A woman who’s got it all clipped to­gether

The Star Early Edition - - LIFESTYLE -

JEANNE Pien­aar, 33, grew up in a fam­ily of lawyers – her three siblings fol­lowed in the foot­steps of her ad­vo­cate father and at­tor­ney grand­fa­ther – but she de­cided to follow her own path, see­ing a gap in the mar­ket for ad­vanced clip-in hair ex­ten­sions that ri­valled that in the US. We chat­ted to her about jug­gling fam­ily and busi­ness life. What is it like be­ing a woman in South Africa?

Be­ing a woman in South Africa means you’re an un­der­dog. But peo­ple love root­ing for the un­der­dog, so we’re in luck. We can come out as win­ners only when we sup­port one an­other. And when you back an­other woman, you aren’t jeop­ar­dis­ing your own chances of suc­cess, you’re merely mak­ing an­other ally to help your­self on your own path to suc­cess. What shaped you to be the woman you are?

My father al­ways said: “Nobody can take your ed­u­ca­tion away from you” and “Knowl­edge is power”. Those say­ings mo­ti­vated me to study hard and learn as much from as many dif­fer­ent sub­jects as pos­si­ble, not only in an aca­demic sense, but also in a streetwise way. De­fine a suc­cess­ful woman.

Some­one who doesn’t have to make ex­cuses for her­self. If you want to leave a party early, no prob­lem, do it. If you want to work on a pub­lic hol­i­day, do it. If you want to dye your hair pink, go for it, but own it. How do you deal with the pres­sure of be­ing a mother of two while tak­ing care of your busi­ness?

I have a sup­port­ive hus­band who un­der­stands the pres­sure, so that in it­self is a big help. Chil­dren de­mand a lot of at­ten­tion, so I try to con­nect with them on their level. Tak­ing a child to a shop­ping mall isn’t their idea of a good time, but spend­ing an hour on your tummy, build­ing Lego, is in­valu­able to them, and sat­is­fies their de­sire for at­ten­tion. I also try not to have my cell­phone with me when I spend time with them. They no­tice things like that.

I’ve never told my chil­dren I work to af­ford their school fees, pay for food and so on. In­stead, I tell them I work be­cause I want to and en­joy it. They see that I’m happy when I work (I have an of­fice at home too) and think it’s the norm for both par­ents to work and to like it. When my hus­band or I have to work out­side reg­u­lar of­fice hours, we check in with each other to man­age ex­pec­ta­tions, in ad­vance. You do seem like you en­joy your work. What is it that you love the most about hair and beauty?

I love trans­for­ma­tions. I love how I can be a badass on a moun­tain bike and get dirty and muddy. How­ever, when I shower, do my hair, ap­ply make-up and dress up in heels, I love how I feel like a princess. It’s very im­por­tant to care about your­self, es­pe­cially in­ter­nally. Do­ing your hair and wear­ing a bright lip­stick oc­ca­sion­ally, is in­dica­tive of the care and ef­fort we put into our­selves. And I get to be cre­ative and have fun while do­ing it. Tell us about your brand. What was it like when it started and how has it grown?

My busi­ness is called House of Fox, an on­line shop that sells beauty prod­ucts and the fa­mous Clip­inHair ex­ten­sions. I had sold my pre­vi­ous busi­ness and was look­ing to en­ter the on­line mar­ket. I saw the hair ex­ten­sions on a friend and couldn’t be­lieve how in­cred­i­ble it looked.

I re­searched clip-in hair ex­ten­sions specif­i­cally in the States and saw YouTube videos had mil­lions of views from 10 years ago. I then knew that South Africa was ready for the prod­uct. I spoke to the pre­vi­ous owner of the brand and told her I wanted to grow the busi­ness. Thank­fully she also wanted to pur­sue a dif­fer­ent av­enue and wanted to sell the brand, so I’ve been run­ning this show for nearly two years, but Clip­inHair is nearly six years old. Clip­inHair is nom­i­nated for the Tech and Ecom­merce awards, how do you feel about that?

Proud and ex­cited. Peo­ple don’t al­ways un­der­stand how much work goes into an on­line shop. It’s great when all that work gets recog­nised.

Win­ning would be amaz­ing, but even just be­ing nom­i­nated feels to me like com­ing first. What are some of the chal­lenges you have faced and still face as a woman?

I’m an emo­tion­ally sen­si­tive per­son. I once had to walk out of a rent ne­go­ti­a­tion meet­ing, be­cause I was tear­ing up. The land­lord was dis­hon­est about cer­tain things and I be­came frus­trated and felt help­less as he negated his prom­ises. A man would’ve dealt with the land­lord’s dis­hon­esty, or maybe the land­lord wouldn’t have been dis­hon­est if he dealt with a male ten­ant.

Luck­ily, my em­pa­thetic na­ture also causes me to pick up on things, like when some­one on my team is down, I can get her to talk even be­fore she even re­alises it, and there­fore it doesn’t af­fect her work. I was once in a meet­ing with some­one who spoke very abruptly and curtly, didn’t seem in­ter­ested to work with us and was non-com­mit­tal. A man might have thought she was rude and de­cided not to work with her. I sensed she was in­se­cure be­cause we were the big­ger brand, so I re­as­sured her that we are work­ing to­gether and that it would be an honour to work with her. She warmed up al­most im­me­di­ately. What would you like to see changed about the way in which women are viewed?

I cringe when I hear some­one say “He’s a hands-on dad” be­cause that per­son is in fact just be­ing a par­ent. You don’t hear peo­ple say “She’s a hands-on mom”, when you see a woman change a nappy, be­cause peo­ple as­so­ciate that with women.

Change in how we view women needs to hap­pen at home, be­fore we can ex­pect it to hap­pen in the work­place. If a mom is work­ing full time, she and her part­ner need to take turns to fetch kids from dance classes or chap­er­one them to birth­day par­ties. That means women need to feel less guilty when men step up and al­low them to do what women think they can do bet­ter. Equal­ity in our pri­vate lives will lead to equal­ity in the work­place. What words of en­cour­age­ment do you have for women who feel like fail­ures and that they aren’t enough?

I would be ly­ing if I said I’ve never felt like a fail­ure or that I some­times feel stretched too thin.

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