A broad smile and an outgoing personality are readily apparent when meeting Sabesh Mary Manchu. She is a natural entrepreneur, willing to take every opportunity to demonstrate her beautician skills – she carries a portfolio with her. Her gregarious personality is evidence of the resilience of Sri Lankan women. Manchu, like everyone from her community, has known conflict, displacement and resettlement. She is reluctant to discuss that period, preferring to focus on a future where she has some control.
Manchu is 32 years old and married to a professional photographer who she fell in love with after a six year courtship. They have a nine year old daughter and Manchu decided her family was her priority and she wanted to follow a profession that allowed her to balance home and work.
Manchu had completed her A level, but had limited capital to invest in a business and she was determined to be her own boss. Manchu did her own market survey and determined her best opportunity lay in becoming a beautician. There were no local professionals and with her husband’s work as a photographer, they could both benefit from working with brides.
Supporting the entrepreneurial spirit
One day, Manchu saw advertising for a WUSC-supported course for beauticians and broached the idea of taking the training with her husband. A family decision was quickly made and Manchu applied to the program. After graduation, trainees generally gain work experience through an “on the job” placement. As Manchu had noticed earlier, there were no local beauty parlors for her to join. Manchu set up her own operation and arranged for her instructor to monitor her work for the three month placement period.
A true entrepreneur, Manchu felt she could expand her client base if she offered additional wedding services and took training in cake decorating. With careful budgeting and calculated investment in her business, she now has Rs. 100 000 (approximately $800) worth of tools and equipment related to the wedding industry. She has purchased costume jewelry which she rents for wedding photos. A bride can visit Manchu and have her hair and makeup done, her flowers prepared, a custom designed cake made and professional wedding photos taken.
She is saving her money to open her own beauty parlor in Kilinochchi in 2014. In the meantime, she is now training other WUSC trainees and four women are currently on on-the-job placement with her. As there is plenty of work, she plans to hire three of them.
About WUSC’s skills training program in Sri Lanka
WUSC’s skills training program in Sri Lanka helps many people gain the skills and knowledge needed to start their own business. Part of the program is dedicated to helping women, like Manchu, find higher-income jobs to increase the visibility and social acceptance of women in the workplace.