For a quarter of a century, Mary Tlhowe has made a living from putting a smile on people’s faces.
No, she’s not a comedian but rather a gifted beautician.
The 48-year-old is also the founder and owner of Mary’s Beauty Parlour in Francistown, which, at just 12 years old, is already one of the oldest beauty parlours in the city.
Having learnt the basics of her craft in Zimbabwe, Tlhowe moved to Gaborone in the mid 90’s where she soon landed a job as a beautician.
“I worked in Gaborone for about two years. When my husband was transferred to Francistown, I joined him and worked at another beauty parlour. I believe it was the only beauty parlour in the city at the time,” she says, her proud smile displaying an immaculate set of teeth.
Three years later, Tlhowe took the bold, and slightly risky step of opening her own business.
“In 2005, I opened my first office opposite Civic Centre, above Pie City. I was the first local to open such a business in Francistown. All these other parlours found me running an established business with clientele from as far as Canada,” she explains.
Mary’s Beauty Parlour would later relocate to office 13 in Haskins Block.
“I wanted a more visible space along the Blue Jacket Street, and I got that here. I like to tell people that my business is above The Voice offices and I hope The Voice remains here forever,” she adds with a chuckle.
Some of the services offered at the parlour include: eyelash extensions, pedicures, manicure, facials, laser therapy massages and make-up for all occasions.
After running a successful enterprise for over a decade, Tlhowe currently finds herself in a similar position to other business owners in the second city – the challenge of adapting to life after Tati Mine.
Indeed, Tlhowe grimly tells Voice Money that since the Nickel Mine closed down last October, her clientele has dropped by almost 50 per cent.
“The impact of the mine closure has been immense. We are coping but it is really bad,” she admits, her radiant smile briefly diminishing for the first time.
“The business was doing well when Tati was fully operational. I had lot of expatriate customers. I had Russians, South Africans and many Canadians who frequented my business,” continued a nostalgic Tlhowe wistfully.
She adds that today the venture only survives through the support of her loyal customers, who have stuck with her during one of the worst economic times to hit the Ghetto.
“Some of my customers have been coming here since the business was first opened. I’ve had customers from Orapa, Sua Town, Phikwe and surrounding villages.
“The sad reality is some of my customers are business owners whose businesses have been affected by the closure of the mines in the city. We have all been affected and there’s very little money going around,” Tlhowe notes, serious concern etched on her face, her smile now gone completely.
Despite the current challenges, the hardened business lady has no plans to quit anytime soon.
“There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. People will always want to look good, despite financial challenges,” she says optimistically.
Tlhowe believes facials are no longer a reserve for the few but a necessity for all individuals who value their faces.
“It is no longer a ladies thing. We have men who come here for their facials and to pedicure and manicure
“We are still the best in town. For those with a persistent facial and body hair problem, we have laser therapy to get rid of that once and for all,” she finishes, her smile firmly fixed on her wrinkle-free face again.