Being at the hairdresser is like being at the therapist

August 9, 2023

Ecaterina Moscoglo next to hairdresser Denis Cojuhari

Boris Levițchii felt his heart jumping out of his chest when he discovered, in the vicinity of his residential building, a small and fancy house with panoramic windows that was full of life. On the front was written, in white capital letters, “Social hair salon”. “Maybe it is a hair salon with low prices,” he thought and headed towards it, after realising that the facility was also accessible for people with mobility impairments. As a wheelchair user, Boris was able to enter the building easily, without any support, which was rarely the case in Tiraspol. 

When he got inside, his eyes widened in surprise. He found out that in this hair salon, where everything smelled like new and looked expensive, older people and persons with disabilities were able to have a haircut and a shave at half-price any time they needed it. The owner of the hair salon also told him that he would get those services free of charge and without queuing. 

The appearance of the man changed visibly after the first expert movements of the young hairdresser. The man looked in the mirror and a smile appeared in the corner of his mouth, while his eyes got lighter. He approached the mirror and, slightly embarrassed, he recognised that it had been a long time since he had been spoiled like that. “The scent on me is so delicate, like when I was young. It seems like I’m 18, not 81,” the man said. 

“I also feel differently. So well-groomed, I feel like I’ve left a few years behind,” said the grey-haired man in the chair next to him, who had also just got his hair done. 

Boris was eager to communicate and they engaged quickly in discussion. He had been living alone for already five years since his wife had died. His two kids visited him, but not so often, because they had their own households and concerns. Previously, he used to ask them to give him a haircut with an electric hair clipper, but since it went out of order, he has abandoned that idea.

“My house accepts me without a haircut,” joked the man. Even though he had been through a lot of difficulties, including a car accident that had left him without a leg, at the age of 81 Boris claimed to have kept his sense of humor like the old times─that was his “lifebelt”.

For the customers who have difficulties moving, the owner of the hair salon provides services at their homes at the same price as in the hair salon. But Boris Levițchii prefers next time to come again to the hair salon, where he has found a kind heart to listen to him. The only thing he was sorry about when he left the salon was not to have found out about the shop in February when it had opened. And for the first time in his life, he wished for his hair to grow faster.

The social hair salon, the only one of its kind in Tiraspol, is a dream come true for Natalia Balan. She has been nurturing it for many years with her husband, Denis Cojuhari. As an orphan, Denis grew up in a family-type orphanage together with 20 other children. It was at that early age that he decided, when he grew up, he would help other people to confront the difficult moments in their lives. After he had turned 18, he decided to learn to be a hairdresser because he liked it very much and it was a way to make a short holiday for people. Prejudicial remarks from some of his acquaintances, who said it was shaming to practice a “women’s job”, didn’t deter him. He learned fast and has now been practicing for six years, working as passionately as his first day. 

Natalia Balan and Denis Cojuhari

The dream of the family has come true early in 2023 due to a grant offered by Sweden and the United Kingdom under the UNDP Advanced cross-river capacities for trade (AdTrade) Project. With US$10,000 obtained under the UNDP/AdTrade Project, Natalia has bought necessary furniture, tools and equipment, from salon chairs and hair wash basins to sterilisers and professional scissors. 

Thanks to the mentorship provided under the project, they succeeded in launching their hair salon as a social business. Although their income is not so high, they have already developed a network of loyal customers who are looking for professional services provided in a friendly atmosphere with quality care products. These include older, and also young people who want to get a modern haircut, but are financially limited. In order to develop the business, the hair salon provides services at the market price, and in the future Natalia wants to extend their range of services. 

“If it wasn't for the grant, I don't think we would have decided to open such a hair salon and also be able to offer half-price services for vulnerable people. The initial investment was too high for us, and revenues were modest at the beginning. We are excited about our achievements until now and I believe that the business will develop nicely like we have foreseen in our business plan,” said Natalia, who used to be an economics expert. 

Natalia and Denis have made all the necessary requests to be able to go in the fall to give free-of-charge haircuts to children at the orphanage in Popenchi village. At the same time, they have decided to train several young people from orphanages or vulnerable families so that they will be able to offer them a decent job as a hairdresser later on. 

Alexandru Fachira, aged 19, is one of the employees at the hair salon. He comes from a large family and, after his older sister decided to go to study in Chișinău and his parents committed to supporting her, he understood that it was time to take care of himself. Initially, he was planning to work abroad but found out about the vacancy at the social hair salon and decided to try his luck. After a month of on-the-job training, Alexandru decided to stay for good. The pay is good, and his six co-workers have become his second family.

Alexandru Fachira and a client of the hair salon

Every day, the hair salon is visited by about 15 people, and on weekends the number of customers is even higher. The person in charge of the hair salon promotion is Irina Nichita. At the age of 25, she says that this is the place where she has learned her first two specialties—content manager and salon administrator. Natalia, the founder of the salon, is always guiding and helping her. Together, they participated in several free trainings on entrepreneurship and marketing organized under the UNDP/AdTrade project, which were very helpful.

Natalia Balan is one of 36 entrepreneurs from both sides of the Nistru River who are successfully developing their businesses thanks to grants from Sweden and the United Kingdom under the UNDP/AdTrade project. Five out of the 36 are social businesses—a concept that is relatively new for the population on the left bank of Nistru but is growing in popularity. 

“Social means a good service, accessible to everyone,” says Ecaterina Moscoglo, a 59-year-old mother of three children. 

It’s been five months since she has become a loyal customer at the salon. Every month she brings a friend of hers. She says that the atmosphere in the salon makes you open your heart.

Ecaterina Moscoglo

“I feel relaxed here because everyone is friendly, joking, and eager to share information. The place and the people motivate you to take care not only of your physical appearance but also of your soul's wellbeing.”

Ecaterina Moscoglo says she had had all sorts of haircuts until she went through Denis' proposed transformation. She hasn't changed her hairstyle or hairdresser in five months since. People say she's rejuvenated, more energetic and sporty, and she doesn't argue with them. Change, like happiness, comes from small but important things. 

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