A dream, an encouragement, and a small investment – that’s how Naki Selimovic started her business journey. She’s now the proud owner of Naki Nails, a nail art and make-up business in Leskovac, Serbia.
In 2016 Naki attended a small business training where the trainer encouraged her to take a small practical step to realise her dream of starting a business. So with 40 Euros in hand Naki went out and bought her first nail art set. She then started working on nails for her neighbours and friends.
Naki set up shop in her bedroom. One side of the room was her bed, and the other side was a small table with her nail equipment.
“The ladies who came didn’t care. All they cared about was having pretty nails,” Naki shared, laughing.
Then one day a local event brought the boost Naki and her business needed.
“There was a Roma ball, which is a special event here, and all of a sudden I had 20 girls needing their nails done,” Naki said.
That set her up with a bigger customer base.
“I had girls coming to me a month later and told me their nails were still looking good and they were satisfied. Then I knew this is what I wanted to do, a good quality nail art business.”
Naki decided that if she were to do this, she wanted to do it right.
“I wanted to do this professionally, so I went for a course to become a certified nail artist.”
Over time she also went on to become a certified make-up artist.
From nails to heart
Naki offers more than just beauty treatments for her customers. She also offers a listening ear to the women who share their life problems and day-to-day struggles with her. For Naki, her business is also an avenue for sharing Jesus’ love with others.
“I spend two hours with each customer. You get to have a great conversation. For one hour I listen to them, and the other hour I get to speak into their lives. We share encouragement, advice or anything they need. For me that’s special. After two or three times of doing this, that person becomes your friend,” Naki said.
“The women come to relax, to drink coffee, and to talk. It’s like therapy session but cheaper and you walk away with pretty nails.”
These days Naki’s business is no longer run from her bedroom. She now has a salon built as part of her house, which provides a restful atmosphere for her customers.
“When the women come, they tell me it’s so beautiful and they want to stay here all day.”
Going against the grain of culture
Being a business woman hasn’t come without its challenges. In Roma culture women are expected to be housewives, not working in a job or a business. Naki faced resistance from her mother-in-law who was not on board with her business endeavours. But her husband is very supportive.
“My husband is my biggest supporter. He helps me with building my salon and keeps encouraging me in my business,” Naki said.
Naki has always been passionate about Roma women being able to access education and develop themselves.
“Due to lack of freedom and confidence, Roma girls rarely talk about their talents and goals and what they would like to do in the future. Many Roma girls marry at a young age, whether by their parents’ decision or willingly. It’s sad how from a young age other people decide their lives, as if they were created to be someone else’s puppets. Roma women need to be educated and have a future, to choose and decide for themselves,” Naki wrote in an essay she posted on Facebook.
“I’m sorry that sometimes we as Roma women don’t value ourselves because of someone else. Such thinking needs to change and we need to apply what God says in His scripture. In my business I am in contact with young Roma women every day. I pray for them and I wonder how to show them that they are beautiful and wonderful, worthy and capable.”
For Naki, her business journey is not just about her. She sees it as a way she can be a positive influence to others around her, especially young Roma women.
“In my work there’s been a lot of things that go wrong, but I never want to stop. I want to continue to learn something more and to teach others.”