Sophie Whitten | @swhittenphotography
After a twenty-two year battle with addiction and time served in prison for drug use, Abdul Rahim Khalil turned his life around, by opening a business called Rahim’s Beauty Supply, receiving a university degree and helping others in his community.
“I wanted to set up a business, an African-American business, for the kids and the parents so that other people can see that there is a business,” Khalil said.
Khalil saw that there was a need in Carbondale for a Black-owned beauty supply and decided he could fill it. Starting out of a van in 1995, he started selling hair products before moving to his current location at 110 East Oak Street, Carbondale, Ill. in 2009.
When he first entered the business, Khalil said he knew nothing about the hair industry and was lucky to have people to help him along the way. He received help from the Small Business Incubator with starting his business and from hair product suppliers.
“When I first started, I went to a hair place […] I went in and sat down to talk with them and they gave me an account. The lady said, ‘Well, what do you need?’ I looked at her and said, ‘I don’t know anything about the hair,’” Khalil said. “I didn’t even know the colors, I didn’t even know the human from the synthetics, nothing. She pulled out a piece of paper and gave me a crash course.”
Khalil went on to study and earn a bachelor’s degree in university studies and a master’s degree in social work at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill. in 1998 to further help his community. He wanted to show others that there is hope that can come from any situation a person may be in. He said he has learned patience and understanding to better assist those who may need it. “It’s not all about me making all the money, it’s about helping them as well, and helping them to help themselves,” Khalil said.
Khalil credits much of his drive to work hard and help others to his mother, Willie Mae Elam, who encouraged him to continue his business as well as his sobriety. “She validated that I could make it. She said, ‘You got it now. You got it, so just stick with it, with what you’ve learned, what I’ve taught you, and you’ll be ok,’ and I’ve done that,” Khalil said.
He said there was a lot of doubt and insecurity that he felt when he first began but by accomplishing all he has done, it has shown that he and anyone else has just as much potential as the next person to succeed.
“There are three things that I apply to myself that help me. I understand and know my strengths, I know and understand my weaknesses, and my limitations. So for my strengths, my weakness and my limitations, I’ve learned and I’ve studied those. These are the characteristics that I’ve learned about myself. This is what propels me to do things and to learn things,” Khalil said.
Staff Photographer Sophie Whitten can be reached at Swhitten@dailyegyptian.com or on Instagram @swittenphotography.
To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.