How to start a hair salon in South Africa

Here is all the info you need to start a hair salon in South Africa.

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How can you start your own hair salon?

Entrepreneurs have successful hair salons across South Africa but how can you do it too? Hair salons, like most businesses, went through a very rough patch during the early days of lockdown but are doing well now once more. 

We want to inspire you and share useful tips and other information for you if you want to start your own hair salon. So, we spoke to Natalie, who owns her own hair salon and kindly shared some of her first-hand experience with us.

Get inside information with Natalie’s answers to popular questions.

What was your journey to starting a hair salon?

“I had worked in a few hair salons for a total of 8 years before I decided to buy the last salon I worked as the manager. 

“The owner of the salon at the time offered me the opportunity to buy it. I knew the business and I knew how to run it so it was the natural next step.”

What personal qualities do you need to start a business?

“You need to be disciplined, creative, optimistic and have the ability to persevere through tough times.”

What challenges have you experienced regarding starting your business?

“It was a challenge for me to get the needed funding to buy the salon.”

What challenges do you currently experience running your hair salon?

“The time when hair salons were forced to close their doors because of the lockdown cause me to close my salon. 

“I waited it out for a while but I reached a point where I couldn't afford to pay rent at a shop that I wasn’t allowed to use. I also didn’t have a clear idea how much longer salons would be forced to stay closed. 

“So, I made a call to cut my losses and sadly closed my salon. I wasn’t prepared to get into debt while living with the uncertainty of when I could open again.

"So, my salon could’ve survived the lockdown but at what cost? My salon lives on a smaller scale from my home, where some clients still come to me for their hair.”

Why did you choose to have a hair salon?

“I love being a hairdresser. I’ve always wanted to carry on growing and to challenge myself.”

What are the benefits of having your own business?

“You are your own boss and can earn more money.”

Are there disadvantages of having a business compared to full-time employment?

“It is more stressful to own your own salon. You have to worry about paying the bills every month and deal with everything else too. Also, you can’t just take leave when you like.”

What advice do you have for those wanting to start a hair salon?

  • “Make sure that you have a reliable team to work with that all bring in good money already. Make sure that you have enough clients to fill your shop and pay the bills.

  • "Be sure that you fully understand all of the legal aspects, like a lease agreement before you sign.

  • "Also, have a good accountant to help you organise your finances and tax.

  • "Next, get a website and advertise your business on Facebook and Google. 

  • “Lastly, build up large savings as soon as possible for rainy days, like quiet months and lockdowns”

How did you fund your business at the start?

“I got a loan from my father-in-law to buy the salon.”

What makes South Africa great for starting a business?

“Ignoring the forced closure of hair salons during lockdown, I would say that we have a can-do attitude and are optimistic. Also, South Africans support each other.”

Is it worth it to have a business in South Africa?

“I hope we don’t have more lockdowns in the future that shut businesses down. But yes, it is amazing to have your own business. It gives you great satisfaction.

"I once heard a story from my brother-in-law about a woman from Europe visiting SA. First, she was impressed to hear that so many South Africans had their own businesses at the braai where they gathered. Next, she said that it isn't as easy to start and keep a business in the EU because of bureaucracy and very high operating costs.”

Natalie shared some useful information about hair salon businesses that could help you too. Entrepreneurs have successful hair salons across South Africa but how can you do it too? Read on to find out more now.

Learn more about starting a hair salon

When is the right time to start your own salon?

  • As a hairdresser or hairstylist, you'll have many years of experience shampooing, cutting, colouring, styling and other hair services.

  • Hairstylists are usually qualified with a National Diploma, which they get once they pass their trade test.

How do you get started?

The first step is to develop your skills. The old saying, ‘you never stop learning’ is true for the hairdressing industry. Initially, invest as much as you can in learning about hair products and techniques.

What makes a business successful?

Self-motivation is important, especially in such a highly competitive industry.

If your approach is ‘to see if the business works and, if not, too bad,’ it could be doomed to fail.

Once you’ve decided that this is the career and small business for you, make it happen.

Managing your salon

Yoco offers customers the use of the Yoco Portal, a free business management software. You can also use the Yoco app to manage sales and track employees, invoicing, inventory management and other things.

How will your clients pay you?

More and more people prefer to only pay with a card and don't carry cash. So, take a look at Yoco’s affordable card machines that don't have monthly costs and are easy to use. Join 230 000 underdogs that get paid with Yoco.

What are the starting costs of a salon?

First, A hair salon needs to look hygienic (and be hygienic at all times) and professional.

Next, it also requires washbasins, chairs, mirrors, cupboards and countertops. Washbasins are expensive and ensure that the plumbing and geysers are sufficient.

Hairstylist stations

Each hairstylist needs to have their spot, equipped with a chair, mirror and cupboard containing products.

Other equipment like hairdryers are also stored there.

Good LED lighting and ventilation are important too, while air conditioning in shopping centres is necessary.

Cleaning your towels

Some salons have washing machines and tumble dryers, but this consumes your electricity. The other alternative is to take towels to a laundromat.

Starting from home

‘Baby steps’, they say, so starting from home is great. All you need is a chair, mirror and basin.

Where should you have the salon?

Where can residents afford to visit a hair salon? Try and find a shopping complex or a mall where business is rocking. You have all the convenience of parking and human traffic going past your shop.

Perhaps the rental in a mall can become too expensive. Setting up business in a rented house with adequate parking and security may be cheaper.

Marketing and sales

It is crucial to advertise your salon in local news media, on social media, or website. So many people google for a haircut, and it’s your website that invites them. Be clear about the services you are offering. Colour and colour techniques are where the money is. Load your website with testimonials from clients and good reviews. 

Tell everyone out there that your salon is the greatest. But your reputation must back up those statements. Word-of-mouth is highly effective, so strive for excellence in your salon.

Watch your pricing

Remember that competition could be intense in your area, and you don’t want to price yourself out of the market.

Keep up the good work

Don’t sit back and think your salon has arrived. Always put your customers first. Also, investing in yourself and your staff will ensure an excellent level of service.

Start with Yoco

You’ll be encouraged as you read about the real-life experiences of people who started small businesses with the help of Yoco.

Are you looking for more info? Find out more about how to start a business in South Africa.

So, take your time, then make your move. Start your own legacy with your own business and watch it grow.


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