Customising wigs was the value-add of my business and my entry point into the industry.
Veronica Nyabutto, 39 tells Florence Bett-Kinyatti all about the inspiration behind her business, Verushka Wigs.
“I got into the wig business in late 2015. I’d just returned from Nigeria where I’d worked for two years in business development with a private equity firm. Before that, I’d worked with a cargo company then in retail with a local bank for four years. I never felt like I’d settled in, or like I’d found my purpose for my life.
“I was lackadaisical about my work ethic, to tell you the truth, I developed a fighting spirit when I stepped out of my comfort zone and relocated to Nigeria in 2012. I’m a single mum; my daughter was five when I left. The separation was harder on her than it was on me but I had to do what I needed to do to provide for her. I flew in twice every month to spend the weekend with her.
“I returned home in mid-2015. I knew I wanted to get into my own thing, I just didn’t know in what. Whatever ideas I had didn’t take off. I considered blogging but I wasn’t consistent; I thought about importing clothes from Turkey; I looked into farming coffee. I was online one day when I chanced upon a YouTube video of this African-American personality reviewing a wig she’d bought. I couldn’t believe how natural her wig looked. I’d always been into hair extensions, I even sold weaves when I was in university doing my undergraduate in economics. I used to import them from the US and sell them to my schoolmates for about Sh3,000 apiece.
"Anyway, this YouTuber left a link at the end of the video and I ordered two units from that vendor. It cost me about $250. Many people were importing wigs but nobody was customising them to look as flawless as it did on that YouTube video.
"I researched online on how to customise my wigs by hand at home: how to bleach the knots, how to cut the front lace to a client’s natural hairline, how to tint this lace so it looks as close to her skin tone as possible, how to resize the elastic band so it fits her head snugly, how to manipulate the hair to create different styles. It would take me two days to customise one wig. I enjoyed the creativity it asked for.
“This customisation was the gap in the market; it became the value-add of my business and my entry point into the industry.
“I kept one of the customised wigs for myself and sold the other to a friend. She got countless compliments from her friends who then ordered for more customised wigs from me. I later started to make the wigs myself with hair I’d imported from India.
“It was frustrating and labour-intensive work. There was a lot I was yet to learn about the types of lace caps, types of hair and tinting techniques, single knot versus double knot strands, silky versus kinky styles, hair length and density. My clients were also complaining that the wigs were too heavy and too hot.
“I knew the only way to scale up my business was to stop making the wigs by hand and have them professionally made. This would also make them light and comfortable to wear. I travelled to China and Korea in late 2016 to find manufacturers for my wigs. We moved here to Westlands in March 2017.
“All our wigs are made from pure virgin hair from Cambodia and India. There are large factories here where the hair is collected, washed, treated, sorted and exported to China for manufacture. There are some factories in India where the wigs are still hand stitched, strand by strand. It takes them about five weeks to make a full lace wig of 20 inches. The lace front wig takes them two weeks because only the front is stitched by hand, the rest is wefted by machine. We stock both types of wigs.
“I prefer the hair from Cambodia because it has a deeper shade of black, its strands are thicker and have more movement, they have less split ends and it colours better. I eventually want to phase out Indian hair wigs.
“A wig costs Sh30,000 upwards. Price has never been a deterrent to my clients because hair is important to a woman. When a woman loses her hair – through old age or disease – she loses her femininity and confidence. Our wigs restore this lost femininity and confidence. Our wigs are also popular with women who have gone natural and are looking for a low-manipulation protective style for their kinks. They’re also the go-to for women who want to save time getting ready.
“A wig to a woman is like a pair of shoes, she can’t own just one pair. I have several repeat clients who’ve bought different styles of wigs for different occasions – a wig for special events like weddings, a wig for a night on the town, a wig for the gym, a wig for errands, a wig for wearing daily to work.
“I’m currently setting up operational procedures and training more staff as we gear up to diversify our complimentary product offerings and go into partnerships.”