Owner of Cerése Hair Design
Cerése Bouwer, the ‘Blonde Doctor’ as she is known, is the proud owner of Cerése Hair Design in Hillcrest. She has had a challenging journey to success in the hairdressing industry.
Cerése’s interest in styling was initiated by her late stepfather, who she said, “Recognised and saw the potential in me, obviously in my personality and in my creativity.” Straight out of matric, in 2009, Cerése was sent to study hairdressing in Johannesburg under the mentorship of Terence Jansen Van Vuuren, the owner of Terenzo International Hairdressing.
Terence, in Cerése’s eyes, is her ‘ultimate hair hero’. “I never knew I wanted to become a hairdresser until that first moment when I walked into his salon in Melville, Johannesburg. I saw the creative hair stylists, everyone with the funky hair, pumping music and the vibe – everything was just so incredible, I really just felt it,” recalls Cerése.
She added, “I’m such a science junkie, so once I did the theory and worked with colours, formulas and science, I really fell in love with the industry well.” Under Terence’s tutoring Cerése learnt that hairdressing and the beauty industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. She commented, “You always need to reinvent yourself and you always need to keep up with the trends, techniques, and the times.”
Cerése qualified at Jeauval Hair Salon in Johannesburg in 2010. After living and working in Johannesburg for a while, the death of her stepdad saw Cerése moving back to KZN to be with her mom.
Cerése worked at a small salon but soon noticed a gap in the hairdressing industry’s development between Johannesburg and KZN. Despite her love for her town, the difference in professionalism, innovation and opportunity for advancement was apparent.
Fuelled by a desire for growth, and on the prompting of a friend, Cerése ventured into the world of social media.
She opened pages on social media sites to showcase her work, which she said was challenging but also fun because she got recognition and became busier and busier, having to work long hours.
A dissatisfied client prompted Cerése to open her own salon, Cerése Hair Design in 2019. Starting with a small studio space of just 28 square metres, Cerése and her assistant opened their doors. The initial weeks were extremely difficult, with many obstacles.
Three days after opening her business, Cerése was summoned to High Court by her previous employers in an attempt to prevent her from starting her own business. Amidst all of this, she also suffered a home invasion and was involved in a car accident.
Thankfully, with help from her friendly landlord and the assistance of a lawyer, the case was thrown out by the judge who ruled that you can’t stop anyone from earning a living.
Six months after opening her salon, Cerése was forced to close her business again due to Covid’s lockdown regulations. “That was quite a challenge, as we couldn’t work for three months, but nevertheless my business pulled through and we survived.”
However, Cerése didn’t let the pandemic stop her. During lockdown, she took the initiative to create educational videos about haircare, explaining how to use home haircare products correctly. She added, “My following just grew bigger and bigger. Today I’ve got over 9000 followers on my Facebook platform. I am also on TikTok and Instagram and my customers just love it.”
In 2021, Cerése growing business also meant that she needed bigger premises. This was not without challenges as her dad unexpectedly passed away while she was signing the lease. She had to very quickly learn how to deal with contractors on her own. Cerése now has two stylists working for her and two assistants.
Cerése passion for hair dressing has received much recognition. Her substantial following on social media,
led to her being chosen as the first ambassador for Goldwell, which is a German company, in South Africa in the KAO Salon division. In 2021, Cerése was invited to be a guest artist for Goldwell’s education team, presenting the 2021 collection on stage to fellow salon owners. Another noteworthy achievement in 2021, was that Cerése was given the Gold Award in the hairdressing industry for the Best Salon Relocation and Renovation.
Her contributions to the industry now extend to her role as part of the creative team at Espavo Hair Design, which sponsors the styling for Mrs South Africa. She has the privilege of participating in the grand finale at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg, where she will style hair backstage for the event.
Cerése’s advice to young women is clear: never give up, regardless of your background or the challenges you face. “See everything in life as an opportunity to learn and to grow and things are going to happen. As in my story it’s not going to always be easy, nothing was an inheritance.”
Just five years ago, Cerése lived in a little bachelor pad, borrowing beds from an estate agent. Now exactly five years later, she is a homeowner, a business owner and responsible for staff and their livelihoods. “It’s just incredible where I am today,” she reflected. “I always say, if you don’t know your purpose, find your passion. Your passion will lead you to your purpose. And I believe hairstylists touch more hearts than hair. My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with passion, compassion, humour, and style.”
For time out, Cerése enjoys the tranquility of the ocean and relaxes surfing. She also plays the ukulele and the guitar.
Being nominated for KZN Top Business Women reinforces Cerése’s belief that no matter what challenges you face, just keep pushing towards your goal. She feels that in the hairdressing industry you always hear male names in the industry. You don’t often hear of a woman owning a hair salon, so to me it’s a very big achievement.”