‘My community needed it’: New American opens hair supply business

  • Frank Dunia in his new shop, Dunia Beauty, in Concord. Ben Domaingue Monitor staff

  • Dunia Beauty’s products within its small storefront. Ben Domaingue / Monitor staff

  • Future barber shop location within Dunia Beauty. Ben Domaingue—Ben Domaingue

  • Potential convenience store within Dunia Beauty. Dunia plans to sell African and Caribbean food within the storefront. Ben Domaingue—Ben Domaingue

Monitor staff
Published: 12/12/2021 4:24:27 PM

Growing up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Frank Dunia says he was born with a love for hair care that he has honed throughout his life.

“You’re born with something,” said Dunia, who sports a well-groomed beard and clean-shaved head. “You love something and then you tend to develop it by yourself.”

Years later in a new country, he opened his own hair salon in Concord with the help of a business loan directed towards New Americans to continue his passion for hair style and care.

Dunia Beauty and Hair opened on Loudon Road in 2020, with the support of the Regional Economic Development Center.

“It took me almost one year before they approved me,” said Dunia. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Since 2018, the Regional Economic Development Center has provided 32 loans totaling $1.28 million to first-generation immigrants opening their own businesses. In addition to funding, the development center offers training in bookkeeping, marketing and other technical expertise, like webpage design, to support new businesses.

“First-generation immigrants are a true resource for the state,” said Laurel Adams, president of Regional Economic Development Center. “Attracting new Americans and keeping them in New Hampshire can increase the state’s diversity, grow our economy and mitigate our labor shortage. To keep them here, we need to help new Americans achieve the American dream of owning a business.”

Dunia left the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2003, later moving to Nairobi, Kenya, where he applied for visa status and eventually immigrated with his family to Concord. Dunia has a background in social work and development, and speaks French, English Swahili, and Lingala, a national language of Congo.

Getting his business off the ground was difficult, but Dunia was determined. In order to select the right products to sell, Dunia went to his friends and neighbors with a catalog.

“I went to 35 different families,” said Dunia. “I went door by door and asked what they needed and what they’d like to buy.”

Dunia’s primary customers are those who work on hair from their own home.

“I’m working with stylists and barbers,” said Dunia. “I have one stylist who comes to make their hair over here.”

Despite the businesses being just over a year old, Dunia has ambitious plans to expand – through pursuing his barber license and opening up a convenience store.

“I plan to get my license by next year,” he said. “You need to go to school get a license then start working.”

Dunia thinks he may need to find a larger space in order to realize his vision but plans to grow at his current location first. He hopes to use the second floor as a hair salon, open a barbershop within his current storefront, and open a convenience store to sell African and Caribbean cuisine.

“I need to change the place, I need to have a bigger place,” said Dunia. “We need more staff. When people come here, I want them to be able to get everything they need.”

Dunia’s business has slowly grown despite COVID-19, and all of its challenges from social distancing to supply chain issues. Ecven in a pandemic, Dunia said opening a business in the United States has been much easier than it would have been the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“In America, when you open, you open,” he said. “If you get through all of your papers, you’re good, no one will come after you.”

Dunia encourages other first-generation immigrants to pursue their business ventures and apply for the Regional Economic Development Center to make their dreams a reality.

“I opened this because I knew my community needed it,” said Dunia. “Go around and see what your community needs.”

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