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Natural Awakenings San Diego

Embracing Community at Ubuntu Hair Studio in Solana Beach

Oct 31, 2014 01:31PM ● By Erin Lehn Floresca

Dawn Ellinwood, owner of Ubuntu Hair Studio in Solana Beach, had a successful career at a renowned salon in Beverly Hills. But when her daughters arrived from Ethiopia back in 2007, she was ready to plant her family in San Diego and needed a place where she could blend her talent with her values. So she decided to create a business where she could do just that. “When you create a family you start thinking more about your ideals,” she says. “Nature, plants, community, beauty and connecting.” While working on making her dream into a reality, she ran across a cookbook, The Soul of a New Cuisine by Swedish Ethiopian author Chef Marcus Samuelsson. “In the book, he shared that Ubuntu is a traditional African concept based on the idea that a person is who they are through their connections with other people. ‘I am because we are.’ That philosophy became the foundation of Ubuntu.”

Giving back to the community

One unique aspect about Ubuntu Hair Studio is the no tipping policy. “In Beverly Hills we had a team of people working on each client,” says Ellinwood. “But I noticed the clients would get confused on whom to tip and there would be too many awkward moments.” Ellinwood decided to price services so that none of her full-time employees expected a tip.  “Instead of tips, we’d rather you tell your friends and families about us,” she shares. Since many of her clients still insist on tipping, Ellinwood chose to donate the tips to the following five charities.

• Hope for Hossana in Southern Ethiopia is an in-country support program run by Children’s Home Society & Family Services. The program aims to keep families together and the children educated. Funds help to build a school and birthing center, pay children’s school tuition, and support the family development project focusing on family preservation. helps fight global poverty.

 Girls on the Run inspires third through eighth grade girls living in San Diego to be empowered through athletics.

Ubuntu Hair Studio Solana Beach• Feeding America San Diego Chapter helps solve hunger locally by providing fresh food to local families.

• supplies loans to low income entrepreneurs around the globe.  To date, Ubuntu has provided 324 loans in 40 out of the 79 countries represented for a total of $12,475.

The vision

Ubuntu is about blending inside beauty with outside beauty. “One supports the other,” says Ellinwood. “And the real beauty is getting to see my vision of Ubuntu come alive. Every day I see clients and employees sharing and supporting one another,” she says. “Our small talk often transforms into life-changing conversations. We’re all connected. We’re all helping one another. We’re all holding each other. Our arms are in, through and around one another.”

Location: 109 South Acacia Avenue, Solana Beach. For more information, call 858-792-5959 or visit

Unique Holiday Gift Ideas

Ubuntu Hair Studio Solana BeachThe Ubuntu philosophy is alive and well in Ubuntu Hair Studio’s boutique. “I’m always asking how we can connect great choices with the community,” explains Ellinwood. One way is by offering a boutique full of unique gift items that give back, including the popular Poo-Pourri, bathroom odor eliminating spritzer; plant-based hair care; books by the famed creators of Café Gratitude; and Darling magazine. “I love this magazine,” says Ellinwood. “It’s all about the art of being a woman.”  Ellinwood is also proud to offer Empowered By You designer panties.  “I love their company slogan: ‘It’s not just a panty, it’s a mission.’ The panties are sexy, sassy and extremely comfortable. Plus, twenty percent of each pair you purchase supports microloans.”

In addition, the boutique will have a variety of distinctive Christmas ornaments from KithiAfrica on hand in time for the holidays. According to the Kithi website, “Every Kithi piece is handmade by incredibly talented Zulu people who draw from their culture and craft heritage to create unique pieces of jewelry and artwork with flair specific to South Africa.” 

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