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Home Grown Beauty Empire

Abyssinia's Minyshu Tafesse tells Pauline Muindi how she built a business from scratch.

How did you start your business?

I always had a passion for hair and beauty so after high school I went to a beauty college here in Nairobi Kenya and obtain a diploma in hairstyling. I then started a home salon where I did blow drying, setting, and coloring. My first clients were my friends and neighbors.

How did you make the jump from a home salon to where you are today?

I was in Dubai when I heard that Erickson was launching their products there. I went there and was given a facial treatment called Novacid. It left my skin moisturized, glowing, and supple. Excited, I asked them to sell the product to me and train me on how to use them. I came home and told my friends about it, who tried it, and liked it. That was in 2005. Now I know all the many wonderful products by Erickson and I believe in them.

What about hair products how did you find out about them?

I was introduced to them by the American Embassy. They sometimes invite local business people to go to America or they are exposed to American businesses and products.

Tell us about the challenges of starting a beauty business.

When I started, I used to sleep on the floor as I didn’t have a bed. I had just come back to Nairobi from Ethiopia, where my family is from and I was alone. I operated it from my 1- bedroom flat. I would talk to people on the side of the road and tell them about my salon. They would come in and see that I really had a salon in my flat. The customers I was able to cut were pleased, and that's how my business grew, by word-of-mouth. Soon even prominent people were my clients, and I had to hire other people to help. My trust in God, determination, can-do attitude also helped me overcome challenges.

When did you move into your current space?

In 2006, I noticed a big fancy building was going up right across from where I lived and operated. I applied for space and later that year I moved in. I applied for more space upstairs and use it as a beauty college.

How do you give back to society?

I sponsor the poor students from Kayole, a neighbouring city in Nairobi, to stay in my salon. We have trained more than 100 students. I also sponsored Ahadi, the anti-jigger campaign.

How many employees do you have?

12 permanent employees and 4 casuals.

Who inspires you?

The late Noble Laureate Wangri Maathai. I am her for her courage and selflessness.

Any advice for aspiring business people?

Don’t be greedy, learn to share, charge a fair price for products and services, and get the proper training.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I am a workaholic! When I am not working, I research new treatments for hair, face, and body

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