My background is in media and entertainment, I have always had an interest in beauty, hair and fashion. Whenever I'd go to the salon, I'd find magazines from around the world with all kinds of advice on trends and techniques, from international hairdressers and stylists. However, these were services that many in Kenya could not access and I began to think about a resource that would allow consumers to see just exactly what services and products were available locally. This resource is a digital and print directory, and magazine called Rembesha - derived from the Swahili word Rembesha which means to make beautiful - that would showcase established and emerging product makers and service providers within the Kenyan hair and beauty industry.
What made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
I realised that the Kenyan beauty industry is worth millions of dollars, yet marketing and advertising services and avenues on platforms such as television, print and other traditional media, were too expensive and out of reach for most new and established beauty brands and businesses. I thought of the business idea and getting started more than 7 years ago, but juggling a radio and television career, a Masters degree program, as well as music, made it impossible to start. But, when I stopped working for the media group, I decided to work on what I had put on the back burner, and use what mainstream and new media had taught me, to create avenues for marketing and advertising for the industry.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Birthing the idea was hard. In the beginning you're the only one who sees the full picture and sometimes when hiring staff, many won't see your vision, and assuming that they do, sets you up for disappointment. There were people I was delegating to, and they had no idea what to do, let alone build up on. I'd say high expectations too have been a challenge- it's never easy being a pioneer!
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
I've always been one to follow my dreams and while many didn't understand what I was up to, they supported me 100%. One of my first advertisers was my own hairdresser, and it was great to get her feedback on our product as we got started, on the importance of value. Ultimately business is not just a transaction - it rests on value that you give and receive. In hindsight, I wouldn't be too trusting of everyone. Trade is about exchange. You can't give out your product for nothing. If a new client comes in, but can not pay you, let them know exactly what you can do for them and keep the door open, till such time as they are ready to meet you at the table, and trade. This way, you save yourself bad debt for not everyone keeps their word.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Being willing to try is probably the big one. Without having another business to copy, it's easier to experiment, and to discover better modes of operation and product development.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
There's no perfect time to start. Just start, I sometimes get upset that it took 7 years to get going, but I believe in God, and know that He sets the right time for everything!
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
It's not a rosy journey and there will be times when you'll wonder why on earth you're doing what you are. But always go back to the idea. To the dream. To what you saw. It helps to journal, because there will be days when you won't remember, but when you read your own plans, you'll find that fire again. Finally be very, very quick to learn and don't set anything in stone till you know it works!!