Getty Gizaw Brings New York to Mzansi

Getty Gizaw Brings New York to Mzansi


Ask any entrepreneur what drives them and you will usually hear the same answer: They were frustrated because they couldn’t find a product/service or attitude to match their expectations. Good entrepreneurs can spot ideas and gaps in the market. Great entrepreneurs make magic happen.

In the case of Getty Gizaw, who is Ethiopian-born, hails from New York and owns an international PR/marketing and events production firm, salons in South Africa just weren’t cutting it for the busy female professional.

“I like to take care of myself and believe that grooming is important. In all the years of coming to SA, usually bringing a music act to perform at concerts, I couldn’t get a mani and pedi in the same way I could in New York, while still staying plugged in to my busy work schedule.”

But add another salon to this already burgeoning market and you need to know that you have a differentiator. For Gizaw, it was all about the sleek look and feel of New York salons, and the latest technology, equipment and sevices.

The idea

Gizaw produced R Kelly’s appearance in South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Unable to get the New York-styled mani and pedi she wanted, which would fit into her tight schedule, she hit on the idea of opening a salon that she would want to patron.

The market

“My business has always been people — you can get almost anything done as long as you understand who you’re working with, who you’re selling to, and what all parties involved care about.”

The research

“People are people, but I needed to understand the South African beauty market; how different regions operated. It took a year, but finally I knew what my salon would look like, and had saved enough to start shop fitting the store and training technicians.”

For those on the go

SOHO’s design is based on two key elements: Sandton City was only able to give Gizaw an 80m2 store (which only happened because she wouldn’t take no for an answer), and the entire model is focused on customers who want and need professional grooming services delivered in an up-market setting, in as quick a time as possible.

Where to next?

Gizaw is already scouting sites throughout SA, and plans to take the model to other African countries when the time is right. “Eventually we will franchise, but first we need to organically open a few more stores and refine
the model.”

Great help

“I live between SA and New York. Because of Soho’s rapid growth I’m spending more and more time here, scouting for SOHO locations nationally and across the continent. My travels are possible because I have an incredible GM and business partner who moved to SA from the US to run SOHO for me. This business works because I have a great team who all work together.”

Unique features include:

  • Custom designed cubbies to accomodate handbags so that they can be kept off the floor
  • Each station has a plug point to charge your phone, PDA or laptop (and SOHO has every charger conceivable)
  • Retractable tables create a work station for your laptop while you get a pedicure or let you get a mani and pedi at once
  • Free WiFi is available
  • Nail dryer machine station ensures long-lasting, chip free nails
  • Sandton City’s only store with three dedicated parking bays
  • The Soho, New York-loft-style design blends industrial chic with a functional asthetic that  maximises space to lend an impression of openness.

Vital Stats

  • Player: Getty Gizaw
  • Company: SOHO NYC Nails, Waxing, Beauty
  • Est: 2011
  • X-Factor: Spotting a niche that wasn’t being catered for.
  • Contact:; +27 (0)11 784 0370/1