By LINDA CHION KENNEY
From karate to beauty, Kami Bellamah has her bases covered as she is set to expand her entrepreneurial pursuits from Ninja Girl Defense, offering self-defense training, to Salon Renter, an online platform for beauty professionals seeking rental spaces.
“I learned from watching my mom, who started the karate school that I grew up at,” Bellamah said. “My mom was the original woman entrepreneurial role model.”
From her mother, Bellamah said she learned the art of karate but also the joys and struggles of owning and running a business, including the importance of establishing a “happy work environment, in which employees feel appreciated so they can appreciate what they do” and then, at the other end of the spectrum, “having to fire employees and make those hard decisions when times are tight.”
Unfortunately, that was the case with COVID, which caused an upheaval in businesses dependent on groups meeting together in gyms and salon spaces, Bellamah said.
The pandemic blow eventually caused her mother, Julie Elrod, to close her studio in Columbia, Maryland, after 35 years in business, and Bellamah to move to Florida as the new year dawned in 2021.
“When I said goodbye to the karate school, where I had spent my whole life, both as a kid growing up and as an instructor, I wasn’t ready to give up entirely quite yet on karate,” Bellamah said.
Tasked with forging a new path, Bellamah said she knew one thing for certain. Whatever she did, she wanted to “uplift women.”
Step one was Ninja Girl Defense, a company through which she contracted out her services as a fifth-degree black belt instructor. “You hire me for parties, and I come and teach you and your girlfriends, or your kids, how to kick some butt, break some boards and protect yourself. It’s all about women empowerment, literally.”
“Mixed martial arts basically fall into two camps,” Bellamah said. “Some types focus on sport and flashy, impressive kicks and moves. Other martial arts focus on self-defense, which is what I do. It’s all about respecting yourself and others and reminding others to respect you in return. It’s best to use your words and walk or run away if you can, but it you can’t, you have a right to protect yourself.”
Soon, life threw another curve her way, when Bellamah in February married her husband, Andrew, and the focus took root to plan for a pregnancy.
“Like many women do, I started thinking about the amount of time and energy I want to put into work versus family life,” Bellamah said. “I didn’t realize how hard that would be until I was facing it.”
Again, with women empowerment in mind, Bellamah, with her husband, turned her attention to Salon Renter, set for a full launch later this year.
“The beauty industry is ridiculously large, and we’re getting involved in it in a big and very positive way,” Bellamah said.
While not just for women, but also for men in the beauty industry, Bellamah said Salon Renter is an online platform for linking people with small, individual spaces to rent with tenants seeking space to practice their beauty skills, such as cosmetologists; hair and nail stylists; makeup, spray tan and tattoo artists; massage therapists; and lash technicians.
“When COVID happened, it really changed the rules of the game for beauty professionals in general,” Bellamah said. “We weren’t allowed to have several clients coming in at one time. Now, that mentality still stands, where people are leaning toward more segregated spaces, and people want privacy. Sometimes they love the quietness a single space provides.”
As an entrepreneur living through a pandemic, Bellamah said she does not stand alone as many workers demand more from the workplace experience.
“For me, it’s all about helping women, which is what I love to do, but it’s also about making a lot of money, which is even more necessary today with inflation and lingering pandemic uncertainties,” Bellamah said. “People are also rethinking the amount of time and energy they want to put into work versus the time they spend on family matters.”
Moreover, “women want to become their own bosses because the work culture has changed a lot,” Bellamah said. “How do you run a work environment that people love to be in. You have to appreciate your employees if you want them to want to come to work and not hate their lives.”
While a life of entrepreneurship suits her, Bellamah said she understands that it’s not for everyone. “I’m still trying to figure it out myself,” Bellamah said. “It’s a learning curve. But for me, it’s worth it, because I want to live my life the way I want. I was spoiled a bit, working at a family-owned karate school as my own boss. I guess I just wasn’t willing to give that up.”
To learn more, visit Salon Renter online at www.SalonRenter.com/. If interested in Ninja Girl Defense, email Bellamah at firstname.lastname@example.org/.