Tell us about the origins of Afrocks and how it became an online platform?
The platform was originally started by two gentlemen, Herve Despois (Founder and CEO) and Regis Rolnin (CRO), and the story behind it is one man’s struggle to help his wife find a stylist who specialised in dealing with natural Afro hair. It became apparent that there were not many (if any) natural hair services and was born out of their collective frustration. We have Stella Lucien who is the Business Development Manager, I then came on board as the natural hair stylist and the initial vision was to provide a professional space for Afro hair styling as well as being a mobile company.
We can see that you deliver top quality natural hair and beauty services to homes, hotels, workplace or saloons. What else is it that makes your service so unique?
From the clients point of view we are unique in terms of the way we make them feel when they have had their hair done. Also, we are not just a platform (there are several out there) but we are focused on building community and making sure that our stylists have the right skills and are vetted from the beginning. We go out our way in terms of encouraging our stylists in sharing our vision, so it is important for us that they have the same views on being natural. We also provide a lot of support to our stylists and they know that we are on hand and provide support, guidance and a community.
How did you start as a natural stylist?
I started doing hair when I was very young, then I started doing hair as a business whilst I was attending college, so it became my ‘side hustle’. At the time it was not something that I saw myself doing as a profession. I would say I was not initially particularly business minded, and sometimes this meant that I was doing hair for free, both weaves and natural hair. As I got older, I realised that I had a greater aptitude for doing natural hair. A few years ago, I did a weave for someone and was so upset with how it turned out, that it was the last time I dealt with straightening the hair and doing weaves. I became true to myself and my beliefs, and found that natural hair was my calling.
How many stylists do you have?
There are four of us and we currently have 26 stylists who work with us.
Tell us about the ‘Afrocks’ blog, and what the inspiration was to add a blog page into the website?
The blog was started following an interview from our website. People wanted to know even more about ‘Afrocks’ and our inbox became inundated with requests. We also all have a story to tell, and so we wanted to use it as a tool to share these with our viewers. We found that sharing stories such as one where our co-founder did a blog about his dilemma as to whether he should cut his locks for a job, and the battle he faced to either become ‘part of the system’ and support his family, or stay true to himself. This had readers engaged and interested in what we all had to say, and started conversations. It is also a base for information sharing, and we have guest writers who come on board too.
What has been the feedback in terms of your blog?
I would say it been so positive and the blogs lead us to other initiatives, for instance like the styling stations for events. We also have our clients leave their feedback on the platform as well as comment on the service received, and we are pleased to say that we have a 97% satisfaction rate so far!
What has given you joy or been a highlight this year for ‘Afrocks’?
There have been so many. I think on a business level, we are ecstatic at the way people have received us and have had so much support over the past year as well as a lot of recognition. My personal highlight would be when people feedback that they have missed our styling station….it has even reduced us to tears on occasion, and reminds me of just why we need to keep going. Another would be that off the back of one of our blogs, we were invited to Arise News and not only was that great, but a major highlight in Stella and I’s working relationship. We had no idea that we were going to be live at the time and just had four minutes to prepare. I thought in my head I need to represent for the cause! However, I did have butterflies in my stomach, and my mind went completely blank, but in the end we supported each other, and it just affirmed that we were able to do it and support one another.
How would you encourage or what would be your message to young ladies out there for staying natural?
Generally speaking in my own capacity, the best thing I can provide is a source. With the boom in people realising how wonderful Afro hair, is there is so much information. My first piece of advice would be to find one source to get your information from. You must also be patient and kind to yourself. At workshops, I remind our clients that it is all about T.L.C… so first is Time! Always allow and have enough time as well as the correct Tools (which is important) i.e. a wide tooth comb. Secondly, listen to your hair and sit down by yourself, have your wide tooth comb at the ready and part your hair into sections then comb through it and spend that time going through your hair acknowledging the wrongs and…….apologise. The last is Control! A lot of us become scared of our hair due to all the information and products out there and it may seem daunting, but by sticking to one source this allows you to have more control and peace of mind. After you have TLC down, you can move into your next phase by enjoying your hair and spending time on a part of your body that has been neglected for so many years. Also, never be ashamed of your ignorance; if you do not know enough about your hair and have been bombarded with information…….then ‘Afrocks’ is here to help!
How were you able did you face your challenges and what did you need to overcome to make your business a serious one?
For a mobile stylist, the jump is as big as going natural and it really does change your life. No one could have prepaid me from the transition of being a sole mobile stylist and then turning it into a business. Going through all this has made me see that there may be some people out there who want the same, and it is all about taking that risk on yourself. The biggest challenge I would say was a personal one. It makes you question yourself, and at times you think ‘Am I good enough?’. When it comes to starting as a legitimate company you do tend to question yourself. The shift was a challenge, but as I of course grew up doing hair and was always self-taught, it was through my experience that I was able to learn and develop. I think it’s so powerful when you come up against that wall of fear you build up in your head. The whole ‘Afrocks’ journey shows me that I may be scared of certain things, but end up coming out on the other side. The anticipation is usually worse than the experience itself.
Thanks Simone for taking the time to chat to us and we wish you all the Sweet success for the future and of course cannot wait to hear more! Stay Sweet!
I am not too bad, thank you, and have had a busy but productive week. I work full time as a Legal Secretary in the City and my ambition is to be a make-up artist. One of my interests is providing advice to both men and women on how best to care for their skin, and supply them with information on quality products. I let them know the importance of caring for their skin from a young age to reap the benefits in later life.
You recently attended the London Make-up Academy in Camden for a Masterclass in make-up training. Tell us about that!
That was actually a birthday present from my son! It was something that I always wanted to take up as it’s useful for when doing makeovers. I wanted to get a refresher to ensure I am always at my best. There were about ten of us at all different levels, either wanting to apply makeup for the first time or learn some advanced skills. I would say I found the course not only enjoyable but it allowed me to have more of an understanding of the techniques and also get up to date on the latest trends. I have done a few makeovers on brides, family members and friends, as well as models, and I tend to grab every opportunity as it comes along.
What would you say gives you satisfaction from doing the make-overs?
Firstly, I would say the experience has been very good and it’s satisfying when people feel happy with their look. This gives me a sense of achievement and I would also say that I love to meet new people. It gives me a different perspective on life having the chance to get to know them. Secondly, having being taught professionally opens the doors for greater opportunities. Lastly, learning the tricks of the trade is great and makes it all worthwhile.
You are also a member of a Women’s Institute, what made you decide to join the WI and how has this changed your life?
I decided to become a member as it is another avenue to meet new and interesting people. The WI is a women’s organisation known officially as The National Federation of the Women's Institute and dates back to the time of the suffragettes. As an organisation they stand for not only women’s rights, but also help women integrate into society along with helping women who are at a disadvantage in their lives. Whether it is an individual or community, they really do like to make a difference. At present, we are working with a community-based organisation called the ‘Red Box Project’. The ‘Red Box Project’ provides free sanitary wear to young women in schools by asking our members to donate sanitary wear.
EDWI gives generously to a local food bank. The WI brings to the forefront the issues and needs in society. One of our recent events was based on Artificial Intelligence. Our speaker talked about both the future and the past and how to integrate, with our children and teenagers. This was a big insight for me and our members really enjoyed the talk. I am a member of the committee and attend monthly meetings, where the aim is to try to put events together a year in advance. The aim is also to keep the events interesting, and we also hold craft activities and have a book club. There is a popular myth that the WI is only for much older women who knit, bake cakes, etc but it is actually for women of all ages. I would say it has made a difference in my life, as I have had the opportunity to not only meet new people whom I would never imagined crossing paths with, but also to take part in assisting in making important decisions. I am leading a busy life but an interesting one!
Another of our events was our Oscar event, where we were honoured with the presence of a film producer (pictured left with The King’s Speech Producer Gareth Unwin). As you can imagine everyone was excited and it was an opportunity to dress up in our gowns and hear about the life and achievements of our guest. A photo opportunity of course did not go amiss!
How do you maintain that work/life balance whilst juggling everything else?
With great difficulty! I find it hard sometimes but what I tend to do is arrange to meet friends for lunch to catch up, and I always make a point of seeing family. I like to ensure that I send text messages to keep in touch with close friends and I think this is a good way of saying hello. I also never miss an opportunity to spend time with my grandson.
What is your signature style and what kind of daily hair routine do you have?
I like to be adventurous with my hair by adding colours. When it comes to my hairstyles I am very experimental and pick styles that are different, whether I am adding beads or braids….I like to dabble and keep it interesting. When it comes to my style I like to look sophisticated and stylish.
What is your pet hate?
When people say “it’s so surreal”. I find it annoying when words are used as trends. It is very irritating!
If you could change one thing in the world what would it be?
Poverty, I do not think there should be poverty with all the riches that exist in the world.
What is your latest read?
My son actually gave me the autobiography of Aretha Franklin (RIP), and it is absolutely fascinating. Another book on my ‘must read list’ is "What happened to Nina Simone". I do enjoy reading.
A very Sweet thanks to you Olivette and we wish you all best!!