A modest-sized room sits tucked in the corner of the commercial Agricola street building. On the door, a sign reads ‘Ela Lani Salon,’ and inside, there is just enough room for two salon chairs. Although it is a tiny space, the place is well decorated, and the owner, Pearl Ejelike makes it work. Sitting in the waiting room outside the salon, Pearl tells her story.
She has a truly unique accent, like nothing you have ever heard before. It is a beautiful combination of a Melbournian dialect with subtle hints of Nigerian English intertwined. Born in Nigeria, Pearl’s parents had always dreamt of providing a better life for their children.
“Nigeria was, and still is, a great country,” says Pearl. “But there are a lot of things that need to improve and it’s not that great right now.”
Pearl was 18 months old when her father moved to Melbourne, Australia to find work. The rest of the family members struggled with their visa applications, and they were denied several times. Ten years later, with the help of the Premier of Victoria, their applications were finally approved. They packed their belongings, left for Australia, and never looked back.
“Australia is the home that I know,” she says. “All my friends are in Australia, and I don’t really know Nigeria since I barely lived there.”
Pearl’s father not only helped their family create a better life in Australia, but he was also a great influence on her career. Pearl was working in the corporate world in Australia and doing a few modeling jobs on the side when her father gave her some advice.
“My dad, who is a psychologist, told me that if I got fired from the corporate world or something happens, I needed to have a skill to fall back on,” Pearl says. “I’ve always done my hair, makeup, and nails, so my dad suggested I do hair.”
Pearl went to hairdresser school, and after she graduated from the program, she kept hairdressing as a side business.
When it comes to Ela Lani, Pearl says the initial reason she opened the salon was because of an epiphany she had when working in the corporate world.
“I was working for a bank, and the pay was not the best,” she says. “I was making more money at my first job at the age of 16. It didn’t make sense to put in all that effort and not get paid what I deserved.”
Her second reason, of course, was all about the hair.
“I always do my own hair, and no one else around here uses the method I use,” says Pearl. “I felt that Nova Scotia, well, that Halifax needed me. So, I quit the bank and started my own business.”
Ela Lani has two sections of business: There is the human hair extension line, which has been around for four years, and the salon, which has been in business for the past two years. Pearl says that owning her own business has been a great experience thus far.
“It’s been fantastic because Nova Scotia is so similar to Melbourne,” she says “The people are friendly, and the energy is quite similar to the Melbournian type energy.”
Just like any business, being in the beauty industry can have its ups and downs. Pearl wants to remind business owners to value their time.
“It’s important to give, but you also have to know your worth, and that your time is valuable,” she says. “If you give too much, other people in your life are losing out, like your family, and your own self.”
The future is definitely bright for Pearl and her hair salon. With a bigger space in mind, Pearl would like to have a salon complete with nail care, a spa, a massage center, and of course, a section dedicated to hair.
“It will be one home where women and men alike can come with their stress and go home without it,” says Pearl.
After the first salon opens, Pearl plans to expand her business all over the province. As the old “teach a man to fish” adage goes, the new Ela Lani will be focused on teaching people how to take care of themselves.
“It’s going to be a place where I can encourage people to love themselves,” says Pearl. “People need to practice self-care, and to remember that they matter.”