Leillah Sekalala is a young woman from Ugandan living in London. But she is not your average woman. This young lady is a full time accountant, a wife, a mother, an entrepreneur and the founder of NoScrunchie. NoScrunchie is a new and innovative website where black people all over the world can review the services they were offered by the hairdressing salons they have visited.
Taking about why she chose to start a business that reviews the services provided by Afro hairdressing salons, Leillah said, “I am quite passionate about customer service in all areas of my life, and that might explain the NoScrunchie direction.”
Amazed at how she does it all, we spoke to this busy young woman to know more about her, how she manages how time as well as to know more about her new business, NoScrunchie.
See below, our interview with Leillah Sekalala.
AC: How would you describe NoScrunchie in one sentence?
Leillah Sekalala: Afro Caribbean Salon finder, not just listing but reviews too.
AC: Why did you choose the name, NoScrunchie?
Leillah Sekalala: This was after watching an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie Bradshaw said no self-respecting woman would wear a ‘scrunchie’ anymore. We think it is memorable and does not pigeon hole our future direction.
AC: Where did you draw the inspiration to setup NoScrunchie?
Leillah Sekalala: I have been in the UK for about 10 years and have failed to find a salon that provides good service consistently. I was on a bus once and I saw this lady with nice hair. I had to approach her and ask where she had done her hair (If you live in London, you know how odd it is to randomly chat to someone on the bus). She was trying to find the details in her phone and I missed my stop and a few more. That was it! The moment I realized we could not do this forever. There had to be an easier way to find good Afro salons.
AC: Is NoScrunchie your first business? If not, what were the others, and how did they go?
Leillah Sekalala: NoScrunchie is my first business. But I spent most of my formative work years at a start-up. I joined my first start-up, moo.com some 7 odd years ago and I was there for 4 years, working my way from management accountant to Group Finance Manager. I fell in love with the start-up world there. It’s all about the endless possibilities and watching something grow (A bit like having a child).
AC: Why do you think there is a need for a service like NoScrunchie?
Leillah Sekalala: Anybody who has tried to maintain healthy Afro hair knows it is an investment of time effort and money. The last thing anybody needs is to go to a stylist who destroys this.
There are a large number of salons available, but in the past, you would have to take a gamble. Now, NoScrunchie offers you a chance to look at good salons that do the hairstyle that you want and that are convenient to you. NoScrunchie takes away the need to gamble.
AC: As a mother and a full time accountant, where do you get the extra time to run NoScrunchie?
Leillah Sekalala: I work after my daughter goes to bed, so from 9 to about midnight. If I have emails to respond to, I will be up at 6am. I am lucky to have a partner for a husband. He is very hands on with our daughter. He does his fair share. It is not easy, but I couldn’t wait until she turned 18 and went to university.
AC: What is an average workday like for you?
Leillah Sekalala: I wake up at 7am except if I have un-replied emails in which case I will be up at 6. I am at work by 8:15. I work 20 minutes from home so I can have breakfast and walk to work and still be there by 8:15. I do my job as Finance Manager, which is varied, and quite intense, so the day rushes by. I leave work at 5:15 and go home to spend some time with my daughter. The bath and bedtime for my daughter is at 8:30 and after she is in bed, I get to work on NoScrunchie.
I work until midnight while watching TV with my husband (or at least pretending to when it’s sport) and then I go to bed until 6am or 7am and then it all starts again.
AC: What are the top three advices you would offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Leillah Sekalala: Have a business plan. I know it’s old fashioned but everybody needs that plan. It helps to provide the general direction.
Do not start a business because you have many friends, do research outside your group of friends. Even 1000 friends cannot be your clienteles for life.
Social media is great for getting your name out there and by all means utilise it but it is not everything. You need to go out and actually meet people, face-to-face networking is very important.
AC: What do you believe makes a good hairdressing salon?
Skilled hairdressers: I need a hairdresser who knows more than me about hair. (That’s not too much to ask, is it?)
Good customer service: I want to be treated courteously like a human being. For a service industry, the Afro hair industry really holds its clients at ransom. If you check some of the reviews on the site, you will be amazed.
A stylist who respects my time: I do not want to be in the salon all day. Especially if I have made an appointment, I hate being made to wait while you decide to do someone’s eyebrows, style someone else’s hair, etc.,
AC: What are the 3 most important things you look out for when searching for a hairdressing salon?
Recommendation: This used to be from my friends but thankfully, now I can check on NoScrunchie.
Clean bathrooms: When I go to a salon, I ask to use the bathroom before I get my hair done. I don’t want to get stuck in a place with no bathrooms.
Convenience: I like to go to a salon that is convenient to where I am, be it work, home or if I am visiting someone.
AC: What do you love most about providing a platform where black people can review the salons they have used?
Leillah Sekalala: I love speaking to salons that are keen to see these reviews from their customers. It gives me hope that our black salons will change at some point.
AC: How do you expect these reviews to affect the salons (Those with lots of positive or negative reviews)?
Leillah Sekalala: We hope that the salons with lots of positive reviews will keep doing what they are doing, but will love being recognised for it as they will get more clients. And the ones with negative reviews will either step up their game or lose all the clients that check ratings on NoScrunchie.
AC: Since you have visited a lot of salons, which are some of the best you have used?
Leillah Sekalala: I am yet to find a salon that I really like to be honest. I am still searching for that balance between price and good service. I will keep you posted!
AC: Tell us about the Natural Hair Week you are sponsoring across 6 major cities in the UK
Leillah Sekalala: We always get asked about good natural salons since natural hair is a hot topic right now. We are joining forces with natural hair week to find the best natural salon in the UK. We will be running a competition starting on 3rd June and we hope that in the process we will make salons realize the importance of training their staff on natural hair. We do not believe natural hair is a phase; we believe it’s here to stay and salons should either get involved or accept the loss of business.
AC: Since you currently work part-time on NoScrunchie, would you make it your full-time job in the future?
Leillah Sekalala: That is the dream. For the company to be in a financial position that allows me to draw a salary. Not too long, we hope.
AC: Where do you see NoScrunchie in the next 10 years?
Leillah Sekalala: We have so many plans and ideas right now. But we are hoping to be the ‘trip advisor’ of Afro Caribbean salons in the UK, in the rest of Europe and Africa.