'Momtrepreneur'

Nardia James is full-time employee, entrepreneur, mother, wife

Sunday, November 25, 2018

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Like most parents, Nardia James and her husband Kayode Thomas wanted to give their children the best opportunities and a secure future. Against this background, in 2012 when James was pregnant with their second child, they decided to explore entrepreneurship.

In a few months' they were able to transform the idea into action, and Kiddi Palace Kids Hair Care Salon opened its doors.

The children's salon concept had come to her some four years earlier, with the birth of the couple's first child, Haleigh.

“[The idea] came as a result of my own struggle in getting my daughter ready each morning,” Nardia tells the Jamaica Observer. “I know a lot of parents do not have the time, and parents do not want their kids in adult salons hearing adult conversations.”

She fleshed the idea out some more the following year, when, as part of her undergraduate programme in management studies at The University of the West Indies, Mona she drafted a business plan based on the concept.

The salon, located in Liguanea, and catering to children from one to 17 years old — with the exception of a few elderly clients — is also a fulfilment of a childhood dream for James.

“Growing up, I always wanted to have my own business; it was a dream of mine. While growing up I thought that successful people in life owned businesses and so since I, too, wanted to be James says.

She concedes that juggling four roles daily — entrepreneur, mother, wife and employee — is no walk in the park, but she insists she would have it no other way.

“My purpose is to help people,” she says, adding that all her roles allow her to do just that.

The second income is a big incentive too, James tells Career & Education, as is the innate desire to provide for her children.

“I want to ensure that my children get the proper education that they need without having to take out student loans, and to generally provide more opportunities for my children so that they can pursue any dream they want without worrying about financing it,” the mother of two says.

The journey to becoming a 'momtrepreneur', while holding down a full-time job at JMMB, where she is a business support officer, has been a challenging. For starters, business was initially slow, but a few strategic moves have turned things around.

“We started to do a lot of social media advertising. Additionally, we did an appearance and sponsorship of the Susan Show in addition to promoting our salon at several Corporate Area school activities. The result was that we eventually got requests. We went from less than 20 clients in total to 50 clients per day! Most of these clients have become loyal clients, returning every two-three weeks.”

James and Thomas are the brains behind the operation, and they have paid keen attention to securing the requisite technical competence to run an efficient and client-centric operation. James revealed that having worked with JMMB for almost 16 years, she has first-hand understanding of the value of exceptional client care, as evidenced by her copping several top awards in the area. As such, she sought to incorporate elements of the JMMB ethos, such as genuine love, respect and care for her team and clients, into her business.

“I cater to a fairly wide cross section of clients and at the end of the day, it is not just about the money, so even if a client is a little short on occasion, I still do a good job because I want every child leaving the salon looking nice and decent,” she says.

In addition to influencing the culture of Kiddi Palace, JMMB has also been a proxy ambassador of the salon, with staffers using the service and spreading the word on social media, as well as with family and friends.

In another example, James tells the story of how her boss at the time helped her get the project off the ground.

“I was pregnant with my son at the time. When I decided to start the salon with my husband, Rockanne (Clarke-Crawle), my manager, was very understanding and adjusted my working hours to allow me to better handle my work-life balance while pursuing this new venture,” she shares.

Clarke-Crawle's daughter is also a Kiddi Palace client.

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