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Man’s beauty parlour giving stylists run for their money

The first impression that John Mbugua presents is that of a calm and withdrawn person. However, underneath the calm composure is a man who has carved a niche for himself in the beauty industry.

A beauty parlour he opened on Kenyatta Avenue in Nakuru town four years ago has become popular with women of all ages. At hand is a team of young men and women busy applying makeup and other products to women’s faces, feet and hands.

Unfazed by taunts from some quarters, the 34-year-old declares that though the beauty industry has been traditionally associated with women, the growing demand for quality services is pushing men into the territory.

“Competition is tough; women have an edge in this field, but I believe that what a woman can do, a man can do too,” said Mr. Mbugua. He started the business with very little capital.

“I started with Sh100. I used the money to buy three bottles of nail polish, each costing Sh20 and cotton wool. On the first day, I made Sh500 profit; I could not believe it,” he said.

In 2019, when he was starting out, Mr. Mbugua moved from one salon to another, hawking his services.

“As demand grew, I got a lot of calls from clients and decided to set up a beauty parlour,” said Mr. Mbugua, whose business offers over 15 different services, including manicures, pedicures, and facial make-ups.

“Two years into the enterprise, the business started picking up and I took a Sh15,000 bank loan to expand and employ two assistants,” he said. Three months later, he went back for Sh20,000 to invest in the venture.

The proprietor of JM Nail Spa and Beauty Parlour advises upcoming entrepreneurs that they don’t need a lot of capital to turn a business idea into a viable enterprise.

The parlour has 12 employees who are skilled in different areas and the costs vary with services being offered and the workload.

He later enrolled in a diploma course in cosmetology to gain skills in the business. And although he credits use of social media for marketing his services, referrals from happy clients are a major boost to the venture, he quipped.

“Of utmost importance in this industry is branding, which is a game changer. Equally important is value addition, since customers come to you expecting more than just service and you have to ask yourself what value you are adding,” Mr. Mbugua explained.

To market his services, the beautician has adopted digital marketing and uses platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and Twitter to promote his business.

However, Mbugua maintains that the most effective tool of marketing is referrals from satisfied clients.

“JM Nail Spa and Beauty Parlour thrives best on referrals. When we offer exceptional services to clients, they refer new customers to us.”

With a monthly turnover of about Sh200,000, the businessman is upbeat.

“I plan to expand my business to all 11 sub-counties and employ more than 100 youth,” said Mbugua. Business, he said, peaks during weekends and holidays. To stay ahead in the rapidly changing business, Mr. Mbugua said he spends a lot of time on the Internet learning about the latest trends in the art of facial, nail and hair styling.

“You must be trendy, innovative and keep up with the latest in the market; otherwise, you might close shop,” he said.

And his message to the youth: “We go to school to gain knowledge and become smart; it is time you considered informal jobs that can cater to your needs.”

He notes that the shortage of skilled workers in the informal sector is a growing concern for a country such as Kenya, with 77 percent of her workforce employed in the informal sector.

“At least half a million youth graduate from Kenyan universities annually and a majority of these do not make it to the job market owing to a lack of the skills needed for meaningful employment,” Mbugua adds.

According to a report by UNDP, by 2055, the continent’s youth population (aged 15–24) is expected to be more than 452 million.

In response, Mbugua suggests that there should be a strong focus on vocational and technological skills that can prepare young adults for future careers that involve augmented intelligence. At the same time, he adds that there is still a need to address the existing lack of basic skills.

He, however, confesses that the journey has not been without challenges.

Being a man in a female-dominant industry, he has faced numerous challenges, including ridicule from friends for working in the cosmetics industry.

Mbugua, however, maintains that the beauty parlour brings joy to his heart, pays his bills, and fulfils his passion.

“I derive great joy and satisfaction when I see my client walking out of this room smiling and happy with my services. Seeing that makes my heart melt because I know they will come back with their friends. At the end of the day, I get to learn different things from each of them,” he revealed.

He further singles out counterfeit cosmetic products as one of the biggest setbacks rocking the business.

“Fake cosmetics are finding their way into some beauty product outlets, placing consumers at risk of purchasing inferior and possibly hazardous products and leaving high-end retailers scrambling to differentiate their products from potentially dangerous imitations,” Mbugua pointed out.

Agnes Kihara indicated that JM Nail Spa and Beauty Parlour is her preferred destination for beauty services as stylists are gentle with her face and nails.

“I find stylists here committed to their work because they will always ask you your preferences on facials and nails. They will go with whatever the customer wants and deliver exactly that,” added Ms. Kihara.

Ms. Kihara, a resident of Subukia, has been visiting JM Nail Spa and Beauty Parlour since her college days.

I have been coming here for three years since I discovered that they are not only professionals but also perfectionists,” she said.

Ms. Lizz Wangui noted that the stylists often boost clients’ confidence by complimenting them once the work is done.

“My stylist showers me with compliments after he finishes doing my nails. I walk from the parlour feeling confident and knowing that he did a good job,” she said.

By Jane Ngugi and Dennis Rasto

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