Miss Felicia Umbur, 30, hails from Agabija, Lafia Local Government Area of Nasarawa state. Her mother died few hours after giving birth to her. Then her father, Joseph Umbur, died two years ago, after labouring so much to provide her needs despite the challenges.
Felicia attended LGEA Primary School, Makurdi, and completed her secondary education in 2005 at Community Secondary School, also in Makurdi, Benue State. Between 2007 and 2008, she was at the Nasarawa State Polytechnic for a diploma programme in Public Administration. After graduating from Nasarawa State University, Keffi, where she went for a degree programme, she was posted to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, for the mandatory national youth service.
After her mother’s death in 1987, her father sent her to Makurdi to live with her aunt, Mrs. Theresa Ajokwe, who took pains to nurture and bring her up to ensure that the efforts of her late sister were not in vain.
Though Felicia’s father later remarried, he made strenuous efforts and used the income from his farming and petty trading activities to invest in his daughter’s education, His marriage to Felicia’s stepmother was blessed with three children (two boys and a girl) before he died in march 2015 of kidney related illness.
Recalling the pain of his death, Felicia said: “The shock of my father’s death was like a punch in the stomach, because I did not know my mother, the long and short of the stories I was told is that after a long labour at home, she was finally taken to the hospital where an operation was carried out and she never survived the ordeal of the prolonged labour.
“So my father’s death was the first bereavement I experienced up close. For months, a cloak of confusion, rage and disbelief descended on me because he kept telling me any time I came home on holidays that I concentrate on my studies. He would always tell me that his wish for me was to become somebody in life, where I would get a good job and help him as well.
“It is quite unfortunate that he didn’t wait to see the fruit of his labour, though I am yet to get a job but I am running a barber’s shop, to earn a living and my intention is to move to Keffi to set up a better salon that can attract more patronage.
“At 30, I have become an adult, a member of the club that nobody wants to join, the death of my father has been a major problem because he couldn’t wait to see my future after the pains he went through to give me a good education despite having children from his second wife. Any time I think of my father and the kind of encouragement he used to give me and his dream for me, I think of suicide every day and I have come close to it a couple of times, especially when I don’t get customers to keep me busy.
“My father was more than a father to me; he was my best friend and I miss him terribly. Any time I think about him, tears flow down my cheeks, what a lonely world without him, his loss is the biggest issue I still face in my life till date. I feel so lonely without him.”
Felicia told Sunday Sun that she became more closely attached to her father while studying at the polytechnic because while in Makurdi, he was visiting every weekend to check on her. Whenever, she went to Lafia, she would read the bible with her father and talk about life.
Reminiscing further, she said: “He even spoke about his glorious days with my late mother. The mistake he made about the pregnancy by not taking her to the hospital on time, when labour started was informed by the advice of people who said that she would deliver. He used to tell me how the bad decision affected him deeply because he was very close to my mother. My father and I built a strong bond.
“Few days before he died, I had a dream and I told him the dream and he assured me his health was fine. The sad thing is that he was in Lafia then and I was in Rivers State, so I was only able to speak to him on phone. He prayed for me before he died, I still cry almost every day because his death made me know who loves me and who does not really give a toss.
“These days, there are no calls to my phone every second as he usually did, no one to talk to about ups and downs of life. It just seemed quiet, the truth is that two years down the lane, the reality of his death has refused to go off my mind and it will be a tough task to get by without your parent. You miss the kind thoughts, the advice, the yelling, his flashing me; the list is endless, but with the grace and help of God, I will one day overcome it.”
She thanked God for his grace for allowing her father to train her in the right way, most especially in the Christian way.
Felicia, whose salon is located in Shinge area of the state, revealed that her interest in barbing came while she was serving in Rivers State and her place of primary assignment was very close to a salon run by a young man who was her casual friend. The idea of taking up barbing as a vocation came to her, despite the fact that it is considered a predominantly male vocation.
She said that she used the whole service year to learn how to barb and after her service year, she served in the salon for another six months to perfect the art of barbing, noting that she was very much aware of how difficult it is to get a job. So she gave her full attention to it and got it right.
Her words: “After my service year, I returned home with the little savings from NYSC and with little assistance from my aunt, who brought me up in Makurdi. I decided to set up a salon. My initial intention was to settle in Makurdi but later, had a change of mind and today, it is a success story.
“I learnt barbing as an apprentice for about a year plus during my service year, I began to barb small boys, who were brought in by their parents. Later, I moved to barbing my NYSC colleagues and gradually went ahead to start barbing customers and I became perfect.
“What inspired me into this business is that I thought of going into a unique business area. Initially I thought of tailoring and fashion designing but later realized that a lot of people are into it and the closeness of a barbing saloon to my place in Rivers motivated me to start the business,” she said
Felicia said that her major challenge in the barbing business in the state is dealing with a lot of customers involving people from all walks of life such as the elderly and young ones. “When you are dealing with such category of people, you have to come down to their level and flow so that you can offer their desired services. Some people may come with a certain mindset and if care is not taken you run into problems with them. No matter the categories of customers I have, I try to maintain a very good relationship with all of them.
“My Unique Selling Point is that I am knowledgeable in what I am doing, I have been in it for quite some time and I have come a long way. It is not really a problem for me. Another challenge is regular power supply as I use a generating set which consumes my money. But I have completed arrangement to relocate to Keffi, close to the university so that I can serve the students there. I have paid for a shop and by his grace will move in December when the students will resume,” she said
She explained that she is not making any reasonable gain because of low patronage which necessitated her decision to move to the school environment, adding that she makes an average of N2000 and above daily.
She said that salon business is very lucrative because it is a business that does not accommodate credit facility. It is not like every other business where people owe. Before you go into a salon to barb your hair, you must have money in your pocket.