‘Truly a blessing’: Madison business offers free hair braiding for kids going back to school

MADISON, Wis. — After getting school supplies, new clothes and haircuts are often on the back-to-school list for parents. But it’s not always a hair “cut” that wraps up every kid’s look – braiding can be hard to find in Madison or too expensive for some.

That’s where a local business stepped in to provide the service for free.

“It’s a big relief because this is something they budgeted for,” said Ndey Binta Sarr, owner of Binken’s African Braids. “The parents always want their kids to look good, especially on the first day in school.”  

Among those relieved parents is Quinesha McNeal, a mother of five daughters.

“For just three, I would be spending close to $300, $400,” she said.  

But that wasn’t the case Tuesday as she watched Sarr work on her 9-year-old daughter Janiya’s hair. 

“I’m getting braids with curls, I think,” Janiya said, “and there’s a heart on the side.”   

In the week before many local schools start, the owner of Binken’s decided to post on Facebook that she’s offering free braids for kids 10 and under from Monday to Saturday.

“It’s something big, so I think of not only donating some stuff, like school bags or whatsoever but just doing this means a lot for them,” she said.  

It sure meant a lot to McNeal, who now doesn’t have to worry about her daughters’ hair getting tangled in other costs that may be higher due to inflation.    

“With the hustle and bustle and trying to get clothes and shoes, you know, just to get them back to school ready it was truly a blessing,” she said.  

From cornrows to box braids, all styles were free. That also serves a functional purpose, according to Sarr.  

“Normally if the braid is not complicated or it’s simple, those styles do not last long, but sometimes that’s what they can afford so it will take them two to three weeks, they take it off,” she said, “but there are braids that are complicated that takes time but can last for two months.”  

Binken’s African Braids has been open for less than a year. Sarr originally had a degree in microbiology, but after having her daughter, she decided to open up a business focused on her other love: braiding hair and the connection it builds to clients’ hearts.

“When I’m working on their hair, we talk about life,” Sarr said. “Braiding is therapy and I enjoy it.”   

This week, kids get to leave with a smile and return to school with a new ‘do.

“It’s definitely a confidence booster to the kids,” McNeal said.  

And how does it make her daughter feel?

“Great,” she said.