Meet the Graduates – Selina Tomasich, Hair Aid
We are delighted to introduce you to one of our Women’s Business School graduates Selina Tomasich, founder of Hair Aid.
When did you start your business?
The Hair Aid story began in 2010 when founder and CEO, Selina Tomasich, was holidaying in the Philippines when she met two nuns living in Manila.
Starting up a conversation with Sister Kate, a fellow Australian, and Sister Claudia from Canada, Selina heard about the work the Sisters did with children abandoned on the streets of Manila whose parents were too poor to feed them. Their story touched Selina’s heart and motivated her to help.
The Sisters explained that children who were found abandoned on the streets were taken to a secure safe location where the children’s physical, spiritual and medical needs were looked after.
Hair Aid does two trips a year to the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia . Hair Aid has plans to expand to Vietnam in 2021.
Training can be under a tree or on a basketball court – wherever there are space and people willing to learn. In five days, the locals can learn five basic cuts. With their newfound skills and also the hair-cutting kits donated through Hair Aid, the locals can go on to open their own businesses – even on the side of a road – to start earning money to feed their children. To date, Hair Aid has trained over 5500+ people.
Once the children were safe, the Sisters’ goal was to reunite them with their parents, who were usually living on the street, or in a slum. Most parents had abandoned their children because they had no income and could not buy food to feed them.
The Sisters’ mission was to teach the parents a skill they could turn into a job. This whole concept instantly resonated with Selina – but when she asked what skill they taught the parents, they said, “Oh, we’re no good at that part, but our dream is to one day start a sewing center.”
Inspired by what she’d heard in Manila, Selina, on return to Australia, put her previous experience with sewing and organizational skills to use. Selina, an Academic at the University of the Sunshine Coast at the time, gathered a few students, two seamstresses and an array of donated machines and returned to Manila.
Back home in Australia, she gathered volunteer hairdressers to join her next trip. The response for hair cutting training grew and in 2013 Selina founded Hair Aid and registered it as a not-for-profit in Australia.
On this trip, the team taught seventeen people how to sew in two weeks. She returned the following year with even more volunteers. When she asked what other skills would be useful, the locals responded, “Haircutting”.
Hair Aid has now grown and is established worldwide.
From these humble beginnings, Hair Aid now has seven international projects a year, and 20+ hairdressers at a time come on each project.
Each project ends with graduation ceremonies, which are often emotional occasions. One of the first women who graduated stood up and said, “Thank you for training us. Now my children will not die.”
Alongside these international projects, Hair Aid has started another offshoot; Hair Aid Community Cuts (HACCs). Working in 40 communities around Australia, volunteer hairdressers travel to various locations every six weeks to provide free haircuts to people who cannot afford them. The demand is so great – and Hair Aid is working to reach more people around the country.
What are you most excited about in your business?
The opportunities to do more and help more people. Collaboration with networks with similar views and values not yet been explored, and once these have been cemented, we will be doing more, training more, helping more. Changing the world one haircut at a time
What has been the most challenging thing about starting your business?
As a charity our most challenging thing is having continued funding.
What advice would you give to other women thinking about starting a business?
First, believe in yourself. You know more than you think you know. You can do more than you think you can do.
Second, know that there is an amazing network of women entrepreneurs out there that will help you. When you don’t know how to do know that there is an amazing network of women entrepreneurs out there that will help you second.
Why did you choose to do the Women’s Business School Programs?
Third, take action. Those that have a great idea are simply thinkers that do. Entrepreneurs do, and create and take action.
What did you enjoy the most about being part of the program?
Face-to-face weekly catch ups were an incredible opportunity to hear firsthand what other people were doing in organisations. It was wonderful to see their accomplishments, and to hear their successes, but also their failures and barriers that they had conquered. There was many synergies between businesses and organisations which became very fruitful so many in the group.
How did the program help you in your business?
Having been in business for a number of decades now, with university qualifications in business, marketing, management & entrepreneurship the subject matter was delivered was inclusive and complete. For me it was a great opportunity to revisit no knowledges, and uncover new ways of doing. Business never changes. Business as always emerging, modifications and innovations are always required. To be able to reflect on what was known, and compare that to the current business world was an opportunity to introduce new techniques to increase capabilities and competencies.
Would you recommend the Women’s Business School to other women starting a business? Why?
No matter what size your business is, no matter what time line you are on, connecting with other like-minded business women is a great opportunity. Taking the time out from your business to reflect on what is happening, and looking from the outside in is important. Having others listen to your problems, barriers, opportunities, and risks gives you a different perspective. Someone might give you one piece of advice that can change your entire business trajectory. You could deliver new products and services after hearing one conversation that could increase your business tenfold. You could stop doing a practice that was costing you money and time and energy and providing you no positive value. Working on the business, and on yourself is important. The Women’s Business School gives you this opportunity.
To learn more about Hair Aid, please visit their website, Facebook or Instagram page.