Jean Coulibaly and his wife, Paule Mimi, wanted to offer the area a skill they brought from their home country of Ivory Coast: African hair braiding.
“It’s something that we’re good at,” said Coulibaly, the owner of Mimi’s African Hair Braiding. “It’s the African braiding skills that make the difference.”
The business got its start in 2009 in the couple’s Aiken home. Because of a lack of customers, they decided to open a storefront in Aiken outside of the home.
“That was a failure, too,” he said. “We didn’t get a lot of people coming in.”
Instead of giving up, they listened to suggestions from their customers to move their business to North Augusta and opened up the salon at 756 E. Martintown Road in August 2009.
“It was an absolute success,” he said.
It was so successful, the couple asked family members to come and work with them to help keep up with the demand. A total of seven family members work with the business.
“It’s very much a family business for us,” he said. “We don’t look at anyone as an employee or co-worker. We just see each other as we are, and we are family.”
The salon offers a variety of braiding and hair services ranging in cost from $60 to $200, including microbraids, invisible braids, cornrows, kinky twists, single braids, tree braids, sew-in weaves, goddess braids, Senegalese twists and dreadlocks.
In addition to offering services, they also want to educate the community about African braiding and that it’s not limited to one ethnicity or gender.
“We want to break the myth that braiding is only for black women,” he said. “That’s not true.”
Coulibaly said he believes that the key to the business’s success is its commitment to being customer-oriented and willingness to listen to what clients want while providing quality service.
“Satisfying the customer is very important to us, and it’s a part of our mission statement,” he said, noting that the business has grown mostly through word of mouth.
“It’s like a family business for our customers as well,” he said. “Once they come, they start bringing their sisters and other family members, their friends and their co-workers to us. Our customers are a big part of the success of our business.”
This year, Coulibaly opened a second business next door to Mimi’s African Hair Braiding called Mimi’s Tax Services.
“We wanted to expand our business and do something different,” he said. “I have experience as an accountant — I also have an MBA in accounting and taxes — so I decided to open up this business and offer services I’m good at doing.”
Currently, the business’s primary service is filing taxes, but Coulibaly hopes to expand soon to include other accounting and bookkeeping services. As with Mimi’s African Hair Braiding, he plans to take things slowly with the business.
“We’re adopting the same philosophy here,” he said. “Take baby steps and see what works and what doesn’t.”
Perseverance is an important trait to have as a business owner, he added.
“We had a challenge to overcome, and we did,” he said. “We could have given up, but we didn’t and now we’re very happy.”