Tamana Ayubzai, salon owner standing outside of her business in front of a sign on the wall.
Tamana Ayubzai outside of her threading salon, Brows by Tamana, located on South 27th Street in Lincoln. The business is a dream come true for the young Afghan woman.

Tamana Ayubzai came to Lincoln in 2000 as a frightened seven-year-old girl. 

Ayubzai, her mother and her five siblings fled Afghanistan after her family was being targeted by terrorist groups. Ayubzai left her father and grandparents behind to stay with the rest of the family and hoped to see them again one day. 

“The process was very traumatic and stressful,” she said. “The U.S. Embassy asked my mother where she wanted to go. She told them somewhere safe with a good education, so they brought us straight here.” 

Although they were safe, the transition wasn’t easy, Ayubzai said.

“Growing up in America as an Afghan girl becoming an Afghan woman, one thing I struggled with is getting in where I fit in, and then realizing I don’t fit in anywhere,” she said. “I’m supposed to make my own spot to fit in, my own environment.” 

And that is exactly what Ayubzai did. Now 22 years later, she owns Ayubzai Brow Studio, a successful studio salon in north Lincoln, where she offers facial threading, a process of removing eyebrow hair using a piece of thread. She has dreams to expand her business into other states. 

Ayubzai’s mother taught her the centuries-old cultural tradition when she was seven or eight. She grew up threading her family and friends’ eyebrows — and they encouraged her to open up her own business, but she said she never thought she could make a career out of it. 

Ayubzai threading 293x300 - Afghan refugee finds her niche with successful Lincoln business
Tamana Ayubzai threads the eyebrows of a client at a Dillard’s event. She learned the process from her mother.
Photo courtesy of Tamana Ayubzai.

Ayubzai had attended school to become a pharmaceutical tech but said she quickly realized that was not what she wanted to do, so she pursued a career as an esthetician instead. 

Today, she said she has found her passion and her place. 

“Through growing up and then perfecting my craft, and then seeing it through my business, how my clients and I interact, it’s just special to me,” she said. “I’m being completely myself, this is where I’m supposed to be, and I feel comfortable where I’m at.” 

Ayubzai said she started with a small goal of one client a week, offering inexpensive services in order to build up her clientele. 

“It took over a year for me to even get the response that I wanted from my audience and my target for my business,” she said. 

After that year, Ayubzai’s business grew and became more successful than she expected. Now, five years later, she has been able to switch her schedule from walk-ins to strictly appointments only as her clientele increased. 

Ayubzai said the support she received from the Lincoln community, especially from women, is the reason she is so successful. Her clients like that her business is run by a woman, she said.

“They love to empower you; they love seeing women doing what they love, and making a career out of it,” she said. 

Linda Kero, who has been a client for four years, said seeing the success of an Afghan women-run business is her reason for supporting Ayubzai. 

“Coming from the Middle East myself, I know how hard it is to make something of yourself here,” she said. “Tamana did it. She opened this salon and became successful on her own; it’s so inspiring.” 

Ayubzai also credits her success to her fellow Afghan community, which have supported and encouraged her over the years. 

And that is why she is looking forward to helping the Afghan refugees who are resettling in Nebraska.  She plans to help the new refugees as a translator.

Ayubzai said she understands the difficulty of leaving your country and loved ones behind. She left her father, who is still living in Afghanistan. But she also understands the process of coming to America as a refugee.

“It’s a lot of information,” she said. “It’s a lot of paperwork. When they bring you to America, you just get thrown out there. They give you great resources, but you still have to get to them. So if I’m able to, that’s what I do on the side, help as much as I can.”

While Ayubzai thinks Lincoln does a great job at offering services for new refugees, she said she would like to see more support for them, including increased job opportunities and better communication about resources. 

Ayubzai said she’d excited for the incoming Afghan refugees and the community as a whole. 

“For the community here, it’s going to mean there’s going to be a lot more entrepreneurs, a lot more business owners,” she said. 

As for her future goals, Ayubzai plans to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner and open up a medical spa, while expanding her business across other states. 

“As an Afghan business owner, I feel extremely privileged to be able to have my own business and run it and be free,” she said. “I am here because of my cousins, my aunts and every woman in my life.  My ancestors never got to do that, so I am.”