Entrepreneurship: “Today I run my own business”

Fabiana’s testimony

“Today, my routine is hectic: I wake up in the morning, take my daughter to school, work at my beauty salon, break for lunch and get everything ready between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. After that, I don’t have time to stop serving customers. On Saturdays, I can serve three at the same time and I’ve had eight on a single day. I do it out of love, I don’t know what it is like not to work. It was all possible because I learned a new occupation at Instituto Dara. Before that, everything was quite different.

The beginning of the journey

The promise of a dream job made me leave my family in the countryside of São Paulo and migrate to Rio de Janeiro to live with a friend of my parents’. Here, I lived a nightmare. I never got paid for my work, I went hungry, and she used my name to open bank accounts and make loans. My husband, whom I was dating at the time, helped me get out of that terror. We moved in together in 2008, without the knowledge of my mother, who asked me to return home. But I knew the life I wanted to have.

Our daughter, Paloma, was born in 2009. Life, which was already difficult—my husband was the only income earner in our family with his odd jobs—took a turn for the worse when Paloma began to have consecutive diarrhea, sometimes several a day. She didn’t gain weight at all and had a lot of allergies. I don’t even know how many appointments I took her to until we got to the Lagoa Hospital, in Rio’s South Zone. There, the allergist was spot on: lactose intolerance, a diagnosis that a test would later prove right.

First contact with Dara

For the first time in my life, I walked into the grocery store as an avid label reader, and I was desperate. Soy milk was much more expensive! At the time, my husband was paying child support from previous relationships, so we couldn’t afford it. At the second appointment, I had no doubt: I asked for help. So, we were referred to Instituto Dara.

I remember receiving a little book at Dara telling us how the service worked, exactly how it was happening to us. First, there was the support with cans of soy milk, a staple food basket and medicines. Then, I learned from the nutritionist how to prepare recipes with milk substitutes. But the book also said that Dara offered vocational courses. Is it really true?

In our third month of service, we were offered a cake that had been made in the cooking workshop. That caught my husband’s attention. He always had the dream of learning how to cook, and I became interested in beauty courses. But who would take care of Paloma? We were told that Dara had a play area for the children. It was just perfect.

Professionalization for revenue generation

I enrolled in the hairdressing course and my husband in the culinary course. My only experience with beauty had been as a child, when I tried to brush my younger sister’s hair and almost burned her with the blow dryer. For some reason, it never left my mind. The first module of the course was about washing, moisturizing, and brushing. The students had each other to train. The teacher encouraged us to offer the service at home, which would work as an extra revenue with a second benefit: being close to the children, who had recovered. I excelled in the course and decided to become an entrepreneur.

My husband completed the course and sold some cakes. But we lived in a too small of an apartment for the two of us to start working there. There could be cakes with client hair on, and clients with cake in their hair. As he got work on the street, it turned out that my life underwent a deeper transformation.

I turned the pantry and bathroom in our small apartment into a makeshift beauty salon. I bought the cheapest moisturizing cream I had and started offering the newly learned service for just R$ 10. I borrowed the blow dryer and straightener from Dara — I just had to leave my name and bring it back the following month to renew the loan.

My first client, who is with me to this day, squatted with me at the shower stall so I could do the job. To this day we laugh about it. An office chair became a salon chair. Afterward, my husband bought a used sink tub and improvised a hair washing unit. When there was any water shortage, which was very frequent, he had to store water in a container and wash her hair with a mug. It wasn’t easy, but I wasn’t going to give up.

Since I lived in a rear apartment in a residential building, I couldn’t advertise my services. I got the first customers through word of mouth. I improved my knowledge with other courses at Dara, such as colorimetry, makeup and, finally, hair removal. At the end of each of these modules, we were given kits to start working: a blow dryer, a hir straightener, hair dyes, a makeup bag, and hair removal pan and wax.

Dreams come true

Dara’s team even encouraged me to write a letter telling my story to ask for donations of equipment to work from home without improvisation. My letter was received by a donor, who gave me a real salon chair and a real hair washing unit, all brand new, straight from the store and with the receipt. That was a super boost for my new career. The makeshift hair washing unit and the office chair I donated to a person who was just starting to learn.

I wonder that when I read that little leaflet from Instituto Dara I thought it was a fairy tale, something that only happened in soap operas. When Paloma’s health improved and I started bringing money home, we started to make dreams come true.

My husband always wanted to see the Christmas of Light in Gramado, Rio Grande do Sul, up close. I worked all of December focused on this and we managed, without any pressure, to spend 20 days traveling in 2019. It was our first trip of its kind. My daughter, now 12 years old, already shows a desire to work, but I don’t let her. Every child belongs in school.
She studies in a private school and is doing very well.

We left our apartment. A client put her house up for sale and, with some effort and making both ends meet — we even sold our car — we put a down payment and bought it. We had some repairs done to it.
We live in the back of the apartment and Paloma has a room of her own. We joined the old kitchen to the front porch and made a lounge with an independent entrance. In 2022, I opened my salon on the street, another big dream I had.

Back then, when I was deceived and left that job with no prospects, I had decided with my husband that I would never work for others or be oppressed ever again. Today I run my own business.
My mother, who scolded me when I didn’t want to move back to Franca and decided to get married, is now proud of me. I’m the only of her children who doesn’t have a boss.