“I lost my father in 2006; I was 20 and had just graduated from college with a diploma in business. My plan had been to go on to university to study for an undergraduate in communications but with his passing, I put a pause on my education to find a job instead. My big brother did the same thing; my little sister had just joined Form One.
“I got a job as a cashier at Steak & Ale, a bar in Nairobi’s CBD. I earned a paltry Sh4,000 and worked lengthy irregular shifts, especially on the weekends. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t like the work. I was battling adult acne so my self-esteem was brutally dented; I was also still grieving the loss of my father.
“I worked there for six months then – thankfully – got another job at the business centre of Southern Sun, a hotel in Westlands. The pay was much better and I worked regular eight-hour shifts. I loved the job because it taught me patience, professionalism and a strong work ethic. The medley of clients I served also exposed me to the importance of knowing how to talk to people and understanding their individual needs. I use that skill a lot in my business now.
“I was recognised and rewarded for my stellar performance, and in late 2008, I was promoted to the front office. Customer service came naturally to me and in less than a year, I had moved from manning the switchboard to being the Guest Relations Manager; I was engaging our guests firsthand.
“It was while here that I finally addressed the acne and started toying with make-up. The acne had left my skin dry, blotched and patchy. My face wasn’t in the best shape but the three years at the hotel had salvaged my self-esteem to the point where my smile and radiant personality made me comfortable being myself.
“I bought products worth Sh20,000 from Mary Kay. I bought skincare and basic make-up – mascara, lipstick, eyeliner – and religiously followed the cleanse-tone-moisturise regimen every morning before applying the make-up to go to work, and every evening before going to bed. I saw an immediate and tremendous transformation in my skin; even my colleagues and our guests noticed the glow. I was happy and I felt beautiful – I hadn’t felt beautiful in a long time.
“I married in December 2011 and had my daughter in May 2013. (I’d later have my son in August 2016.) Pregnancy then becoming a new mum stirred a desire in me to slow down and listen to my body. I needed to rest: I was 27 and I was tired because I’d been working since I was 20. I had missed out on my youthful days. Life had demanded I grow up too fast. The question was always: ‘What’s your next step, Sheero?’ I just couldn’t do it anymore. So while still on maternity leave, I handed in my resignation letter. I allowed myself to slow the tempo of my life and subsequently found inner peace and contentment – my relationships blossomed. “In early 2014, I entered an arrangement with an old friend who supplied kitchenware to hospitals and such; I managed our warehouse in Thika. It was a capital-intensive venture and I left the business that October without getting my return on investment. This stint taught me that business isn’t easy; you must have the patience and passion to muscle your way through the uncertainty of every season.
“I stumbled into the make-up industry purely by chance soon after. A friend called to ask if my beautician could do bridal make-up for her and her bridesmaids. I said no and the conversation ended there. Later, I thought to myself, ‘Wait, why can’t I do it for her?’ I called her back and got my first bridal client. It was surreal; I couldn’t believe that someone was willing to pay me to do their make-up!
“After this first client, I started my Facebook page – Make-up by Sheero – and took to YouTube to learn the art of applying make-up and read widely to understand skin. I practised my skills on friends. I actively uploaded before-and-after photos of my work to my social media platforms; that’s how I steadily got more clients and sustainable gigs all through 2015 to date. Growth was sometimes worrying, though, so in 2016, I took a nine-month training programme.
My target market is – and has always been – brides on a tight budget who want a professional make-up artist but can’t afford the more-established big names in the industry. I’ve invested in expanding my make-up kit slowly over time: the first investment I made was in November 2014, when we took a family vacation to Dubai. I bought a range of make-up and skincare products from brands like Bobbi Brown, Rimmel, Revlon and Body Shop. I invested Sh70,000.
“I’ve worked with different brands over the years but now I primarily use M.A.C because they’re a global make-up authority and their products are versatile with any skin type. I also work with other brands such as Clinique, Maybelline, Urban Decay and Estee Lauder. I have three assistants.
“I want my business to give back to the community. I want to teach women how to care for their skin, more so the ones with eczema or acne. I also want to sensitise the public to the dangers of using counterfeit make-up, and how to tell it apart it from the genuine stuff.”