My name is Matee Freeman. I am 26 years old, and I cut hair and sell cosmetics.
I started braiding hair in Ivory Coast. I had to move there from Liberia to escape the war. When we returned to Liberia, I started to braid students’ hair, and I started to improve at it. From there, I started braiding in attachments [extensions] and weaving hair.
I had it in mind that I should make this skill my business in life, so I started asking customers for payment. I intend to open a salon. That is my goal. But for now, I have started the business right in my front yard. My mother helped me with this little establishment. “This will be your salon,” she said.
“The BTCA training taught me about customer service, business ethics and how to rise above your competitors. As I learnt all these lessons, I started to apply them to my business. Now I have more customers than ever before.”
“People say that they are impressed with my business, and it makes me feel good and encourages me to move forward. At the start, they thought I could not make it, but today, here I am, and I am improving every day.”
It was not easy to start the business. There are many people who braid hair. It was hard to get started in my community because most people go to a different part of town get their hair done. Once I started to braid a few people’s hair, people would end up asking them where they got it done and would find out that it was me. They would say, “You mean that girl that is sitting on the porch there? Well, then she can really plait hair!” And that is how they started coming.
The BTCA training taught me about customer service, business ethics and how to rise above your competitors. As I learnt all these lessons, I started to apply them to my business. Now I have more customers than ever before.
Mangee was among the first cohort of 20 young Liberian women to receive a loan from our BTCA program to help her start a business. Originally interested in selling bedsheets, Mangee discovered through BTCA training and one-on-one mentorship that it was not viable. She instead chose to follow her passion of cooking and open a small catering business, requesting a modest $200USD loan to buy cooking equipment and begin marketing her business by distributing flyers to potential customers. Her new marketing skills helped her win some big initial contracts, including a deal to cater for 100 people per day on an NGO training course. “I was cooking for three weeks, and employed ten people,” says Mangee.
The training also taught Mangee about the financial side of being an entrepreneur: paying staff, calculating profits, and accumulating savings. “This year I expect to have made close to $5,000 in personal savings and the business turnover should be around $12,000”. This success and new wealth is transforming the lives of Mangee, her family, and other community members, and she still has big plans ahead. “For the next contract I want to get a car to make transport easier. I see this business extending. First, I want to open a good restaurant, and I am already in the process by securing a piece of land. After that, I would like to expand to open a chain of restaurants.”