Instagram is not just a place for the hallowed selfies or holiday pictures. With an ever-growing user base, the photo-sharing app has established itself as a ubiquitous social media marketing tool that’s here to stay. In 2017, there were an estimated 17.2 million Instagram users in the UK, with 61% of the total being 18-34, with 56% of total users being female.
One person who’s leveraging IG’s business potential is Ebony Bain, a braid technician from Edmonton, North London. The 36-year-old founded silkpress_n_braids in early 2017 and has since curated it to boast her skills on an array of clients that come in all shades of melanin. School kids, footballers, international DJs and everyone in between (including myself) leave Ebony with that great put-together feeling you get right after having your braids done and edges laid.
Ebony took some time to talk Instagram, why black Brits in business need to fully-embrace this platform; and how she celebrates Black History Month.
- Tell us about how you started doing hair?
I have been able to plait well and attach hair extensions from the age of 10. Doing braids is a skill that was handed down to me from my mum – growing up in a household with 3 sisters, I always had plenty of heads to practice on! At the age of 14, I started braiding hair at home as a part-time source of income, long before studying hairdressing at college. I continued this for many years alongside the various paths my life has taken me on. Just over a year ago, I decided to take a break from the business development consultancy I founded 11 years ago to go back to my original passion of doing hair. I set up an Instagram page and within 2 weeks I was fully-booked for two months!
- What motivates you about the work that you do?
Being a hairdresser allows me to help my clients feel beautiful – both inside and out. Not only do they leave looking fresh and fine, they get to offload all their stresses and dramas. As I’m sure you already know, everyone likes to confide in their stylist, so they leave with a weight off their shoulders feeling beautiful.
- What inspired you to take your hair business to Instagram?
Social networks are a growing phenomenon at the moment. They have completely disrupted the world and changed the way we communicate, both as businesses and individuals. As a business developer, I understand the influence that social networks
have and the business opportunities that they provide. Instagram is an amazing tool for businesses that have a visual impact. If you are in a creative industry, or have product that needs exposure, Instagram is definitely the place to be.
- How did you build your following for Instagram?
I upload photos daily using popular hashtags and communicate regularly with my followers via my Instagram Story updates. It’s so important to ensure you communicate with your followers, because it helps them to remember you and if they remember you they are less likely to unfollow you.
- Do you have any advice for black Brits when it comes to using Instagram as a business platform?
Instagram is an amazing tool for business at the moment. It can help you to not only create awareness of your brand, but also convert followers to paying customers. However, we are living in a fast-paced world where trends are changing quicker than ever. I advise anyone who is not yet using the platform to jump on it now as there is no guarantee that it will still be as popular and as efficient in a few years’ time.
- What are the biggest challenges you face with your platform?
It has to be taking good pictures of my client’s hairstyles. With a platform like Instagram it is all about the images. I am not the best photographer and sometimes after a long day’s work, the pictures I take aren’t always as clear as I would like. However, I have the best clients and they are constantly sending me pictures and tagging me in their posts which helps me a lot.
- What has been the most surprising thing since starting out?
The most surprising thing has been the distance my clients travel to get to me. I am based in Edmonton, North London, but I have clients that travel regularly from Bristol, Oxford and Buckinghamshire (to name a few). My furthest client comes from France. She says braids are so expensive in France and not very professionally done, so it’s cheaper and more efficient for her to get the Eurostar once a month and come to me for her braids. It’s humbling for me.
- Where do you see your business going next?
Early next year I plan to launch a hair and beauty salon and I will be posting all the updates of my journey on Instagram which I am sure you won’t be surprised to hear.
- How do you like to celebrate Black History Month?
I feel like every month is Black History Month. I like to attend Black History events throughout the year and I read a lot to educate myself on Black History. However, I do embrace Black History Month and I try to use my social platforms to share and
educate my followers. This month I am attending Black Girl Fest which I am looking forward to, plus I am going to a few documentary screenings at the Marcus Garvey Library. I think it’s important for us to support each other and ensure we create a buzz during Black History Month, but I think it’s also important for us to keep the buzz going throughout the year.
- And finally, what do you want people to know about black hair?
Well there is a popular myth that afro hair doesn’t grow as quickly or as long as other hair types. This is so false! If you get to know your hair type and look after your hair accordingly, afro hair grows quickly and just as long as other hair types. Although genetics do play a part, I have clients with 4c hair that can stretch down their waists. Check my Instagram page if you don’t believe me! Healthy natural afro hair can be long, strong, versatile and beautiful.
As long as the ‘gram is around, silkpress_n_braids will continue to be a proliferation of Black British enterprise. ‘Every season is braids season’ Ebony declares, and for that reason, she’s busy all year round.
Follow Ebony on Instagram for bookings, updates and braid inspiration.