The co-founder of Pastels Salon, Ruksher will shortly embark on a mission to the Philippines, leading the first ever UAE-based team to participate in Hair Aid, a non-profit initiative that aims to upskill women in developing nations. She outlines the challenges, and rewards, of balancing business with philanthropy

Pastels is renowned for treating its staff well and has won a number of awards for female entrepreneurship. Why do you think your approach stands out?

I think being able to forge great relationships with people is vital to achieving success. I am always fair, honest and kind, and that means the staff enjoy their work, generating a really positive atmosphere in the salon, which is picked up on by clients. We are also committed to education. Key to our ethos is to uplift the skills of staff who would otherwise be unable to afford international training – this has been a huge focus for us for the past eight years. We have weekly training sessions for those that want to grow their skills, and our staff learn how to run a successful salon so they feel empowered to leave the Pastels family and open their own business in their home country, should they so wish, thereby passing the skills they have learned onto other women and helping them grow. I hope that people recognise me as someone who empowers women.

How did Pastels get involved with Hair Aid Inc and why?

Hair Aid Inc is an Australian non-profit organisation that sends teams of hairdressers to poverty stricken areas to work directly with people in need, to teach them hair cutting skills. One of our core aims is to educate and this extends beyond enhancing our salon staff’s skills. Our team is a real family, and we are always delighted to offer our knowledge to help those that are in need. Hair Aid allows us to do this in a very practical way.

Tell us about the work you’ll be doing on the trip…

The Pastels Salon Hair Aid volunteers, including myself, stylist Gerly and two nail therapists, Rose and Cherry Mae, will travel to Quezon City in Manila in January to teach street people and those that live in slum communities how to cut hair and offer nail treatments. Hair Aid Inc works with the poorest of families so they can learn the skills required to increase their livelihood, providing homeless and economically-disadvantaged individuals with a hand-up to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency.

You’re the first team from the UAE to join one of the charity’s trips. How daunting is that?

I don’t find it daunting at all – I find it really exciting and empowering. There is a real feel good factor in being able to give back to society and enable women below the poverty line to provide for their families. I feel lucky, privileged and happy to be in the position to contribute, and I am very lucky to have a team of good, kind-hearted people who are always willing to help those
less fortunate.

How important is volunteering to you, and how do you hope to continue it in the business going forward?

As a team, we love to volunteer and help others in any way we can and it’s been a firm focus for us since we launched, so while Hair Aid is the latest initiative, it’s not the first. As a business, we have participated in many food and clothing drives for global disasters including the Philippines’ typhoon, Nepal’s earthquake and the Syrian refugee crisis. We work with Breast Cancer Awareness and the ‘Make A Wish Foundation’, and we have also supported local UAE workers, organising food drives and providing free haircuts at the city’s labour camps. The education of women and girls is a huge focus – last year we started the education sponsorship of a young girl named Faria in Bangladesh, and we have recently undertaken a second sponsorship. We are so lucky to live in the UAE, to enjoy a fabulous standard of living and a life of prosperity and opportunity so, whenever we can, the Pastels team will help those less fortunate.