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Conversations with the Inspiring Sheila Sagbo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sheila Sagbo.

Sheila, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I am Sheila Sagbo. I am from Benin (West Africa). I had the idea of Ebena during the Holiday season of 2015. I just got back from Haiti, had a few days to spend in Dallas, TX before going on vacation in Canada with my husband (boyfriend at the time). It was very hard for me to find a hairstylist to do my hair because I did not know any that I could trust with my sensitive scalp. I used to live in Kentucky at that time. During our vacation in Canada, my husband was talking about starting a business and was looking for ideas and needs to meet. We were in the subway. I saw a lady with beautiful braids and wished I knew who did her braids. That’s when I pitched the idea of a platform where people could find hairdressers near them to my husband. He immediately loved it and started working on it. We talked about a few names idea but retained Ebena (Ebony- the black/brown hardwood).

Back to the Us, we shared our idea with a friend who is a graphic designer (Eric). He told us that he previously started working on similar ideas as a hobby because several members of his family are braiders. He and another common friend teamed up with us and we worked for a whole year on the project before officially launching Ebena in January 2017. Our fourth team member left more than a year ago.

In the beginning, the idea was just to develop a booking platform. But, I was also in the early stage of my natural hair journey, so I convinced the “boys” that offering good contents about black hair care would be a good addition to Ebena. We share all the tasks. David, my husband is the IT guy. He has a Ph.D. in computer science and works on the website development with Eric the graphic designer. Apart from being the woman in the team, I work on the content creation, social media, and with my Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics, I am also in charge of the finances.

We participated in a few events involving hair professionals, but our strategy was to go physically talk to braiders and salon owners. Social media have also played a key role in our stylists’ recruitment strategy. Later on, instead of just asking our users to search for braiders, we added new features allowing people to post hair appointment requests and interested hairstylists could bid on them. We are constantly improving our website and the features that we offer. We have now more than 1500 hairstylists listing their services on our platform.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
No, it has not been a smooth road at all. It still is a rough one. We offer a novel way to handle (black) hair appointments to an audience who is used to phone calls and cash transactions. It is very difficult to change those habits. Also, being a small business, it is very difficult for us to compete with other similar businesses in the industry. Money was a big struggle and still is.

Ebena is also not our only full-time job, so we struggle often to dedicate our undivided attention to the business to get it to where we want it to be. My advice to young women is to be enduring. It’s not going to be easy. Also, make sure to educate yourself well about the industry.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into Ebena story. Tell us more about the business.
We are Ebena (ebenahair.com), a hair appointment scheduling platform. We specialize in black hair, so mostly black hair professionals use our platform. We offer them the tools to easily manage their hair business. Clients can book them online, so they do not have to handle long-unending phone calls. Hairstylists can also collect deposit on Ebena to secure appointments and avoid no-shows.

While listing services, Ebena allows hair professionals to add variations in prices, duration, and details for each service option. In black hair listing, this feature is very unique as it avoids listing gazillion service options separately as seen on other platforms. Ebena also cares about its audience and provides unique content about how to manage a hair business as well as black hair care tips. Our content is designed to educate and empower black women to embrace and care for their hair.

Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
Educate yourself and never stop educating yourself about your industry. Things are constantly changing.

Pricing:

  • Ebena has a free plan! If you’re not making money, we’re not either. That’s our commitment to your growth and success.
  • EbenaPro is $9.99/month. This plan is recommended to very busy hairstylists and salons.

Contact Info:

  • Website: ebenahair.com
  • Phone: 872 333 2362
  • Email: stylists@ebena.net
  • Instagram: @ebenabeauty
  • Facebook: @ebenabeauty
  • Twitter: @ebenabeauty

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