“My community needed it”: a new American opens a hair supply business
Growing up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Frank Dunia says he was born with a love for hair care that he refined throughout his life.
âYou were born with something,â said Dunia, who sports a well-groomed beard and a clean shaven head. âYou like something and you tend to develop it yourself. ”
Years later, in a new country, he opened his own hair salon in Concord with a business loan intended for new Americans to pursue his passion for hairdressing and grooming.
Dunia Beauty and Hair opened on Loudon Road in 2020, with support from the Regional Center for Economic Development.
âIt took me almost a year before they approved me,â Dunia said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Since 2018, the Center rÃ©gional de dÃ©veloppement Ã©conomique has granted 32 loans totaling $ 1.28 million to first-generation immigrants who are starting their own businesses. In addition to funding, the development center offers training in accounting, marketing, and other technical skills, such as web page design, to support new businesses.
âFirst generation immigrants are a real resource for the state,â said Laurel Adams, president of the Regional Economic Development Center. âAttracting new Americans and keeping them in New Hampshire can increase the state’s diversity, grow our economy, and alleviate our labor shortage. To keep them here, we must help new Americans realize the American dream of owning a business. ”
Dunia left the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2003, then settled in Nairobi, Kenya, where he applied for visa status and eventually immigrated with his family to Concord. Dunia has a background in social work and development, and speaks French, English Swahili and Lingala, a national language of the Congo.
Starting her business was difficult, but Dunia was determined. In order to select the right products to sell, Dunia went to her friends and neighbors with a catalog.
âI went to 35 different families,â Dunia said. âI went door to door and asked them what they needed and what they would like to buy. ”
Dunia’s main clients are those who work their hair from home.
âI work with stylists and barbers,â Dunia said. “I have a stylist who comes to do their hair here.”
Although the businesses are just over a year old, Dunia has ambitious plans to expand – pursuing her barber license and opening a convenience store.
“I plan to get my license by next year,” he said. âYou have to go to school to get a license and then start working. ”
Dunia believes he may need to find a bigger space to realize his vision, but plans to expand to his current location first. He hopes to use the second floor as a hair salon, open a hair salon in his current storefront, and open a convenience store to sell African and Caribbean cuisine.
âI have to change places, I need to have a bigger place,â Dunia said. âWe need more staff. When people come here I want them to be able to get whatever they need.
Dunia’s business has grown slowly despite COVID-19 and all of its challenges, from social distancing to supply chain issues. Ecven during a pandemic, Dunia said opening a business in the United States was much easier than it would have been in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
âIn America, when you open, you open,â he said. “If you go through all your papers, you are good, no one will come after you. ”
Dunia encourages other first generation immigrants to continue with their businesses and apply to the Regional Economic Development Center to make their dreams come true.
âI opened this because I knew my community needed it,â Dunia said. âShop around and see what your community needs. ”