I like to be doing things and having lots to do

Hairdresser Precious Toppari

Half of Precious Toppari’s customers are Finnish and the rest are foreign. The Finns want plaits or their hair lengthened, while Africans might want their curls straightened. Although it is not every hairdresser that can offer these services, Toppari is planning to change her profession.

Precious Toppari is 27 and runs a hairdresser’s called Nam´s in Helsinginkatu. Toppari began her career when she rented a chair in a salon in Itäkeskus, a suburb of Helsinki, but having saved to set up her own business and got planning help, five year later she opened her own hair salon. It was tough at first, financially. Old customers, however, found where their hairdresser was hiding out and new customers gradually came along.

“I have succeeded as a hairdresser almost certainly because I know what to do with dreadlocks and I do special work which not all Finnish hairdressers either know how to do or want to do. You have to know about different types of hair in this business. I can also do nails and attach dental jewellery. ”

Toppari’s customers are both women and men. Many just want a traditional cut or simply want their hair styled, permed or dyed. Toppari thinks you learn to cut hair on the job, but you need to keep informed about the latest products and materials for dyeing hair, as it is developing fast.

“In Finland I have had an excellent opportunity to study. It motivates me and helps me to cope generally.”

Precious Toppari arrived in Finland from Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, 10 years ago. She got married and looked for a training course. When she was not accepted by any college offering a course in the industry she studied in Birmingham, U.K. She has always been OK speaking English, and now she is fluent in Finnish. Being a sociable type, Toppari enjoys being with people, serving her customers and listening to their troubles.

“If a customer can’t decide, I try to be creative, make suggestions and look for a hairstyle that suits her – or him.”

Besides working in the salon, Toppari is interested in travel and tourism. Ahe worked for 18 months as a chambermaid in a Finnish hotel and is now studying for a basic vocational qualification in catering. Although she likes cooking she does not think she will be applying for jobs as a cook.

“I have dreamt about being in travel and tourism for many years, but I need more training to be able to start studying travel.”

Toppari does her work as a hairdresser and studies. She opens her shop in the afternoon after school and stays there until 9 in the evening. Business is suffering on account of her studies, but she has a clear goal in her new country of residence.

“I am a Finnish citizen and I do not intend to leave the country, although I’ve got divorced. Both my parents are dead, and my sisters live abroad. I go back to my old country now and then, but I hardly know anyone there anymore. All my closest friends live here.”

Text and photograph: Anu Likonen, Jukka Vuolle and Nanni Akkola
The Ministry of Employment and the Economy

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