After working for Standard Chartered Bank for 27 years, Ms Jemimah Wanjiku Ngunia decided to try her hand at running her dream business — a beauty parlour.
“I thought, after working for the bank for nearly three decades in various capacities, what could I do to make a decent living?” said Ms Ngunia.
To start on a firm footing, she approached a doctor in Nakuru town in 1996 who offered to train her to handle and sell beauty products.
“After acquiring the skills, I went for training in hair dressing and beauty for five months.
Thereafter, I decided to pursue my passion by opening my salon,” says the 64-year-old mother-of-four — two boys and two girls.
That was 15 years ago and today she is a successful businesswoman. She has transformed New Horizon Salon along Kenyatta Avenue in Nakuru town into a successful beauty parlour.
She started with a capital of Sh100,000, which was part of her terminal benefits package.
From an initial work force of six — a cleaner, two hairdressers, and three barbers, the number of employees has increased to 25 permanent staff. Her employees have payslips and contribute to the National Social Security Fund.
“I might not be making a huge profit, but at the end of the day, my joy and happiness is derived from the fact that I contribute to the economy of this country by creating jobs and wealth in my own small way,” she says.
Which begs the question, how has she managed to run her business for 15 years in an industry that has seen many investors fall by the way?
“Salon workers are the most mobile group of workers I know. For one to maintain them, you must be tolerant and make them feel part and parcel of the business,” she said.
Through regular meetings with the workers, she has slowly cultivated a good working relationship with them. This has culminated into a bond that has seen the salon maintain its niche in the town that has stiff salon competition.
To retain customers, the entrepreneur has made it a habit to ask her clients whether they are happy with the services she offers.
She says the first impression lasts long and that is why she has made it a habit to shake hands with her clients.
“I have learnt that in order to remain relevant in this business, you must embrace both the positive and negative comments about the services you are offering because, after all, we learn from mistakes, not our successes,” she said.
Mrs Ngunia, however, complains about widespread poaching of workers which in effect ends up slowing down growth in the dynamic industry.
“Sometimes several of them leave at the same time and others resign without giving notice during peak season, throwing your business into total confusion.
“This industry is the most unregulated. Sometimes, the workers can hold you at ransom when they demand increased commission,” said Ms Ngunia.
Looking forward, she says, if the industry players would agree to work in unity by forming a regulatory body that would determine the worker’s commission and other terms of service, the industry would flourish and employ many young people graduating from colleges.