The first impression that John Mbugua presents is that of a calm and withdrawn person.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 out a niche for himself in the beauty industry.
A beauty parlor 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 on women’s faces, feet and hands.
Unfazed by taunts from some quarters, the 27-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 Kshs 100. I used the money to buy three bottles of nail polish each costing Ksh20 and cotton wool. On the first day, I made Ksh 500 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 parlor,” said Mr. Mbugua, whose business offers over 15 different services including manicure, pedicure, and facial make-ups.
“Two years into the enterprise, the business started picking up and I took a Ksh15,000 bank loan to expand and even took on two assistants,” he said.
Three months later he went back for Ksh20,000 to invest in the venture.
The proprietor of JM Nail Spa and Beauty Parlor advises upcoming entrepreneurs that they don’t need a lot of capital to power a business idea into a viable enterprise.
The parlor has 12 employees who are skilled in different areas and the costs vary with services being offered and the workload.
He later enrolled for a diploma course in cosmetology to gain skills in the business. And although he credits the use of social media for marketing his services, referrals by happy clients are a major boost to the venture, he said.
“First and most importantly in this industry branding is a game changer, secondly when customers come to you they want more than just service and you have to ask yourself what value you are adding,” Mr. Mbugua explained.
To market his services the proprietor 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 word of mouth.
“JM Nail Spa and Beauty Parlor thrives best on referrals. When we offer exceptional services to clients they refer new customers to us.”
With a monthly turnover of about Ksh200,000, the businessman is upbeat.
“I plan to expand my business to all the 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 says 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 says.
And his message to the youth: “We go to school to gain knowledge and become smart; it is time you consider informal jobs which can cater for 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 its 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 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 parlor brings joy to his heart, pays his bills, and fulfills his passion.
“I derive great joy and satisfaction from the sight of 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 in some beauty products 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 doppelgangers,” Mbugua pointed out.
Agnes Kihara indicates that JM Nail Spa and Beauty Parlor is her preferred beautician as stylists are gentle with her face and nails.
“I find stylists here committed to their work because they will always ask how you want them to do your face and nails. They will go with whatever the customer wants and deliver exactly that,” adds Ms. Kihara.
Ms. Kihara, a resident of Subukia has been visiting JM Nail Spa and Beauty Parlor since her college days.
I have been coming here for three years since I discovered that they are not only professional but also perfectionists,” she says.
Ms. Lizz Wangui adds 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 parlor feeling confident and knowing that he did a good job,” she says.
By Dennis Rasto