Social-media-turned-business platform WhatsApp became Love Ur Locks’ link to natural hair lovers across the world during its foundation and in the years that followed during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Vambili was speaking at a Nedbank-sponsored Stuff event on how digital innovation is transforming small businesses.
Vambili launched Love Ur Locks in 2016, four years after she asked herself why African hair only grew to a certain length. In freezing temperatures while in France on a bursary, Vambili hooked up with other African women and started developing the company’s afro hair range.
Love Ur Locks launched in 2016 and integrated mainstream tech, often used for social reasons, to kickstart a natural hair brand at a time when few hair brands specialized in processional African hair treatments. The company used the platform for years before WhatsApp Business was launched.
WhatsApp Business launched globally in 2018, finally catching up to Love Ur Locks.
It’s just Business
“Our clients were booking through WhatsApp because we felt like it was the easiest way for people to connect with us,” says Vambili.
Despite being discouraged by skeptics who deemed it unprofessional to use the social media platform, the Love Ur Locks founder says the business received most of its bookings via the platform.
“At that time, people would even laugh at us saying ‘ ‘It’s unprofessional, how can you even book through WhatsApp?’ But we could see that our generation actually likes that, and two years later, WhatsApp joined us and now it’s okay- everybody’s using it,” laughs Vambili.
From five chairs in her bedroom with hairdressers and clients working on hair, the company’s expansion became inevitable. Love Ur Locks finally moved to a professional salon in 2017, hiring and training stylists to keep up with the growing clientele.
WhatsApp Business during COVID-19 lockdown
As a startup, Vambili needed feedback from clients on the quality of her products and services. She says the company also wanted to develop a database. During the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa, the company used its database, mainly compiled via Meta’s social platform, to keep the business going.
Vambili and her co-founders created a strategy for how they would communicate with their clients during the different COVID-19 lockdown levels.
“So Level 4, we could deliver products. So we’d reach out to all our clients and say: ‘Listen, we’re now available for delivery countrywide’ and that’s all we did. We sold products.”
“ Level 3, we could now do house calls, because it was okay to go to the salon (in South Africa). So we WhatsApped everybody,” says Vambili.
Messages were generally followed by house calls to clients’ homes.
Love Ur Locks also used a range of other free apps to run the business, including some to manage bookings and streamline pricing.
“ So that’s how we used tech to grow our business and it went from just myself and my husband. We now have twenty employees across the branches in Johannesburg and Pretoria,” Vambili says.