How I Made It

Meron Berhe, App Co-Founder

Meron Berhe is the Ottawa, Ont-based co-founder of Bantu, an app that connects Black women with specialized hair stylists. Here, she tells FLARE how she made it

Meron Berhe, @meronabella

How do you describe your job to your family?

I am the co-founder of Bantu, an app that helps women to find talented stylists who specialize in kinky, coil-y or curly hair.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

Carleton University in Ottawa, twice. I studied integrated health science, psychology; and, later, psychology, mental health and neuroscience.

Name one piece of career advice you always give.

My personal philosophy is “just go.” If you have an idea, of any kind, get working on it. I’m not discounting planning because, of course, that’s necessary. But often there is fear around pushing “send” on that first email or deploying that first prototype because we’re waiting for the perfect time or the perfect conditions. I’d rather release something and then work like crazy to improve it.

What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?

In the early days of Bantu, someone said to “always network.” I still value this advice, but I’ve since learned that doing this constantly is draining, and takes time away from working on other things. My time and energy needs to be protected.

When you’re feeling low about your work, what’s the one thing you always do/watch/read/listen to bring yourself back up again?

I have always been high energy and I like living my life that way. However I’ve found that breaks rejuvenate me. When I’m feeling low, I like to work out, take a hike or somehow reconnect with nature. I listen to podcasts and relish in reading when I can find the time.

How would you describe your industry in terms of representation and inclusivity?

I would say the tech space is starting to recognize its lack of diversity, but I’m not sure what actual measures are being put into place to remedy this. Statistics concerning diversity in the tech field are deplorable. Some companies are saying it’s because there is also a lack of diversity in the talent pool, but I think that the talent exists. It’s my feeling that companies aren’t trying hard enough to recruit or possibly retain this talent.

Do you think you earn a similar wage as your male counterparts in your industry?

I think the well-known wage disparity between men and women, as well as other systemic barriers, such as access to fair promotions and work-life balance, make entrepreneurship an attractive option for women—particularly women of colour, because they are investing in themselves.

Have you ever disclosed your salary to a colleague in the name of transparency? Why or why not?

I have. It was an awkward conversation and it didn’t occur until we were really working together for a long time. I dislike that salaries are so private. I believe transparency would ensure that employers are being fair.

Looking to the future, what excites you the most about your career?

What’s most rewarding about being a part of the Bantu team is that we not only help women solve a relevant need, we’re a proudly Black tech company, and we also support the micro-economy by promoting entrepreneurship.

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