A Reason To Live
For Debera Bhimsen, dedicated franchisee owner of Dream Nails Beauty Rosebank, a growing business has given her a new lease on life after the tragic passing of her daughter.
Born in Tongaat, a little town just outside Durban, Debera faced early heartache when her parents divorced when she was just five. “It shattered my world as a little child, but fortunately for me, my father’s loving sisters took care of me,” she explains.
She went on to get married in her early twenties, although the marriage didn’t last long. “The best part of my marriage was one very special, beautiful baby girl Alyssa Tamara,” adds Debera. “Alyssa was my everything, my sunshine, my pillar of strength. She just knew how to give me the zest to go on in life. Her smile just lit up my life in every possible way, that it’s beyond explanation!”
However, Debera’s life was shattered in August 2009 when Alyssa was diagnosed with brain cancer. “My baby fought until the very end,” says Debera. “After four operations and six months of struggle, pain and suffering, Alyssa passed away on 1 February 2010.”
Debera felt as if she had died as well and sunk into a deep depression for which she was hospitalised. “Life was unbearable; it was the hardest, most unbearable pain for a mother to bear.” She was then put on anti-depressants and for the next three years, felt as if she was living like a robot. No feelings, no emotions, just anger and hatred filling her heart.
All this time, she couldn’t see that the most amazing man, Arveen Dhrampal was standing right in front her. “I just couldn’t see it, couldn’t feel it, all the love he was showering me with,” she says.
Arveen wanted to find Debera a reason to live. He knew that nothing could replace her child, but he knew that she had to find something to do to keep her occupied, to keep her mind busy, to distract her from being sad.
In 2012 Arveen bought Dream Nails Beauty Rosebank for her. On the second anniversary of Alyssa’s passing away, Arveen and Debera became the proud owners of Dream Nails Beauty Rosebank.
“I thought of the salon like my baby, my baby that had to crawl, then learn to stand, with falling so many times, but learn to stand strong,” says Debera. “Then to walk – and we are now walking towards a steadier and more solid future.”
The start-up phase was not without its challenges. The Mall of Rosebank underwent major renovations for three years, reducing foot traffic drastically. There would be days when the salon only had two clients and income was unpredictable. “Somehow we managed to keep afloat during this period, we survived the worst,” says Debera. “If I was negative, I knew my staff would follow suite.”
Debera has been managing the salon with a different approach. She is hands on and tries to be in the salon 90 percent of the time. “My staff need me, they always know they can count on me to walk them through the most difficult moments,” she adds. “Even in the most trying times, I allowed myself to feel drained, but I never gave up.”
Debera adds that owning a business is not all smooth sailing. There are obstacles and challenges every day, but Debera says she tries to take a step back and look at the situation from a different angle. “It’s not about how many problems we have, but it’s how you handle the problems.”
Debera says during the renovations she kept expenses to the bare minimum. She watched her stock like a hawk and worked with what they had instead of over-committing themselves.
“We have not changed our lifestyle, we didn’t buy new cars or go on lavish holidays,” she says. “Just living within our means helped us survive the disruptive construction phase.”
With Arveen motivating her, Debera ran promotions each month to attract new clients, offered discounts to corporates in Rosebank and even went into companies to pamper ladies.
But in April 2014, when it was time for Dream Nails Beauty Rosebank to move into its permanent home in the new revamped Mall, Debera and Arveen were in no financial position to finance the new salon. They also needed to comply with the new Dream Nails Beauty look.
They then applied for a business loan from Real People. “Luckily Real People saw the potential of our salon and with support from the team there, approved the application.”
The business has now grown from four staff members to seven permanent employees, mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds. The salon continues to run monthly promotions to enable women to look good for an affordable price. Debera strives for hygiene and cleanliness, service excellence and customer satisfaction. Sales are already increasing.
Her tips include trying an idea for at least three months to allow time to see the outcome and putting yourself in the same situation as the consumer.
“Seeing the numbers just reminds me that nothing is impossible, but you have to be patient, don’t over commit and don’t try to introduce too many new ideas at the same time,” says Debera. “Whatever you do, try to do it from your heart.”