Cuddle Cutz – Zandile Mkhulise

Heads Up On Good Business: Newcastle Entrepreneur Gives Children What They Need


By Liesl Jobson


zandile_mkhuliseIt’s quiet in the morning when Zandile Mkhulise opens the doors to her hair salon catering exclusively to children. In the calm before the business kicks off for the day, she remembers her mother plaiting her hair under a shady tree on hot days. There was certainly no money for trips to the salon and her mother had four daughters and a farm to run, so the styling was a chore done kindly, but quickly.

Zandile’s first encounter of a hair salon was in preparation for her matric dance. Later, when she took her five-year old niece to the hair salon, the girl screamed in fear and tried to run away. As an alternative, Zandile asked a stylist to come to the house to do the girl’s hair, but still she would run away. Later, her baby boy cried when the barber’s razor buzzed over his scalp. “I was fed up with stressing every time my kid needed a haircut,” says Zandile. “There had to be a better way to meet children’s hairstyling needs.” One day, while watching a womens lifestyle programme on TV, a kiddies’ salon flashed across the screen. Instantly the seed was sewn and Zandile began to research the possibility. There was nothing like it in the area.

When retrenchment from her corporate job reared its unwelcome head in February 2015, Zandile grabbed the opportunity to start the project of her dreams. She used her retrenchment package to finance her small business, shipping in specialised equipment from overseas and storing it in her garage while she sought the ideal premises. A few months later she opened “Cuddle Cuts” in Newcastle, with the express intention of providing children in the area with a unique and child-focused salon experience.

Zandile’s “can do” attitude and her passionate determination attracted the attention of the selection panel of the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme. She was one of just 15 entrepreneurs in KZN who were chosen from some 700 applications country wide to be on the programme. The two-year programme offers Zandile the chance to acquire business skills by attending workshops focused on various aspects of running a business. She has also benefited from working with a mentor, who encouraged her to think very differently about how she manages her finances.


This has been the biggest aspect of her learning. She speaks candidly about the topic of finances: “The fact that I was using the money from my retrenchment meant I was not strict about how I spent it, nor was I sufficiently particular in recording my expenditure. I thought it was ‘my money’ but my mentor encouraged me to draw a line between myself and Cuddle Cuts. Because the business is all mine and I don’t have a partner, I felt I could do anything I wanted to. Through the workshops I have had a big mindset change, separating myself from the business. Each person needs to learn this. The only way you can see if your business is growing, is to look at the mistakes and to figure out how to rectify them.”

Zandile enjoys chatting to the mothers while they wait, gathering new business ideas, some of which are in the pipeline. Zandile thinks deeply about the challenges and joys of becoming a small business owner, and is always eager to improve the business. A lot of effort and attention has gone into creating the magical aspects of this business.

For example, when a child enters this salon, they are greeted by a candy scented air freshener that speaks more of a visit to the circus than the dreaded hair salon. He or she climbs onto a chair shaped like a little car. The mirrors are framed by cartoon characters, and a well-stocked play area keeps those waiting entertained. A jar of lollypops awaits the small person who leaves the shop sporting their new “do”.

These thoughtful touches have transformed the experience for her young clients. When asked if any children cry in her salon, she answers, “A few… but mostly those who have to be dragged away. They’re having such a good time that they refuse to leave!”


Cuddle Cuts is based in Newcastle, KZN. To learn more about Cuddle Cuts, call Zandile Mkhulise on 082 735 9460 or email