Give me sisal and I will make you braids

Saturday May 25 2019

Assumpta Khasabuli prepares the sisal raw material (left), and (right) in the process of making the braids.

Assumpta Khasabuli prepares the sisal raw material (left), and (right) in the process of making the braids. She says she began the venture last year, and her drive was to make hair extensions that are environment-friendly from where she could get some income. PHOTOS | ELIZABETH OJINA | NMG 

ELIZABETH OJINA
By ELIZABETH OJINA
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Would you wear sisal braids or weaves? Well, if you are conscious about the environment, you should consider doing so as they are as beautiful as the synthetic hair extensions.

Assumpta Khasabuli makes the sisal braids in Kakamega, where she has a small processing plant.

The Seeds of Gold team finds the ICT student at Kakamega County Polytechnic processing the sisal before she makes the biodegradable extensions out of them.

Using a wooden threshing bench, Assumpta pulls the leafy sisal removing the green cover. She repeats the process until she ends up with long sisal strands.

“I began the venture last year, and my drive was to make hair extensions that are environment-friendly and get some income,” says Assumpta, who is a beneficiary of a mentorship programme dubbed Think Positive Alternative Exist run by Jesuit Hakimani Centre, a faith-based organisation based in Nairobi, which incubates youth’s ideas to create jobs.

The 27-year-old sources the raw materials from Webuye and Bungoma.

Once she gets them, she cuts the sisal into various sizes before starting to process them on the threshing bench.

“Initially, farmers would give me sisal leaves for free, then I would cater for transportation costs. But after realising the value, they now sell it to me at Sh5 per piece,” she says.

After extracting the sisal fibres, she washes them to remove all the green matter.

She then dries and soaks them in an alkaline solution to soften them, a process that takes about an hour.

Thereafter, she dyes the sisal black, maroon or purple, making them more beautiful.

“Getting the right dye is a bit tricky. However, I use the hair dyes available in the market to get different colours. I soak the sisal fibres in dyes for two hours before finally sun-drying,” she explains.

Once the dyed sisal strands are dry, she generously oils them to make them smoother for plaiting and styling.

“Usually, I use two whole sisal leaves to make one pack of hair extension,” says Assumpta.

She finally puts the products in polythene packs ready for the market.

A packet of sisal braids goes for Sh50, which is lower than the synthetic braids that sell at up to Sh300, depending on the texture, size and type.

HAVE A CLEAR BUSINESS PLAN

“I sell the products to salonists and friends in Kakamega who are appreciating the beauty of sisal hair extensions,” says the entrepreneur.

Assumpta herself plaits her hair using the extensions, noting that she is her number one customer.

“I make my hair using the sisal hair extension and for over a year, I have never experienced hair loss. In fact the more one recycles the hair extension, the softer they become,” she says.

Catherine Knight, a hairdresser at Modest Salon in Kakamega, who has experimented with the sisal hair extension on clients, says the product is good, but should be improved by making it softer.

“Having the sisal hair extensions is a unique idea, it is environment friendly and one can recycle them as many times as possible. But she needs to make them smoother so that they can easily be straightened while on the head.”

Last year, Assumpta topped a business incubation programme by Jesuit Hakimani Centre, beating other 54 contestants to clinch the Sh100,000 prize.

“The money boosted my business. I used it to buy raw materials, purchased dye and chemicals to smoothen the sisal fibre. I have also worked on the branding of the products.”

Immaculate Shakaba, a project officer at Jesuit Hakimani Centre, says there is room to improve the sisal hair extensions.

“When we took the youth through incubation, we challenged them to come up with unique idea. Well, Assumpta’s idea stood out, but we are working on how to bring on board specialists in the beauty industry to advice on the improvement of the product.”

Prof Matthew Dida of Maseno University’s Department of Agriculture says having sisal hair extensions in the market is a good idea considering that they are biogradable.

“The entrepreneur needs to work on ways of improving the quality of the product. At the same time work on ways to improve the business to get more cash,” says Prof Dida.

He adds: “It is necessary to have a clear business plan and explore avenues to partner with people who are already established in the industry.”