Your beauty is my business

Saturday June 21 2014

Faith Kabira turned her passion and desire for a personalised beauty experience into a money-making barbershop, salon and spa.

Faith Kabira turned her passion and desire for a personalised beauty experience into a money-making barbershop, salon and spa.  Photo | JENNIFER MUIRURI

By FLORENCE BETT
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“I was a media planning and advertising strategy manager with an agency for one of the biggest advertising companies in Eastern Africa.

I had a degree in media and journalism, with a minor in marketing and public relations from USIU.

I joined the agency in June 2010, a few weeks after my graduation. The agency was a crazy place to work. There was pressure from the bosses, from my clients and from my team. I was handling prime accounts with big budgets as well as handling boardroom decisions.

I loved my job and looking back, there is no other place I would have preferred to work, but I disliked the environment. Nevertheless, I climbed the ranks and in 2012, I was in a managerial position with a small team reporting to me.

It was around the time that I was settling into my new position that I married Jeremy Kabira in July 2012. Once we settled into the routines of a newly-married couple I sat back and asked myself two crucial questions:

First, how far up the ladder could I climb? Even if I did, what more would I find up there for myself? More money? More pressure? Secondly, is this how I wanted my life to be? Did I want to be a young wife and mother who had little or no time for her family because I would be at work saving the day?

Plan B

For a year I contemplated a plan B. I had a passion for make-up, nails and beauty treatment but because I didn’t know much about the salon industry I was scared of leaving my job to start a salon.

However, I knew I could run a barbershop because it’s easier to start and manage. My plan was to take two months of unpaid leave to set up the barbershop then return to work.

But my inner circle gave me the reassurance that I had everything I needed. Financing? -- I had my savings. Support? -- I had my husband and family (all my older siblings are self-employed, running their own gigs.)

If anything, I was holding myself back. My bosses asked me to reconsider my resignation, reassuring me that things would get better. But they don’t – jobs and their pressures don’t change.

It is you who has to make that change. In August 2013, I left my job to start the barbershop. I started the barbershop because without skills and knowledge I wasn’t quite ready to start a salon and spa.

Also, there are already a handful of salons and barbershops within every 100 metres of our location. I understood that what would my business would offer was a personalised premium experience worth our clients’ money.

Our male clients came in with their wives and girlfriends, so we had to take care of them as well. The barbershop gave birth to the salon, which then gave birth to the spa.

I knew the type of services to give to my clients because I had experienced both good and bad service locally and abroad. I mixed and matched the service I picked from my own experiences in other salons and brought it into mine. When I see my clients coming back, it means we must be doing something right.

“When I began, it was difficult to manage the human resources. Whereas I had moved from the structure of a formal corporation, my business had no such structures and this was a great challenge, especially when training my team – 17 barbers, beauty therapists and masseurs – how to give our clients that premium and professional experience, and also making them appreciate why we needed to get it done that way.

Managing the business itself was another challenge. I had little experience on this front. Like I mentioned earlier, all my siblings are running their own businesses, so they were a good source of inspiration and information.

On their advice, I hired an accountant who comes in every week to set our books in order. This streamlined the business a great deal. The administrative side has been a watch-and-learn experience for me.

Financing the growth of the business has also been difficult. My start-up capital was from our savings, but the customer base grew in ways we hadn’t anticipated and pretty soon, it was evident we needed to expand to open a salon and spa for our growing female clientele.

External financing was out of the question because banks don’t finance start-ups. Thankfully, the business made enough cash to finance its own growth.

I plan to go to beauty school to study skin care and nail technology. But that is on hold for now as I get the business off the ground and into the expansion phase.

I love what I am doing; there are days I have spent sitting at the reception desk welcoming my clients – it is on those days I wouldn’t ask to be anywhere else but here.”