The hair industry has no doubt taken the market by storm. The market value of hair products in Kenya currently stands at Ksh.20 billion, the world’s largest beauty and cosmetics company L’Oreal EA has revealed. High demand fueled by Kenyan women’s fetish for hair solutions, especially weaves, hair relaxers, treatments and oil, and recently the natural hair craze, has been cited as the major force behind the growth in the hair industry. It’s reported that the different hair relaxers available in the country account for Ksh.4 billion of the market value while the rest of the hair products account for Ksh.16 billion.
With such staggering statistics, it is no wonder that the beauty industry attracts many budding entrepreneur. Hannah Magugu, a wife and a mother of two, is one such person who decided that she would not be left behind. She caught the beauty wave and rode with it. Her journey started out as a stay at home mum. She had just finished campus, gotten married and was with child. With no school work to keep her busy, or no wedding to plan, she begun to look around for her next big thing. During her pregnancy, she had begun selling dresses. She would travel to Bangkok, get clothes and sell at the corner of her home. She was 22 then. She later moved her business premises to the boot of her car and would drive around, making dress and suit deliveries to those who had placed an order. At 23 Hannah was once again pregnant with her second child. She continued with her travels, with the support of her husband, her sister in law and other relatives. By the time she turned 24 she had upgraded from the car boot to a shop at the Greenhouse Mall where she rented space for her clothing business. But truthfully business was slow. She slowly begun to realize that most people do not buy clothes every day, and her regular customers would come after a span of 6 months, some yearly. Stock became hard to clear. It was not working.
Her aha moment soon came when she was at an auspicious uptown salon in Westlands having her hair and nails done. She noticed that people kept streaming into the salon. It was like going to the salon was almost a daily bread for most people, and to add, they seemed comfortable to part with as much as Ksh.20,000! She asked her stylist, who also happened to be the owner of the salon, how much he made in a day. He was kind enough to share the information with her; the benefits of having a salon, and how the clients, once they have identified you as their go to salon, never stop coming. He even said that most of his customers, if not all, come in twice a week, dutifully and religiously without fail. Hannah decided that she too wanted to own a salon. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Hannah, shared her ambition with her husband. At 24 years of age, she had her first salon, naming it after her daughter. Maya’s Salon was born.
Hannah had no training in the industry. She had no idea how a salon was run, but she was intent on learning, and that she did. Prior to this, she had never held any real job, other than a short stint at the United Nations, where she interned during her university years. Bored stiff during this time, Hannah made the resolution that she would never be hired again but would seek to follow her own path.
Maya’s Salon was established in 2012. Hannah, fierce and ambitious, eagerly devoured the opportunity. With capital injection from her husband, Hannah began her venture into the beauty world. As she already had a boutique at the top floor of the Greenhouse Mall, she opted to have her salon at the same location, this time on the ground floor. The salon eventually ended up doing better than the boutique. She slowly faded away the clothes shop and converted it into a salon. In the beginning Hannah handled everything by herself. She went into Gikomba market, bought all the materials she needed for partitioning her space at the Greenhouse Mall, and supervised every single detail that went into her salon. Next came her equipment, which she travelled far and wide to get. Three months later, she opened her first salon. Much to her surprise, the salon did so well that by the end of her first year in business, she was raising the standard to owning a second one.
Her second salon is based at the Spring Valley Shopping Mall, a stone throw away from where we met. It is a homely and warm food place where Hannah likes to go, to finish her boss duties. That is where I find her furiously talking on the phone, settling a dispute somewhere. “I am everything in my business,” she tells me, as she looks at me, stretching her slim hand with well-manicured nails towards me. I politely shake it, as we sit down and order some food. The restaurant is great, the ambience is amazing and 4 hours later, we are still conversing laughing like we are longtime friends who haven’t seen each other in years. Occasionally she answers the phone. It is almost end month and she needs to replenish her products, sort out her staff, and review her month.
Hanna had never purposed to own a second salon. It chanced on her. As she also happens to stay behind the shopping mall, Hannah, had noticed a dilapidated salon, and wondered why the owner was not taking care of it as she should. So she walked to the salon, hoping to find the owner and ask them the same question. She only found the employees, chatted to some of them and made up her mind; she wanted to own this very salon. She asked the employees to alert her if the owner was interested in selling. Eight months later, they called her with the good news that the place was up for sale. Excited, Hannah met the previous owner and it turned out that despite the run down look, the salon was still making good money. She jumped at the opportunity. This time round, the bank did the financing, which enabled her to buy the place, revamp it and give it a modern ultra-stylish look.
Her second salon was hardly a year old when Hannah, while in Mombasa, noticed that the potential for a salon was immense. She quickly talked to her mother about it. They viewed their options and agreed it was a worthy investment. Taking a second loan from the bank, and her mum putting in some money, the third Maya’s Salon opened its doors. This salon turned out to be the busiest of all three.
Behind the scenes journey
On the surface, Hannah is your true epitome of success. The journey to success has not been easy however. “Opening three salons in a span of three years has been hectic to say the least,” Hannah narrates. The capital injection amount for all three salons was the heaviest load. Five years later, there is no turning back. All her loans paid off, owing nothing to the bank, she is happy she made the choice, and at such a tender age. “When you are young, you have nothing to lose. Try everything, what works, works; and what doesn’t, doesn’t,” she tells me, passion beaming in her eyes. And if her salon business doesn’t work in the near future, Hannah is not afraid to get her well-manicured nails dirty by selling tomatoes or even vegetables.
Managing people has been a major challenge for Hannah, especially when it comes to employees. Indiscipline is rampant as they know that competition is fierce, and they can walk to the salon next door and get work instantly. Firing them is not easy, as when an employee walks out they walk away with their clients. It is really in the business owner’s best interest to try and retain their employees and ensure that they are happy. As a result, learning how to manage people is a skill she has to continue learning over and over again. She remembers a time when her Mombasa salon was robbed and she lost Ksh. 1.8 million in cash and equipment. A disgruntled employee whom she had fired had come back with a vengeance, broken into the salon at the beginning of the year, and made away with all the money made over the holiday and all her equipment. This was indeed a trying time for her, and one that always makes her shudder when she thinks about it. However she used this as a stepping stone to learn and grow. She began to hire people through referrals only and has not hired strangers in a while, citing that it is good to know that those working for you are known by someone in your circle. That way they can be easily traced when something goes wrong.
Being one who always likes to have control, Hannah has discovered that sooner or later, she may need to loosen the reins a bit. She spends most of her time shuttling between the three salons on a daily basis which often leaves her tired and drained. Yet she has a family to take care of, at the tail end of the day. “I know I need to delegate,” she says, “but not yet. A time will come but not now.”
Three salons later, Hannah gives this advice to those wanting to get into the business:
- Always bank your money. When she began her first salon, she banked her revenues daily. Even if it was less than a thousand, she banked it. A practice she has kept to this day. When you bank your money, you show a proven income track record. This helps you when you need a loan. The banks love seeing a record, and having that helps and works to your advantage.
- Never use the company’s money for your benefit. With her first salon, Hannah quickly learned five important things:
- Pay your workers on time. Money for the salon does not belong to you. It belongs to the workers, the landlord and any other business oriented expense. She trained herself never to touch money from her salon business until she had paid off all her expenses. Then and only then could she afford to use the remaining money for her personal matters.When your workers are happy, your business in turn gets happy. In a world today where people do not value each other, Hannah stresses the importance of valuing your workers. This she does by paying them on time, listening to their complaints and needs and trying to appreciate them on a monthly basis. As it is in the salon industry, your clients have no loyalty to you as a business owner. Their entire loyalty lies on their stylist. As a result, the onus is on you to create a conducive work environment.The more workers you have, the more work they get for you and the more money you get. In Nairobi people love their stylists. People follow their stylists. So the more employees you have the better. If you have only one employee, they can bail out on you then leave you high and dry.
- Keep reinventing the wheel. When Hannah began her salon at the Greenhouse Mall, they were only three salons in existence. To date, Greenhouse Mall has over 12 salons, thus the competition is fierce. Hannah realized there is need to keep re-inventing the wheel, to keep changing lanes to stay relevant, and to stand out in the market. Something every entrepreneur wanting to launch into the market needs to do.
- Invest in CCTV. It will save you so much pain in the long run. There is a lot of theft in the salon industry. A lot. And the only way to curb and maintain that is through CCTV where you can monitor everyone’s movements; from the cashier to what the client pays to what they record and eventually to what they bank.
In as much as Hannah Magugu is a stunning success for her age, she is still not done trying. “I want to get into Uber now, and who knows? Maybe start a fourth salon!” she laughs as she says this.
As we look back at her life, Hannah confides in me that when she was young, (even though she still is), she wanted to be a lawyer. She had the hopes of being a hot shot lawyer in the wonderful world of Paris. She was going to live there and change the world, one case at a time. How far and weird her dreams seem to her now. She missed the law degree though. She had applied to Moi University, but they took a while to call her. Not one to be idle, Hannah had registered at USIU and pursued International Relations. She got married just after her graduation and a year later when her first child was five months, she went back to do her master’s. She has been married for 8 years now and she loves how her life turned out. To unwind, Hannah enjoys a quiet day at home with her kids, watching old movies and TV reruns.
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