1. Mantwa Mashiloane & Mantwa's Glam Hair

Mantwa is a 36-year old mother of 2, who moved to Alex at the age of 12. In search of opportunities, she opened her salon in 2016, having noticed that even in an overall context of significant poverty, unemployment and financial precarity, many people are more than willing to spend substantial amounts on personal care. It turns out that her unassuming salon in 8th avenue in Alexandra is a small cog in a huge global trade in synthetic and human hair between Asia and Africa. As we chat with her, Mantwa receives a call from Fedex, and runs out to receive a package containing two weaves of synthetic hair imported from Singapore for 700 US dollars, a huge amount by any standard in Alexandra. Mantwa explains that she uses Paypal, through her local retail bank, to pay her supplier, and that her clients, who are willing to pay several thousand rand for a weave, pay her upfront through bank transfer - another unusual feature in Alex’s cash-dominant economy.

Mantwa struggles to deal with uneven service and quality from her suppliers, which sometimes leads to her having to refund her clients. She also would like to give more attention to her marketing and record keeping. Loadshedding, as South Africa’s regular power cuts are called, are also a major concern.

Mantwa dreams of bigger things and would like to acquire machines and become a supplier. She is excited about meeting her LBS team.