Popping up overnight in some cases, the hair braiding salon offers something of a social community center where women from all works of life catch up, share TV show recaps and such whilst getting a hair do.

Unique Braids is a local business situated in the heart of Port Harcourt, Nigeria that has been run for over 14 years by Mrs. Juliet Richard. The salon, which shares a street with 4 other salons offering the same service, sees an average of 100-150 customers in a weekend.

What started off as a family business with Mrs. Richard and her younger siblings turned into a multi-million Naira enterprise, employing over 150 hair stylists in two cities. The casual atmosphere and the constant stream of fresh talents draw customers to Unique Braids.

So much can be said about braiding but it is not just a form of hairstyle. Because of the time required to braid hair (2 – 8 hours), it offers women time to socialize; and has developed into a social activity.

“It’s like a home, you fall apart and reconcile.”  – Chimason, The receptionist, while referring to the relationship between her co-workers.

“Although hair braiding can be very experimental,

it is one thing to create a style

but another thing to convince people to try new things.” Mrs Richard

Mrs. Richard says the one thing that has kept her brand flourishing is the concept of change. “A few years back, everyone was wearing the double twists. I tried twisting and after twisting, we twisted them in twos again, it was amazing. Innovate with everything. Just keep innovating. I travel to search.”

It is more than just a salon, and hair braiding is more than just hair, it is a culture.