Nailing it: Here's how a successful entrepreneur clawed her way to the top

Tharien Hattingh talks to Goodness Ndiweni of Goodness Gracious Nails, who really made the best of a bad job and now has a very successful nail salon. She has big dreams and wants to obtain her matric this year (at the age of 32) and expand her business to a training school. Goodness not only has a beautiful smile and a good business sense, she also speaks fluent Afrikaans

What is Goodness Gracious Nails?

It’s my business that cares for nails. I specialise in acrylic and gel nails.

What goes into your business?

Goodness Gracious Nails consists of the space I rent at a salon in Elardus Park, Pretoria. In addition, the business has little ovens I use to cure the nails and all the products I need to do them up.

Of course, the most important element is me. Without my skills and experience, Goodness Gracious Nails would never have existed.

How did you decide to make a living out of nails?

I fell pregnant while I was still at school and was unfortunately not able to finish my schooling. I didn’t just want to sit at home and wanted to contribute to my family’s income. I looked for work and a woman took me into her salon. She taught me everything about nails and I soon discovered my passion for them and my clients. I did nails as an employee for five years and then decided to start my own business.

Why did you decide to go on your own?

I saw little of my children while I was an employee. I was bound by my fixed working hours and had to leave home at five o’clock each morning to catch a bus to get to work on time. I only got home at half past eight at night. I could not contribute to my children’s education at all. I also realised that, by working for someone else, I would not be able to increase my income, no matter how hard I worked.

You have had your own business for five years. How do you find it?

Stressful but rewarding. It is stressful because I have to do everything myself. I must see my clients, make appointments, buy stock and manage my finances. There is also no longer the guaranteed fixed salary every month. But I’m definitely flexible and can determine my own hours and the growth of the business.

You speak fluent Afrikaans. Was it your home language as a child?

No. When I was learning to do nails, the women were sceptical of me and I decided I would win their confidence by speaking their language. Now all my clients are friends and we chat away happily in Afrikaans. My work also gave me a lot of self-confidence. In the past, I would not have spoken two words to a stranger. Now I talk every day for hours. Talking has become part of my business.

Is it true that some of your customers unload their emotional baggage on you during a nail appointment? How do you handle it?

Yes, at every appointment we talk about light and serious things. I focus all my attention on my client at every appointment and make sure I listen to what the client says. At the end of the day, I am tired and don’t say much in the taxi on the way home.

You are tackling matric this year. Why is it important for you to get a matric qualification behind your name?

I would like my company to grow, and I know with a qualification behind my name, doors will open more easily for me. I have threatened for years to do my matric and I decided this year would be the one.

How do you want to grow yourbusiness?

I’m going to start a school where I can teach other women how to do nails and also run their own nail salons.

What advice do you have for other women who want to start their own nail salons?

Make sure you can work well with money. That is definitely the most challenging part of the business for me. You must be able to budget and be thrifty with your money.

What is your advice to children who have to leave school without obtaining a matric?

Life does not always work out as planned, but make sure you go back and get your matric as soon as possible. With a qualification behind your name, you can accomplish a lot – and matric is a qualification

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