Student-run threading business brings cultural connection to campus
On top of attending classes and fulfilling other typical college related responsibilities, Engineering sophomore Sara Bashir runs and operates her own mini-business. Using her Ann Arbor apartment as a makeshift salon, Bashir provides lip and eyebrow threading services to students. Her prices range from approximately $2-$10, depending on the treatment. Eyebrow threading is the most expensive service she provides.
Bashir’s interest in threading began long before she launched her business, back when she was in middle school.
“My mom knew of the concept (of threading) because it’s kind of cultural for Desi people and people from South Asia to thread … so I just tried it,” she said. “In middle school, I started by threading my leg or my arm or my mom’s arm and then I did their faces and then when I got more confident I started doing other people.”
During high school, Bashir began to thread her friends’ facial hair, which is where she got the inspiration to continue her pastime in college.
“In high school, I started threading my friends — literally in the middle of class I would thread them,” she said. “One of my teachers said ‘You should go to college and be your dorm’s eyebrow threading girl or your hall’s eyebrow threading girl,’ but, at the time, I thought that it would never actually happen.”
Bashir explained she had no initial intention of turning this hobby into her own personal, student-run business. In fact, she simply continued to thread for her friends’ benefit.
“Originally, (at Michigan), I was just doing it to thread my friends if they ever needed to be threaded,” Bashir said. “I just kept threading my friends and it just kind of grew by itself. I didn’t have to do a whole lot.”
Once Bashir began charging people for her services, she began to amp up her marketing skills beyond word of mouth, she explained. She also created a digital flyer, which circulated various student-related social media groups.
“At some point last year, I started to put up posters in the UGLi and around my dorm,” Bashir said.
LSA sophomore Annika Dhawan, one of Bashir’s current customers, said she discovered Bashir’s business through her digital flyer on Facebook.
“I first heard about her before I came to school,” Dhawan said. “I remember someone posting ‘Looking for recommendations for threading and waxing services, etc.,’ and then I remember seeing someone posting her flyer in one of the comments and a lot of people were paying attention to that. When I was actually looking for someone during the year I consulted that post.”
Dhawan explained she decided to use Bashir instead of a local threading business because of her prices and convenience.
“Because she is a student herself I feel that her prices are a lot more reasonable for students and it’s really accessible,” Dhawan said. “Last year she was running her services out of her room in Alice Lloyd, and it was pretty convenient to make a trip over there.”
Public policy junior Arwa Gayar also discovered Bashir’s threading business through social media.
“I found out about it through MSA (Muslim Student Association), so the Muslim girls on campus have kind of like a mass chat on WhatsApp and I remember I saw a flyer on there about threading services and I needed to get my eyebrows done, so I contacted her,” she said.
Gayar explained she chose to use Bashir’s services not explicitly for convenience or price, but primarily because she felt more confident in Bashir’s threading ability considering her heritage.
“I have pretty thick eyebrows and there’s a certain style that I like and a lot of times salonists will not know how to do my eyebrows how I like them,” Gayar said. “I trusted her more because it’s kind of a community thing that Desi girls and Arab girls struggle with their eyebrows and because she knows the struggle, I trusted her more to do my eyebrows how I like them.”
Many customers not only appreciate Bashir for her actual threading services, but also for the comfortable experience she provides.
“She has made a very comforting environment for everyone who goes to her and anyone who wants the service done,” Dhawan said. “She always makes her little set up very homey and really comfortable and familiar. People not only find it convenient and accessible but also just very comfortable and a nice safe place to go.”
Gayar echoed this opinion, adding Bashir has fostered a sense of community through her services as well.
“It’s comforting to know that I can go to this girl’s apartment and know that she is going to do a good job instead of going to some random salon,” she said. “I think (Bashir’s business) is also important just because eyebrows have kind of been like a common theme among Muslim girls … (they are) a constant struggle and so it’s kind of a unifying thing that you can provide for your community even when it’s something as simple as a basic service.”
Bashir donates a portion of her profits to local charities. She explained she wanted her business to have a larger impact.
“When I started charging people in college, I wanted to do something with (the money) … so I started to donate 30 percent of the proceeds to different charities,” she said.
Bashir said she wanted to be intentional about her donations.
“I usually send the money to charities I have personal ties to,” Bashir said. “In high school, I worked a lot with the Muslim Center Soup Kitchen in Detroit. … I also give it to Syrian Refugees … who have been relocated to my hometown and around Detroit. I actually also always ask my appointments for suggestions about where they would want their money going, but for the most part it’s soup kitchens and refugee charities.”
While Bashir said the most important part of the business for her is the charitable aspect, she also appreciates the community it has provided her, as well as her customers.
“The biggest thing is that I’m doing something because I’m donating to charities,” Bashir said. “But in terms of my daily life, it’s nice because I get to meet a lot of new people … (and with that), I get to know what’s going on around campus.”