From Apprentice to Entrepreneur: Empowering Female Leaders in Benin

Djoule Bonna is a hairdresser, entrepreneur, and mother in northern Benin. Read a firsthand account of how she transformed her life, going from an apprentice to a thriving business owner and leader in her family and community.

Editor’s Note: The following story was transcribed from an interview with Djoule Bonna in 2024 and was translated from French to English. It has been lightly edited for clarity. 

My name is Djoule Bonna. I’m 27 years old, and I live in Tchatchou, Benin. I’m a hairdresser. I do women’s hairdressing, braiding, straightening, manicures, pedicures, makeup, and scarf tying. While I’m not married yet, I have a 3-year-old son. I provide for the family, including my parents and my siblings. We are a family of seven children. I have three older brothers and am the eldest of three other sisters.

Daily Routine as a Mother and Entrepreneur in Benin

In the morning, I wake up, sweep, and clean my room. Then, I take my son to school. After that, I get ready to go to the hair salon. Sometimes, when I arrive, my apprentices have already finished arranging the salon. If there is work, I continue with my tasks, but if there is none, I show the apprentices what needs to be done. If clients arrive, I get up to work.

If I have many clients, I stay late and don’t go home until I finish. Usually, I come at 8 a.m., and if there is work, I can stay until 11 p.m. before going home. Once I’m home, I make a fire and prepare the meal. Then we eat, shower, and go to bed.

New Opportunities Through the BeniBiz Program: Supporting Female Entrepreneurs

I learned about BeniBiz through my sister, a hairdresser who works at the district level. At the time, I had finished my apprenticeship but did not have a salon of my own. I was working for a lady somewhere. 

One day a TechnoServe business advisor came to talk about the BeniBiz training at the district. Since my sister was busy, she suggested I participate in the training instead. That’s how my sister told me about it, and I signed up. When they started the training, they invited me, and thanks to BeniBiz’s support and financial assistance, I have my salon today.

Djoule Bonna stands in her hair salon in northern Benin. Djoule participated in a TechnoServe program supporting female entrepreneurs.
Djoule Bonna in her shop in Tchatchou, Benin. (TechnoServe / Isabelle Lemou)

Motivations and the Keys to Success for Entrepreneurs in Benin

Many things motivated me. The business advisors told us they would teach us how to manage our business and keep our clientele. I also hoped to get funding to truly start my business. They also taught me to keep a management notebook to record expenses and income every day or every month to keep track. For example, if someone owes you, you note it down so you don’t forget. You also note your profits. It’s something I like a lot and that I can keep wherever I go.

The business advisors also taught me to save at the bank. Before, even if a client came, I would stay seated. But now, as soon as I see one, I get up, help her carry her bag, and bring her in. The training taught me that.

A Transformational Impact: Supporting Female Entrepreneurs in Benin

The BeniBiz project also allowed me to meet new people. Before, I didn’t have a salon, and I didn’t go anywhere. Now, with my shop, I attend meetings with other hairdressers. We give each other advice, and we do things together. People ask me how I managed to benefit from the project and how I managed to get funding. 

Since I attended the training, it has changed my life a lot. Before, I wasn’t considered, but now I am—both personally and professionally. Before, when my dad or brothers and sisters had a problem, they didn’t call me. But now, they call me, and I try to find a solution for them.

A Bright Future in Entrepreneurship

Over time, I will grow in my field. I hope to see my salon expand. I even hope to have more than 10 apprentices to train them and let them benefit from my knowledge. I hope that BeniBiz will continue to help young people in my community. 

BeniBiz 2.0 is a five-year program funded by The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the Delegation of European Union. The program works with entrepreneurs in Benin—particularly women and youth—to increase economic opportunities, employment, and food security while contributing to the green growth of the economy. Through the program, entrepreneurs gain access to skills, finance, markets, and information that they can use to transform their businesses.