Avatar photo

By Zanele Mbengo

Journalist


Elizabeth Harriesunker: Of service – one haircut at a time

Elizabeth Harriesunker's vision brings dignity through free haircuts to underprivileged communities, inspired by a lifelong commitment to serving others.


As you step inside Elizabeth Harriesunker’s Mobile Barber Co, you see a sleek interior, grey wooden floors, dark grey cupboards and black leather chairs reflecting in the mirrors.

Yet, what truly greets you is the radiant pride and dignity on the faces of those being served.

Born in the south of Durban, Harriesunker embarked on a journey fuelled by a profound desire to uplift communities and restore dignity through the simple act of grooming.

“I wanted to do something different because, normally, people give food and clothing and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I wanted to give people their dignity and respect,” she says.

Harriesunker’s journey began with a vision in 2019, born out of a lifelong commitment to serving the underprivileged.

ALSO READ: Somizi’s hairstylist Sonnyboy Magano spills the secrets

“The concept of Mobile Barber Co was born in 2019. It was inspired from the love for people, creating connections and value in society,” she says.

“As a disadvantaged female growing up, I’m aware of the many deep struggles underprivileged communities face continually. Mobile Barber Co aims to help people by showing them they are valuable in society.

“Our focus is helping the less fortunate by creating a mini mobile salon that travels to underprivileged communities and provides haircuts at no cost to them,” she said.

Mom’s teachings

Harriesunker says her mother’s teachings from an early age sparked a sense of purpose in her by being of service to people.

“I always wanted to stretch my hands to the underprivileged and those who cannot afford to have a haircut because in many communities, these services are not made available to them. Uplifting others gives me a sense of purpose,” she says.

ALSO READ: Statement hair partings are the latest trend

However, the road to realising her vision and purpose was fraught with challenges – from securing funds for vehicles and equipment, to overcoming logistical hurdles.

Harriesunker recalls how it took time to decide on the type of vehicle, as careful consideration had to be given to the design of the mobile salon.

“We had to choose the right vehicle because we can’t just get any normal vehicle.

“It has to have a high roof because barbers need to be comfortable in there and people need to walk in, so they can also stand in there. We had to select the right furniture and equipment that would work for the intended function,” she says.

“After some time, we launched by ourselves, which was really financially challenging. To make matters worse, the Covid ordeal happened soon after launching, which brought my vision to a complete halt.”

ALSO READ: Unilever to develop programmes to support black hairstyles following racially offensive Clicks ad

When the door to a partnership with McDonald’s finally opened, she says it was a blessing.

“I had the privileged of meeting with the operations leader from McDonald’s and I shared the vision of Mobile Barber Co. He loved the idea and had some amazing views on how we could reach communities better in the Gauteng region.

“The partnership with McDonald’s SA is a synergy that is truly a blessing. It results in bringing a unique contribution to communities which is dearly heartfelt.”

Lots of travelling

With her two vans, she services around 90 organisations and travels around Joburg and Pretoria on a monthly basis. “We go to places like Soshanguve and Mamelodi and we service the areas there,” she says.

“We [also] service old age homes, orphanages, underprivileged schools, mental institutions, centres [helping] women and child abuse [survivors] on an ongoing basis with free haircuts.”

ALSO READ: What to expect at the Beauty Revolution Festival 2020

What assures Harriesunker she is on the right path is seeing people of different skin colours and different textures of hair walking out of her van with renewed confidence.

“Just seeing a person after they had their hair cuts, stepping out of the mobile van, and then you see the glow and the smile on their face. That gives me motivation to keep going,” she says.

Harriesunker’s story serves as an inspiration to aspiring change-makers, reminding them to seize their dreams and embrace their purpose.

“If you have a dream, if you have a purpose, take that step. Because if you don’t take that step, you’re going to be stuck there. Then, later on, you’re going to regret [it and ask] why didn’t I do that before?

“Five years from now, Mobile Barber Co will be countrywide and servicing more people. Dignity, caring and love is what will always describe Mobile Barber Co.”

ALSO READ: Rachel Kolisi and other celebs navigate doing their kids hair at home

Read more on these topics

community Durban entrepreneurs service

For more news your way

Download our app and read this and other great stories on the move. Available for Android and iOS.