When Susan Mwangi became a mother, she worried about her baby's sensitive skin. She did like many parents, look around for skin products for her child.
The local market had mostly imported products that in her words—were full of chemicals.
She looked across the pond and in the intervening period, she imported lotions, massage oil, bath soap and shampoos. That was an expensive foray for the new parent.
So, she researched natural products suitable for African baby skin. She talked to dermatologists and skin specialists about her challenge.
Most new parents she met would lament about the same thing. She then stopped importing these products and started a journey of making them herself.
Yes, get raw shea butter, calendula and other bits and bobs that are safe for baby skin and hair and mix them in a bowl to make these products. This is how Babyblossom—Susan’s company—started.
"I talked to a few dermatologists, and it was clear to me that we had a shortage or complete lack of natural baby skin and hair care products in the country,” she says.
With a capital of Sh4 million (raised by herself, her spouse, and friends) and a strong will, Susan got a manufacturer abroad to make what her baby needed out of the research she had conducted.
She created a website, registered a company, and was set!
“Our first products landed in the country in January 2019 and that is when we started selling. The initial plan was to create distribution and sales channels in small retail outlets, selling to the local shops to make the products as available as they could possibly be."
Then she realised that the market she looked for wasn’t as granulated as she’d thought. So, she changed tact.
“We had seen a market for the products and mapped our distribution means. But soon we discovered that our target market was elsewhere, in big stores, online shops, and baby shops. We had to change our mode of operation. Now we sell mostly from our online shop, supermarkets or baby shops in the city, especially those along Biashara Street.”
The first thing people do when they chance upon a new skin product is doubt it.
The skepticism is however expected and validly so because the skin, especially that of a baby is extremely sensitive.
To address the quality concerns, Susan and her team enrolled in a quality testing plan with accredited laboratories.
“We passed Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) quality and safety standards and are certified for distribution in the market. We are in the process of seeking certification from the Kenya Pharmacy and Poisons Board so that our products can be authorised in pharmacies around the country.” Susan adds.
Babyblossom's product portfolio includes baby soaps and wash, lotion, massage oil, and shampoo, all made from organic products.
Susan and her team serve about 1,000 customers every month.
The firm has two full-time employees and five marketing cum distributors that help cut down operational costs.
The lack of a physical shop is also intentional to keep down costs.
This is especially important because Susan says, they have not had a good start for their business in terms of profit making therefore operating cost reduction is a priority.
“We made a profit for the first time this year. We have been operating on losses for the longest time. Having a lean workforce and operating on bare-minimum overheads has kept us above water,” she retorts.
Running on losses is good enough a reason to wind up, so why have they remained in business?
“I get reviews from people that have used our products, parents of children who have had eczema or have sensitive skin. They say our products either cured the condition or cut their long chase of suitable products and that is a reason for me to continue,” she says.
Her plan is to grow the business internationally. Localising the manufacturing process is also in the plans. She is looking for a financier for her expansion plan.