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When the best barber in the shop is a woman

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Trailblazing barber Siti Rafidah, age 26, isn’t just a woman in a profession largely run by men, she’s also the owner of Limpeh Barbershop, and has barbers working under her.

Ms. Rafidah, was interviewed by mothership.sg recently, sharing both her passion and trajectory in what is commonly understood to be a man’s world.

Like many women, Ms. Rafidah has had to downplay her achievements. A graduate of graphic design at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), she needed to do some research on barbershops in her last year, and spoke to the man who owned DeepCuts Barbers, telling him about her desire to learn hairdressing for men—and it sounds like the former graphic designer grew to realize what her passion really is.

After working for a design firm for half a year upon graduating, she left her job. She then started freelancing as a barber, doing home visits to cut hair.

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While she had to keep this new job (and passion) from her family for a while, she finally told her mother one day. Her mother, to her surprise, accepted Ms. Rafidah’s new occupation and a barber, and even wondered why she hadn’t told the family earlier.

At that point, she had built such a loyal following that she could stop doing house calls and her customers started coming to her, getting their hair cut in the corridor of the HDB home of her family

The next natural step was to start her own place, Limpeh Barbershop, which opened its doors in 2015. “Limpeh” means ‘my father’ in Hokkien, and the shop’s tagline is “Hensem (handsome)’ like your limpeh.’

The beginning was a struggle for Ms. Rafidah, as it is for any woman in man’s world. There were times when she had very few clients, working as the lone barber every day with no days off, and wondering if she would make it in the business.

She made the choice to tell clients that she is a barber, and not necessarily the owner of the shop, so that she would be judged on her talents rather than her position.

Happily, it has paid off. Ms. Rafidah has done so well that five barbers and apprentice-barbers are now working for her at Limpeh.

Furthermore, Ms. Rafidah is also now part of The Blade Trade Syndicate, a charity organization of barbers who give back to the community. Not only do they cut hair for free, they also collect traditional Malay clothing for those who cannot afford it.

Ms. Rafidah serves as an inspiration to women everywhere, refusing to be hampered by anything in the pursuit of her dreams, providing gainful employment to others, and giving back to society.

She says in the interview, “To me, cutting hair for different people was way more interesting than churning out designs every day. You get to hear a different story everyday and you feel like you’re a part of their life.”

She has refused to be boxed in by social expectations. “It’s ok if they think that just because I’m a female, I don’t know how to cut hair. I just have to prove myself and let them judge me by my work.”

And she also looks forward to seeing women in her chosen field, “We are not lesser than them (men). We can always learn, accept what we are and don’t fall for stereotypes.”

Many netizens congratulated Ms. Rafidah on her character and her success.

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