Mobile hairdressing idea that took off

Janetty attending to a customer at Rumah Ngumbang Santok and Janetty's sister (right photo), who is also a mobile salon operator in Miri, helping her perm a customer's hair.

Janetty Ganti Minggu came up with the mobile salon idea after seeing the difficulty that folk, especially from rural areas, had to go through just to get a haircut or hairdressing services.

The 55-year-old Iban from Kampung Tuba, Simunjan has now been doing this for almost four decades.

She started out in 1982, when she was a Form 3 student at SMK Melugu, Sri Aman.

“I learned to cut and style hair from my aunt at the time, and I often followed her to the homes of customers around Sri Aman area.

Hair perming process.

“From only cutting the hair of school students, I finally mastered the popular hairdo at that time – the hairstyle of the singer of (popular 80s-90s Malaysian band) Alleycats.

“Besides students, my clients were also teachers. I only charge RM1 for haircut, RM3 for front curls and RM5 to RM10 for full hair curls.”

According to the mother of two, as a student from a low-income family, the hairdressing skills she picked up gave her money to buying school supplies.

“I make between RM80 and RM150 a month, quite a big amount then.

“Apart from making money, I also strengthen my relationship with the villagers through my skills,” she said, adding that besides cutting hair, she also offered hair perming services, including half curls, fine curls and others.

Janetty said after getting married in 1988, she, accompanied by her husband, regularly went to Kampung Muding, Kampung Mentu, Kampung Pelaie and Kampung Pedawan, especially on weekends and school holidays, to provide her hairdressing services.

“Usually, more customers ahead of the festive season such as Gawai Dayak and celebrations such as weddings. Sometimes I had to work from early morning until late at night.

“My services are also highly in demand during the harvesting season – many women will ask for their hair to be curled short so that they are more comfortable and feel less hot when working (harvesting).”

Speaking on the challenges, she said travelling to rural villages and longhouses—at the time using riverine transport—was extremely difficult.

“Depending on the water level and river current, my husband and I, who only use a small boat, usually take one to three hours to reach our destination.

“There’s also the occasional time when the outboard engine breaks down – but it hasn’t deterred me because I know, my customers are waiting for me.

“Of course, all this is just a memory as there is road access now.”

Another challenge, Janetty said, was the lack of hair styling equipment, which sometimes made it difficult to fulfil the requests of customers who want the latest hairdo.

She encouraged people, especially youths, to take up skills courses.

“Currently, various skills centres are available, including industrial training institutes, Giat Mara, polytechnics and others.

“In fact, the Sarawak government has also set up the Centre of Technical Excellence Sarawak (Centexs) by offering various skills courses.

“Use this opportunity well because you can make an income with the skills you acquire.”

Looking back, she said she had to forget her intentions of getting a hairdressing certificate, which is only available from hair salons that provide recognised skills training, because it was too expensive.

“Believe me, having skills in any field can change your destiny although the income is not very lucrative.

“At least it can help us improve our standard of living instead of hoping for a stable job.”

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