MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The Metro will soon have its first hair braiding school, created out of a need two business owners saw in the beauty industry.
Hair braiding is an art form passed down between generations of families. But two business owners in Minneapolis, who are both African-American women, believe the beauty industry needs to have more of a role in teaching the skill.
For two decades, Afolakemi Lawani has been perfecting the craft of hair braiding. She owns Bonita's Extensions and Braids near Lyndale and 25th.
"That is the bulk of what we do. We are here to serve the underserved," Lawani said.
But when she first became a student of hair 20 years ago, this single mom and business owner saw a gap in the beauty industry.
"When I was in school, a lot of the teachers could not braid hair," Lawani said.
Lawani and her family friend Lilian Anderson knew they needed to fill the gap together.
"I'm from Cameroon, and she's from Nigeria. Just us working together – not just Black women, but immigrants. And then at the same time, she's my daughter from another mother," Anderson said.
They each have their own natural hair businesses, but their bond is so strong that they're combining them into one business, which will be in Uptown. The Natural Hair Care Institute will be the first of its kind in the Metro.
"Us being the first hair braiding and natural hair care school -- it's more of a trailblazing. We've literally opened a trail where others can really come and follow," Lawani said.
The Board of Cosmetology does not license hair braiders or hair braiding schools due to a legislative change.
When Lawani and Anderson first got the vision for the school three years ago, they were essentially starting from scratch. That made this year even more momentous when their vocational school officially became licensed through Minnesota’s Office of Higher Education.
"(Lawani) called me, and oh my gosh, I put my knees on the ground and I started weeping," Anderson said.
They hope to provide an alternative to college and give high school dropouts an opportunity, similar to a trade school. Their goal is to create a school based on inclusivity.
"Can I teach a white person how to braid hair? Can I teach a Black person how to braid hair? Can a white person come into a Black salon and not feel uncomfortable?" Lawani said.
As entrepreneurs themselves, they will offer students jobs or give them the tools on how to open their own shops and support their families.
"I'm an immigrant from Africa, and I came here and I did it. They can do much more than I can," Lawani said.
The school is set to open in March. The next step will be getting accreditation in two years.
There is a hair braiding school in Rochester that opened last year, but the Natural Hair Care Institute would be the first in the Twin Cities.