How a Refugee Fleeing From the Taliban in Afghanistan
Came to Buy an Iconic 70-Year-Old Hamilton Business
Do you remember what you were doing in the summer of 1995?
Sima Sakha was barely a teenager and living in northern Afghanistan. Originally born in Kabul, as part of the Hazara community, which is a subsect of the Shia religion of Islam. The thing with most Hazara is that they appear Asian and in Afghanistan, they get discriminated against, and most everyone believes they don’t belong.
This made for a difficult childhood for Sima. At the age of 10, she and her family moved to northern Afghanistan in the mid-nineties where many of the Hazara people reside. After living in relative peace for 3 years, the Taliban came intending to force the conversion of the Shias to Suni.
When they found out, they only had minutes to escape and had to leave their possessions behind and head for the mountains. So they, along with nearly a million others fled to the mountains to avoid the Taliban.
Without any food, possession, or amenities of any kind, they lived in the mountains for three months. Fortunately, it was the summer, so they were able to collect hay and sleep outside. Soon the winter was approaching and they decided to start the long, agonizing walk to Kabul which would take two months.
Kabul, being the capital city was much more multicultural and they counted on being able to blend in while in plain sight. They soon found out that under the shade of darkness, the Taliban searched house to house, looking to murder anyone that was not willing to accept the Taliban leadership, and being Hazara, Sima and her family suddenly became a target.
After only two weeks, they realized that it was no longer safe for them. With no food or possessions, they borrowed money from some relatives to take a bus to Pakistan where they lived for almost five years. During this time, Sima and her family were forced to work for very low wages and could not see a future living in Pakistan.
A silver lining finally appeared when they realized that Pakistan had a large Ismaili community (part of Shia). This is the organization that originally helped them settle in Pakistan and restart their life there. They found out that the organization also helps relocate displaced persons and offered to relocate her to a region in the world that has a large Ismaili community, Canada.
In 2003, Sima, along with her parents, a brother, and a sister finally arrived in her new home, Hamilton, Ontario Canada. With the help of the local Ismaili community, Sima received her first job, working at Kentucky Fried Chicken (Limeridge mall) which is where she slowly learned to speak English.
Up to this point, Sima only had a grade eight education, so in 2005 she decided to attend St. Charles continuing education in downtown Hamilton where she received her high school equivalency in 2007.
One of the members of her community owned a hair salon and asked Sima if she would like to volunteer to learn some additional career skills. Sima immediately fell in love with the profession and decided to become a hairdresser.
After looking around at some schools, she landed at Bruno’s Schools of Hair design due to their impeccable reputation and the fact they offered an evening course. While attending Bruno’s Sima would work at Jimmy the Greek at MapleView Mall from 9:00 am until 2:00 pm and then walk over to Total Image salon (also in the mall) and work from 2:00 pm until 9:00 pm. She did this six days per week while also attending Bruno’s for two evenings per week for classes (while also learning English on the fly). Upon graduating, she was hired for full-time work at Total Image.
Then, at the end of 2012, Sima decided that it was time to take a bit of a rest from the hectic schedule and take a year off to go back to school. Following the footsteps of millions of Hamiltonians, Sima enrolled in Mohawk College, choosing to take business accounting, a two-year course. Her initial one year off, turned into four when she opted to take further courses in payroll, and taxation management, followed by a coop placement.
Handling the books for a mushroom company upon graduating was not where Sima imagined herself to be. So instead, she started working as a manager for Great Clips on Nebo and Rymal roads in Hamilton while teaching at her alma mater, Brunos.
Mr. Morrison, the legendary owner of Bruno’s was ready to retire in 2018 and suggested Sima buy the company from him. Sima gave it serious consideration and decided to turn down his offer while remaining one of Bruno’s instructors while also working at Great Clips.
In 2019 Sima decided to work for Bruno’s as a full-time instructor, which she did until Mr. Morrison’s passing in 2021 when she started thinking about his original offer again.
Today, Sima and her sister Shaima (a silent partner) have made a life for themselves as Canadians and Hamiltonians, while employing nearly a dozen staff and providing exceptional career skills to those looking for careers in beauty.