We had the good fortune of connecting with Damilola (Dami) Akande and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Damilola (Dami), how do you think about risk?
Pursuing this career path and entering the beauty industry was a gigantic risk. I had so many worries and fears about what life would look like; but I did it anyway, I was doing great professionally, living my rich auntie life and decided I wanted more out of the hours I was putting in at work; I essentially did not feel fulfilled and needed more than just money as the reward.
The year I turned 30 was the year I decided to “turn my life upside down”. I quit my job and fresh out of cosmetology school began working as a booth rent stylist. This was not my plan by any means. I wanted to continue working full-time and build my business around my work schedule; but life always has other plans. I was freaking out, but at the same time had peace about my plan unraveling, because it felt right. Even in the midst of all that fear, the risk I was taking felt right. I did not have enough clients to sustain a booth rent lifestyle, but I knew that this was the only way I could be in the industry; so I had to do whatever it was going to take to not only build my business, but sustain it as well.
Sacrifice was the first thing that slapped me in the face; my lifestyle had to change in a way I had not imagined, at the glorious age of 30. It was humbling and taught me to ask for help in the different ways I needed it.
Two years into the journey of my new career, I had a choice to make; take another risk or stay the same. I took the risk and moved my business to a salon suite. Having already conquered the obstacle of building clientele, moving from being a booth renter to the salon suite was not as frightening. I was honestly excited about growing my business in this way because It would allow me to give my clients a more personal and elevated experience. Two more years have passed, since I started the suite, and taking this risk has been such a fulfilling experience.
This snapshot version of my story is one example of how taking a risk is scary; but in order to get to your next level or goal, it is almost inevitable. This is obviously easier said than done, because life is happening and it has no regard for what you have going on; but the way you respond is what matters most. I took a risk, stepped out on faith, and have been hitting the ground running ever since.
What should our readers know about your business?
I have always looked at hair as an accessory to represent on the outside, the way you feel about yourself on the inside. There is so much division in the world and I did not want to be a part of the side creating it through hair. Hair is hair or at least it should be. It feels, looks, grows, and is styled differently from person to person, and that is what Diverse Designs is about.
I want anyone who comes to my chair to leave feeling better than they did before their visit. I want my clients to feel like they are a part of the process of what is being done to their hair; so thorough consultations are important, to ensure we are on the same page, and I believe this also helps build trust between the both of us. I remember some of my experiences when sitting in the chair, and recall how it sometimes could be intimidating to ask the stylist about my hair during my appointment; I don’t want to be that stylist and I don’t want that for my clients.
Prior to working in the beauty industry, I was a manager in sales. I never cared about the numbers for motivation; I was always about the people. If the people felt good, the numbers would speak for themselves. I’m obviously aware of them, as a business owner, but that’s not my drive. My clients experience is what fuels me. How they are treated determines their likelihood of coming back for another appointment or sending a friend/loved one. If I fail at the customer experience aspect, I will not have a business to keep growing. Their needs (talking or not talking during the appointment, watching shows, simply listening, educating them around the care of their hair, etc) will always be a priority.
Building my business has without a doubt come with challenges, but I would not say it’s been hard or easy; more so some days are smoother than others. I am doing what I was called to do, so I try my best to wake up everyday, ready to rise to the occasion.
My vision for Diverse Designs is bigger than hair and me. I will continue to keep building the blocks and using myself as the Guinea pig to figure out what works in order to pass this information to those that will come after me. Diverse Designs is the salon experience with YOU in mind.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m naturally a homebody, but food is my love language and will always get me out of the house.
I’m based in OKC, so here are my frequent places for a good time.
The Jones Assembly – my favorite place to brunch
Saints or Queens Lounge – my 2 choices for a turn up
Side Car- for a casual night out
Flix Brewhouse – we love movies
Blu – hopefully we are able to catch them during a wine tasting weekend
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I first want to thank God for giving me the gift of creating through hair. I was 12 years old when I knew that I wanted to do hair professionally and positively impact people’s lives in this way.
Thank you to my sister for being my real life practice doll. Her reaction to a style I did for her, when we were kids, ignited my drive to want to achieve my dream of becoming a professional hairstylist, and recreate that feeling of confidence in other people.
I’m first generation Nigerian-American, and hairstyling was not a career path I saw the majority of adults around me pursuing. Thank you to the African aunties that came before me; because of them, the little girl inside me believed that the career she wanted was possible.
Thank you to my former cosmetology students. Helping you, helped me build confidence in my skills in a way that can never be undone. I could not second guess myself, even if that meant collaborating with another instructor for the solution, because you were depending on my knowledge to support your learning experience. The experience I had with you removed self-doubt and replenished the feeling of being brave enough to just go for it. While teaching, I met Jaide Island. I’m so thankful for her because she inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and continues to do so. I’m thankful that, in this industry, we have each other for support through the highs and lows. She calls me her mentor but I always tell her I learn from her just the same.
Thank you to my clients…I literally could not do this without you supporting me. Thank you for coming back, I do not take this for granted.
To my friends that trusted me with their hair during my kitchen-tician days and since I’ve now been slaying hair with a license, I will forever be grateful for you. You gave me an avenue to truly practice my craft. You believed in me and my capabilities before I really did. You allowed me to see that I was indeed created for this.
To the people that have supported my business outside of appointments (custom wigs, accessories, reposting on social media, referrals, etc). I see your support and I am thankful.
To my family…thank you for your love, support, and the constant prayers.
Last, but certainly not least…
T.K. thank you for your unconditional support. Thank you for believing in my vision and the ones I still want to make a reality. Thank you for being a sound board and without hesitation giving your time to Diverse Designs. You are appreciated.
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