and have more staff members, as a small scale industry, the director must also act as the Human Resources Officer, Administration Officer and look into all aspects of the business. It can be quite demanding to deal with the personnel who don’t follow the rules and regulations of the company or who are constantly late or absent!” she states.
Kathleen adds that working with clients is also demanding. “Dealing with clients is not an easy task. Having been for almost 30 years in the profession, I have encountered all kinds of people and I must say that patience and diplomacy are needed. We have encountered clients who come to the saloon in an angry mood or are trying to vent out their anger and resentment towards the staff but fortunately, overall we have a good relationship with our clients, who are generally repeaters and regulars. We do have clients who still come to the saloon since 1989 and over time, we have built a good relationship towards them.”
This is why she trusts that providing excellent services and being creative are a must in this field. “I think that creativity is needed in almost every profession. One should think outside the box and try to make the most of every situation. For example, a bad haircut can be altered and become the future trend. Creativity can be cultivated by watching passersby, street people and through trips abroad,” she utters.
Encourage local skills
The professional hairdresser strongly believes that local talents should be encouraged and promoted in the country, irrespective of their fields. “Mauritians are very talented people and it is important to train local youngsters to become professionals in their fields. This is how the country can improve, namely through education and know-how. We are lucky to have many good training schools in Mauritius, some of them of international standard. At Katbalou Hair & Beauty, the personnel are lucky to benefit from the help of international trainers from L’Oreal Paris School at the L’Oreal Academy at Ebène.” She herself keeps up-to-date with the latest developments in hairdressing and beauty care by attending forums and conferences abroad.
Kathleen is of the opinion that family support is a must for one to thrive in his/her domain, especially women. “I think that most women who work full time lead a challenging life, as they try to balance work and home life. After a long day at work, they still have commitments at home like getting dinner ready, looking after the kids and managing the house, among others. Personally, I consider myself to be lucky, as I have a very supportive husband and family as well as helpers to look after the house.”
What is her advice to the youth and young women who dream of doing a profession from passion? “I would encourage the youth to follow their dreams as they try to do something that they really like. I believe that if you like your job, you won’t ever feel like you are working at all.”
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