Other than her charming personality, the thing that catches your eye when you first meet Beatrice Kimutai is her flawless skin; but it hasn’t always been supple or even-toned. Five short years ago, it seemed like she was in a losing battle with clusters of angry red bumps on her face. It was through this battle with her appearance that Beatrice found her passion.
“The more products I tried, the more the pimples sprouted,” she recalls in horror.
This was until a friend visiting from the US brought her GlamGals skin care products which soothed her skin. When she ran out of the first batch, she realised that she couldn’t get the products locally. She had to send for them from abroad.
“It was a slow realisation for me. At first, I was enjoying the effect of the products on my skin. Then I began thinking about how many women out there were like me. I started fantasising about importing this make-up range and supplying it locally,” she says.
The world of business isn’t new to Beatrice. Her mother is a serial entrepreneur. She grew up desiring to build something for herself from the ground up, so she studied business administration at the university.
“I was employed for nine years moving up the ranks from an administrator to the personal assistant of the managing director at a regional corporation before I decided to try my hand at business,” she says.
She spent months doing market research before settling on electrical devices. She was still employed at the time. Six months to the date she intended to quit employment, she took a Sh700, 000 loan from her employer and set up a wholesale shop in River Road, Nairobi. She used half of the money to import electrical devices from China.
“Business picked up fast. I quit my job in 2012 to concentrate on my business just as I had planned. I broke even in a record six months,” she says.
They say that you never know what you have until it’s gone. The opposite has been true for Beatrice. It was only when she saw a gap in the beauty market that she realised how dissatisfied she was with her electrical devices business.
“I was making good money but it just wasn’t something that I could see myself doing for the rest of my life,” she says.
So in 2014, two years into her first business, she sent a proposal to the GlamGals cosmetics manufacturers. The company was successfully distributing the products in Nigeria. Her proposal sailed through easily. As soon as she acquired the rights to be the main distributor in Kenya and East Africa, she sold off the remaining stock and closed her electrical devices shop.
“Using the proceeds from the sales, I set up my first cosmetics shop at Ridgeways in Nairobi. My friends were my first customers,” she says.
Then, as fate would have it, the store caught fire destroying all her stock barely a month into business. She was in shock and almost gave up.
“My friends and family wouldn’t let me. So I cried, dusted myself up, took the rest of my savings, looked for another location and brought in more products.”
She dared to try again and the universe rewarded her for it. As the sole GlamGals franchise holder in East Africa, she deals with both retail clients and stockists. She has stores in Mombasa and Nairobi.
“One thing I observed soon after opening shop was that a lot of the clients who were walking in didn’t know how to apply the make-up they were buying properly. So this year, I opened a make-up institute in Nairobi that offers make-up lessons to individuals,” she says.
Most of the fears that she had at the beginning are gone. Her business continues to grow mostly through referrals. The one thing she is still struggling with is the delicate work-life balance.
“It is an ongoing battle. I have however managed to put a working system in place. The business can run without me and I can be home every evening to help my two children with their homework,” she says.
Words of wisdom
In the initial stages of her business, she sought mentorship from seasoned make-up artists such as Njanja and Koby. Everyone needs mentorship, she says.
Never wait until you have enough capital to start, start with what you have.
Your clients are your business, treat them as such.
Your employees are your other asset, nurture a good relationship with them.
Don’t be a jack of all trades. Focus on one thing that you are passionate about and stick with it.