Chi-Kara Armbrister speaks at BTVI’s monthly alumni speaker series

Chi-Kara Armbrister went from working odd jobs to employment in the hotel industry, from which she was fired for her locs, to being a natural hair stylist, loctician and co-owner of The Artisans Beauty Salon. The entrepreneur encourages parents to allow their children to make their own career decisions and to be there to advise as best they can, and offer their support to their children’s choices. Armbrister said not everyone is going to be a lawyer, doctor, or accountant.

“I thought I wanted to be an accountant like my mom, but I figured sitting behind a desk, looking at papers all day wasn’t for me,” said Armbrister, who spoke at Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute’s (BTVI) monthly alumni speaker series which fosters connections between alumni and current students, while providing advice for the workplace, whether as an employee or entrepreneur.

“I’m a creative and I love to do things with my hands. I have to be able to touch things. And the lawyers, doctors and accountants, all of them need to get their hair fixed. They need us. When you look good, you feel good. Allow your children to be who they are and just support them,” she stressed.

In the natural hair business since 2000, when Armbrister started she said it all seemed by chance as her first job in a beauty salon was as the receptionist. She said fate had it that, one day, the owner was sick and Armbrister was thrown into what she described as the “lion’s den”.

That was when she decided to become certified in natural hair styling and made the decision to attend BTVI.

“I needed to get myself to the point where I could do anything pertaining to natural hair. It was a very good experience. BTVI is a very good foundation if you are going into a technical area,” she said.

The alumni speaker series initiative is headed by the Fund Development Department which oversees alumni relations.

As a graduate who now gives back to the institution through teaching her craft, she was recognized in 2020 with the Scholar Practitioner Award during an RBC Royal Bank-sponsored alumni reception held at The Island House.

Armbrister said her entrepreneurial journey still seems “surreal”.

“I was basically gifted a salon. I walked into a furnished salon. The only thing I did was turn on the telephone because of my connections. I have people who have poured and sown into my life, unbelievably,” said Armbrister. “My friend’s father basically furnished out the whole salon. Here I go from salary, commission, paying booth rent to now owning a salon, being a partner and I didn’t even have to come up with any money. That only could be God. My partner and I are like soul sisters. We have a bond. She spoke to her father and got him to do the salon and threw me in there.”

In 2011, the BTVI alumna became an adjunct instructor at the institution, teaching the natural hairstyling class.

“I really love doing hair. I love teaching hair. Being an instructor at BTVI has been an awesome experience. For those who know Chair of Beauty Trades, Dr. Donnalee Minnis, when she wants someone, she will search and seek until she finds exactly who she needs for that position. I’ve seen the growth from 2011 to now. It has been a good, fun ride,” she said.

Armbrister, who said teaching gives her the opportunity to share her gift with others, has such confidence in BTVI that, while as an instructor, she enrolled in the barbering course as well.

In the journey toward perfecting her craft, she has attended international workshops with master loctitians. As a creative, her work has been featured in Nassau Guardian photographer Torrell Glinton’s The Kinky Project, which showed at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. It was a collaboration of natural hair models and artists.

Armbrister has also given back to the community as a facilitator of the Ministry of Education’s summer workshops and worked with Lowe’s Wholesale as a platform stylist for a number of brands. She credits her BTVI colleague, Dr. Terez Rolle, for the opportunities.

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