Simple white thread is what makes Kirti Naran's salon different from most in Jackson. Naran opened Incense Salon and Boutique a decade ago with her sister, Rina Patel, where they specialize in hair removal by threading, a practice originated in India.
Although she is originally a native of Coventry, England, Naran lived in the U.S. most of her life. After living in Texas and Vicksburg, she came to Jackson with her husband, Pratik in 1992, and went to cosmetology school.
In 2002, her sister moved to Jackson as well, and the two decided to go into business together, adding an element unavailable anywhere else in Jackson: threading.
"I was just cutting hair at different shops at that point, and then we decided to start threading. We were used to getting it done in Dallas and Texas," Naran says. "(Rina) has got an eye for accessories and clothing and whatnot, and I was the barber, so we figured we'd combine the two and open up a business. Of course, everything sounds good in theory."
At first they found themselves having to explain threading to a wary Jackson audience. "A lot of people used to come in here and be like, 'Y'all use a thread and needle? Do you sew?'" Naran says with a laugh.
But the sisters say their clientele responded well to the practice once they figured it out, and it gave them a niche in the city. Unlike waxing, during which hot wax sticks to the hair—and sometimes skin—ripping it out with force, threading is a gentler technique that traps the hair in twisted thread (see page 17).
The sisters have noticed an increased awareness about the benefits of threading as the practice grows more popular in other cities and people try it on travels. Word of mouth around the city also sends more clients their way. In 2010, the sisters expanded at their location, approximately doubling Incense's square footage.
At Incense, Naran heads up the salon, which offers haircuts and styling in addition to threading, while Patel manages the boutique, selling clothing, accessories, nail polish and jewelry.
With Incense growing, Naran, 41, says she's exactly where she wants to be. "I think we are at a place we envisioned," she says, adding that she loves being a small business owner. "You work a lot, but you have the freedom to make changes; you have the freedom to do a lot of things you can't otherwise. You're your own boss."
Even beyond that freedom, Naran says the most meaningful part of her business is sharing it with her sister. "It's really family-oriented here. All of our clients know that we're sisters, and we've got clients whose sisters come in here, their mother comes in here, their children come in here," she says. "That is exciting. It's like a community, and it just makes you feel like you are a part of something."