iKandi owner Kandi Corbbins follows in her family’s footsteps, makes store a friendly space for all hair


Aria Wozniak/The Daily Northwestern

Kandi Corbinns cuts Casella Okulaja’s hair in the iKandi Salon. Corbinns is a third-generation Evanston hair care professional.

Aria Wozniak, Reporter

iKandi hair salon owner Kandi Corbbins learned how to style hair from a young age. 

As a child, she was the neighborhood hair braider. Now, Corbbins’ salon is one of the only Black-owned businesses in her block of Central Street. Corbbins, a third-generation Evanston hair care professional, opened iKandi in October 2009.  The salon offers braiding, natural hair styling, chemical hair styling, color, haircuts and more. 

For Corbbins, the path to cosmetology was a long one. Her love of styling originally came from her grandfather, Marshall Giles, who opened an Evanston barbershop in 1962. She said he challenged her by having her sell products and manage the money earned in the shop. 

Brigitte Giles, Corbbins’ mother, now runs Ebony Barbershop, the family’s salon.  

“You know, I’m very proud of her,” Giles said. “I just wished my dad would have seen it. (I) get choked up even thinking about it.”

After growing up in Evanston, Corbbins left for college to study international business. She worked as a consultant at AT&T and later as a real estate agent before realizing her part-time job styling hair interested her the most. 

When the stress of two jobs became too overwhelming, Corbbins quit real estate and started working full time in a salon. She then earned her cosmetology license to boost her income and allow her to offer a variety of different hairstyles. 

As her work life felt like it was beginning to plateau, she decided to open her own hair salon.

Beyond her work at iKandi, Corbbins is a cosmetology educator, working with the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program and the Career Pathways Programs of Study with Evanston Township High School. She hopes to eventually open a cosmetology school offering natural hair licensing purposes to students.

She was inspired by her own mentors at the Magik Shoppe salon in Skokie, she said. 

“They were really instrumental in showing me … how to be responsible and show up when you’re supposed to show up,” Corbbins said. “They really showed me how to be a successful businesswoman.”

While iKandi has a mixed clientele, Corbbins said she mostly works with Black women. She said the shop’s services set it apart from other salons in Evanston, as not many other businesses will work with customers’ natural hair. 

“We are definitely different (than) a lot of hair salons because of the services we provide,” Corbbins said. “We do natural hair, we do braiding, relaxers, we do a lot of services on textured hair that you may not get elsewhere.” 

Corbbins added one secret to the shop’s success is its timeliness when working with customers. She said her clients trust they will be satisfied with their treatment. 

iKandi client Kathryn Bradley has been getting her hair done at the salon for five years and has a standing appointment with Corbbins. She said she finds the process and service accessible and accommodating.

“She knows her business (and) craft,” Bradley said of Corbbins. “For instance, if you tell her what service you want, she knows, almost to the nanosecond, how long it’s gonna take her to do it.”

Corbbins said she’s fulfilled by using her skills to make people feel good. It’s also a satisfying feeling for her to be able to provide a place for people to work, learn and get their hair done. 

Ultimately, she said it’s gratifying to serve the community with her salon. 

“It means the world for me to be able to use my talents to give back,” Kandi said. “I believe it’s good for us to all share our gifts with the community.”

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Twitter: @ari_wozz

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