Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Businesswise | Natural hair, made in Jamaica

Published:Sunday | May 15, 2016 | 5:10 AMYaneek Page

AFEW days ago, I had a jaw-dropping moment when I learnt that women were spending upwards of $100,000 on ‘high-quality’, virgin Brazilian and Peruvian wigs.

For the uninitiated, virgin hair refers to natural hair from donors that has never been colour-treated or processed, and the hair is usually named after the donor’s country of origin. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking fake hair, weaves or wigs. Everyone is entitled to his or her preferences and I understand the utility they provide for many.

However, I had no idea there was a market for such extravagant extensions and that women were making these substantial investments in one swoop. It reminded me of the bombshell revelation a few years ago, that Jamaicans were spending seven times more than any other Caribbean country on imported hair – as much as $1 billion in a year. That perturbing data was the driving force behind my article ‘Big Hairy Audacious Opportunities’, published in The Sunday Gleaner on January 26, 2014, in which I highlighted major trends in the haircare industry and how entrepreneurs could cash in.

Last week, the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association shared an infographic via social media which sought to illustrate how our appetite for imported products hurts the unemployed and underemployed.

Interestingly, it was written from the perspective of the young female jobseeker – the cohort with the highest level of unemployment in the country at more than three times the national rate. It reads like this:

‘The Job Seeker’

1. She rose from a bed made in the USA

2. Then reached for tissue made in China

3. Washed her hair with shampoo made in Canada

4. Showered with soap made in the Dominican Republic

5. She then moisturised her skin with lotion made in Spain

6. Put on her clothes made in Thailand

7. Had juice for breakfast that was made in Trinidad

She then set out on her job search. After another unsuccessful day, she:

1. Did some laundry with detergent made in Costa Rica

2. Poured herself some wine made in Chile

3. Then turned on her TV made in Japan And then she wondered why she could not get a good-paying job in Jamaica. Buy Jamaican, create Jamaican jobs.

REAL JAMAICAN HAIR

Perhaps the JMA may want to include clipping in her Brazilian hair in upcoming infographics. The issue of how much we are spending on imported extensions and whether we could find suitable alternatives is worthy of serious consideration.

I am a firm advocate for building the local haircare products industry by getting women to spend less on these Peruvian and Brazilian extensions and investing more in caring for their real hair using Jamaica-made products such as castor oil, coconut oil, sulphatefree shampoos and natural treatments and conditioners, among others.

It’s a point I shared this past week in a one-minute video on social media, which received more than 12,000 views in 24 hours and elicited robust debate from staunch weave advocates and opponents.

Some women and men embraced the suggestion to increase the use of local haircare products and practices that could result in healthier hair and a boost in local industry and jobs.

Others were vehemently against the mere mention of spending less on weaves, and insisted that people should spend their hard-earned money ‘how they wish’. It’s a conversation I welcome and hope we stir again and again until we sensitise more people about the importance of demanding fewer foreign items and buying Jamaican.

In fact, this is something I hope is discussed with our children and youth generally so they are educated about the positive and negative economic impact of consumer-purchasing decisions.

It can’t be overstated – making a conscious effort to consume more local goods and service and spend less on imports – such as hair, food, apparel, furniture, household items and toiletries can make a substantial difference in our economic fortunes, trade deficit, exchange-rate value, employment, standard of living, and quality of life generally.

One love!

-Yaneek Page is an entrepreneur and trainer, and creator-executive producer of ‘The Innovators’ TV series. Email: yaneek.page@gmail.com Twitter: @yaneekpage Website: www.yaneekpage.com