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The Rife Team

Bristol Black-Owned Businesses: The Lab

In this series, Lucy meets local Black-owned business owners to find out more about themselves and their businesses.

Bristol has always been known for its thriving art scene, creative prowess and eclectic range of businesses. It seems wherever I go in Bristol a new business venture has popped up. From food, to exercise, to fashion – we are certainly not starved.

But even though these new businesses keep appearing, that doesn’t mean owning and running a business isn’t challenging – even at the best of times. And Black business owners face a whole different range of obstacles, often trying to survive and thrive in a social, political and economic system that was not designed for them.

Global events from this year have rightly shone a light on Black-owned businesses. In this series I’ll be exploring some of Bristol’s best and the incredible people behind them.

I met with Thandie from The Lab, a nail salon in the heart of St. Pauls.

Tell us a bit about yourself and The Lab.

I’m from Bristol, went away for university, and I’ve just gotten back after seven years. My sister opened The Lab a year ago. It started as hair, nails, lashes. It ended up doing really well so we’ve expanded to two locations. She looks after the Allure Lounge on Cheltenham Road, and I look after The Lab. The Lab is a nail salon in St Pauls. I consider it the best nail salon in Bristol. Boujee-est nails, classy nails, we do nail art to gel extensions, acrylics, pedicures. It’s beautiful premises, pink. I really pride myself on customer service, a lot of people don’t want to leave. A lot of our customers just pop in the door and they wave as they walk past, so it’s a really nice and pleasant experience. We are currently recruiting for more staff and our main thing is, ‘are they nice?’ Because it’s such a nice place to work.

Why do you think Black-owned businesses are so important?

Areas like St Pauls have had a stigma for a long time. I’ve been around here since I was young. Obviously, stuff goes on, but it does in every area. Things happen everywhere. This is a beautiful area; the house prices are half a million pounds. There is so much going on, it is safe. If you mind your own like everywhere else, it’s a nice area. It’s so important that people look at places like St Pauls and don’t just think, ‘oh that’s scary, you can’t go there.’ So, we want to bring something to the area, it’s half a million round here, we have businesses, look at this salon.

And actually, a lot of people come from our Instagram. They don’t normally come from St Pauls and they visit and they’re like, ‘wow, it’s not what we thought it was.’

So, I think it’s really important that you can come to an area with Black people and realise, ‘oh look it’s fine.’ There is just this stigma that I want to get rid of.

Are there any barriers you’ve faced as a Black-owned business?

I don’t know if it’s because we are Black owned but competitors and other people really don’t want to see you do well. They try and pull the rug from underneath you when it’s such a start-up business, such a new business. Little actions can cause quite severe consequences in such an early stage of a company. But we just try to be amazing and be consistent. For everyone that comes in, we just give them an amazing experience, so it speaks for itself.

What advice would you give to a Black person looking to start their own business?

Ask yourself if you really want to do this because owning a business is very hard. Fortunately, this is my sister’s business. It takes so much time – it’s not 9-5, it’s not even Monday to Saturday. There’s so much after work. I was responding to enquiries last night at midnight. So, it’s a lot of work and you kind of have to be happy to work for free. During lockdown there was nothing really, I work for free when there’s no business, so it’s a big risk I’d say. You have to be passionate about marketing. Think about locations, people need to know you’re there. Even when we were quiet, I would leaflet. We’ve had a lot of people come in through leafleting.

You have to constantly market yourself; you can’t just breathe.

What are you most proud of about The Lab?

I think it’s stunning. The staff, I have to absolutely credit them, their work is phenomenal. For the quality of our nails, it is affordable, because a lot of places are £45 before you even start putting on any design. We are really affordable, and we don’t pressure the staff. I like the fact that people who have had their nails done, they open the door and say ‘hey.’ If it’s quiet they come and chat. It’s such a nice place, people are always saying I don’t want to leave. That experience, the staff and how beautiful it is.

Where can we find you?

You can find us in the liveliest spot in Bristol, on 128 Ashley Road. Our Instagram @The_Lab_Bristol or call us on: 0117 336 2167

What are your favourite Black-owned businesses in Bristol? Let us know on our socials.