When hairdresser Rumbie Mutsiwa launched her salon, she wanted to creative an inclusive and empowering space for women with Afro and textured hair.
Step inside Rumbie & Co hairdressing salon in Sydney’s inner-city suburb of Chippendale, and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming – and that’s exactly the way founder Rumbie Mutsiwa wants it.
Mutsiwa founded the business in 2014 after discovering how few Sydney salons catered to Afro and textured hair – and after being turned away from several salons because of her hair type.
“[Hairdressers] would actually say: ‘We don’t work with your hair texture.’ And the more I experienced this [reaction] the more frustrated I became.”
That frustration eventually led to the launch of Rumbie & Co, and today, the business employs two hairdressers, offers a haircare range and works with thousands of clients from a bustling inner-city salon.
Mutsiwa never set out to be a hairdresser. Originally from Zimbabwe, she migrated to Australia in her teens and studied nursing. But, a few years into her career, her sister began struggling with hair loss due to stress.
It was only after she searched, and eventually failed to find a hair specialist who could help, that Mutiswa realised there was a gap in the market. “Eventually, I just thought: you know what? I’ll just do it. It can’t be rocket science.”
So, in the evenings after her nursing shifts, Mutsiwa taught herself hairdressing and soon became fascinated by the complexities of Afro, textured and wavy hair. “I just discovered myself in that space. I became a hair nerd,” she says.
I just discovered myself in that space. I became a hair nerd.
For Mutsiwa, switching from nursing to hairdressing meant breaking with her family’s expectations. “My family convinced me to study nursing,” she says. “My career path was actually discussions with other people.” But after plenty of soul-searching, she decided to forge her own path as a hairdresser.
From the beginning, Mutsiwa was determined to creative an inclusive space that represented the best of Western and African cultures.
“Hair is such a huge part of [African] culture. In most African cultures, you usually [devote] a specific day – like Sundays – to hair, where kids get their hair done to look presentable for school. It’s massive. And in most African salons, you’ll find there’s always a lot of people laughing, talking, sharing stories.”
Mutsiwa admits that the early days of the business were challenging – and, at first, she struggled to set boundaries around her time. “Someone would call me at midnight and say, ‘I need to get my hair done for a wedding tomorrow!” and I’d say, ‘Okay what time? It was an emotional rollercoaster.”
But she loves helping women look and feel their best. “I really believe in the transformational power of [good] hair. Our purpose is to build confidence in individuals.
“My favourite thing is those moments where [customers] look at themselves.. and their demeanour changes. I love hearing stories of people feeling more confident, more sexy, more beautiful.
When Mutsiwa spotted billboards advertising Afterpay, and researched the platform, she immediately realised she wanted it for her customers.
“Afterpay allows us to give our clients more options, so they can get what they need now.” Frequently, she says, clients will budget for their haircut – and then realise they’d like to buy products as well “and then they’ll ask can I Afterpay this?”
This year, Mutsiwa participated in Afterpay Day Sale for the first time and saw her average order value double from two products to four. “Afterpay is genius!”