The Hassan’s: A family of entrepreneurs pushing other business owners
By Kurt Campbell
Some 20 years ago, the incidental spotting of a sign that read “hairdressing classes offered here” and a brief moment of consideration would later brand a stay-at-home mother a successful entrepreneur and change the economic trajectory for a family.
That is the experience of Paulene Hassan popularly known as ‘Sherry’. She, along with her husband Sheik Hassan and son Sheik Hassan Jr. operates one of the more popular and successful establishments on the West Coast of Demerara situated at Meten-Meer-Zorg.
In telling her story, Sherry recalls that while cradling her young baby en route to the capital, Georgetown, she made a life-altering decision to study cosmetology; the decision to become a beauty entrepreneur and the decision for her husband, a goldsmith at the time, to follow closely in her footsteps would come after hesitation and uncertainty.
Some 18 years later, the full-service of S & H Beauty Salon and Barbershop is managed collectively by the family but it is founded on a principle to offer the highest quality of service while keeping it affordable for patrons. It has also provided the caring and soft-hearted Sherry an opportunity to support other small business owners and further encourage the creative inkling of her son, a Graphics Artist and part-time Disc Jockey (DJ).
Sherry recalled that when she first came home and told her husband about her interest in cosmetology classes, he said no, initially.
“He said he didn’t think it was appropriate now because I had a little baby so I said okay and I left it,’ she recalled.
Several months later, she went back to Georgetown and saw the sign again and in a similar fashion she went home and this time, after discussion, her husband agreed and encouraged her.
“He made the down payment because I wasn’t working,” she told the News Room in frank discussion.
Sherry said she was only focused on the nails aspect of the three-part course that addressed hairdressing and pedicures. Today, her strong point is still nail designing as she attracts clients from as far and Berbice while heading up the East Coast and Timehri on the East Bank.
She graduated and returned home but only engaged in free pedicure and nails services to friends and families from her living room at home; that gave her an opportunity to improve her skills.
“I start doing the chicken foot design. It’s like three strokes but when I start I see I can move the brush and get nicer designs and everybody keeps coming and doing free but then my husband said you can make money.
“I didn’t know where to start and my husband made a wooden table and bought two plastic chairs,” she said.
The new, young, and passionate businesswoman became interested in expansion as her clientele grew but more importantly, she was fixed on personal development through further studies.
Then off to study airbrush to upgrade her nail technique, the older Sheik Hassan, following his wife, would engage in casual conversation to learn to a barber and on the advice of his wife, he did and changed career paths. He now works alongside his wife.
“I try it and I become successful… I used to do goldsmith work but I was studying my safety with bandits so I decide to do barbering,” he explained.
Today, the salon and barbershop, which offers services from female and male hair styling to massages and facials along with pedicures and nail designs, is also creating a space for other Guyanese entrepreneurs to advertise and sell their products and services.
Sherry and her husband offer ‘shelf services’ to these businesses.
“Clients keep coming in and getting little gifts.
“It’s fresh, we are now starting.”
Currently, the businesses that also operate from the salon are Craft Creations, Skin Care by Ashley and Lit Candles. There is space open for other small business owners.
But that’s not all, the family is one supporting each other. The older Hassan is also involved in creative woodworking which is further enhanced by the graphic skills of his son.
Sheik Jr. currently offers final cut-outs, customized t-shirts, cups, and helium balloons along with the design and printing of logos, flyers, and business cards.
He said he had done a course at Computer World on the advice of his mother.
“I just like to create stuff; I just like it.”
“Before, I used to be home and was in the shop helping… now I want to expand the business and do something big,” he said.
But what’s next for the family altogether; Sherry said, “my dream is a really posh salon and affordable too… we like to cater to everybody’s budget.”
She credits her success to her longing to help people, always offering a listening ear to clients and serving as a free counsellor and confidant.
“Being a nail tech is not about doing nails alone. People have issues and they always want someone to talk to… I like to hear their stories and make them look pretty at the same time.”