Walking in the streets of Mombasa City you are assailed by the smell of a cocktail of fragrances oozing out of perfume shops. The rampant sweet smell thickly hanging in the air is testament to a thriving beauty and cosmetics industry in the coastal city.
Entrepreneurs in perfume and make-up as well as Henna arts are reaping millions, and this is mainly attributed to beauty-conscious coast residents who are prepared to go an extra mile, dig deeper into their pockets to spruce up their images and look somewhat impeccable.
Salim Abdallah, a manager at ProMode Shop, says they started the perfume family business with an investment of Sh600,000 and since then, the enterprise has been growing fast.
"We decided to set it up at the coast because many people like looking and smelling good here," says Mr Abdalla.
The family business, he adds, has been in existence for seven years, and so far they have little to regret about. A year ago they opened the second branch in Mombasa.
"We target clienteles aged between 25 and 40. The business has been profitable especially during Ramadhan seasons," enthuses Mr Abdallah.
Their perfumes are mostly imported from Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Omani.
Most of their products do not come cheap.
“Spray per bottle costs between Sh2,500 and Sh7,500 while oil perfume goes for between Sh200 and Sh2,000,” notes Mr Abdalla, adding that they sell 60 percent of their products monthly.
Despite the high cost of some products, they get customers in droves. One of the customers, Awadh Salim, reveals he usually sets aside Sh20,000 for perfume every three months.
“The perfumes that are original and last longer are usually worth Sh1,500 to Sh8000,” explains Mr Salim.
Kasumuni Odari who has been in the beauty business for five years, injected a capital of Sh300,000 and has been consistently reaping big.
“Make-up is very expensive so is the beauty products too,” asserts Ms Ondari.
Her firm, Adorable Beauty Centre, has its own brand of lipstick known as Joy Lips.
“Most of my clienteles are between the age of 19 and 50. This means it is not only the young who buy beauty products,” says Ms Ondari, adding that she gets about 15 customers daily.
Her products cost between Sh1,500 and Sh3,000.
“A whole beauty pack that entails foundation, lipstick and powder costs Sh8,000. In a month I make between Sh80,000 and Sh90,000,” she says.
One of her clients, Charity Sonje of Kakey Make-up, says her monthly budget for makeup is Sh10,000.
“Make-up is very expensive. I buy lipsticks for between Sh1,500 and Sh2,500, while foundations costs from Sh3,000 to Sh8,000,” maintains Ms Sonje, adding that although the products are very costly, she always makes sure she has sufficient money to buy them.
Ms Ondari has an online shop which has grown to be a major outlet for her products.
Another entrepreneur in this line of business is Fahliya Mazoa. She worked as a body artist in Nairobi before relocating to Mombasa, lured by the attractive returns from the vibrant beauty industry.
“I have been in the makeup business for two years in Mombasa. I have many customers and I usually charge according to the customer’s preference - body art or full facial make-up,” says Ms Mazoa.
Her services also cost an arm and a leg: “For body arts I charge Sh2,500 per person full body and Sh1,500 for face art. It is expensive since its unique from other normal make-up which costs Sh1,000,” she says.
She also does wedding make-ups, and how much work and creativity he puts into a project depends on the budget.
Although she faces tough competition, Ms Mazoa is undaunted noting that she always finds new ways to market her products and explore new grounds. She has for instance ventured into digital marketing and opened her own lingerie and bikini (female attires) cloth line.
Henna art is also a key attraction in Mombasa thanks to its natural fragrance.
And what precisely is Henna? It is a small flowering shrub that has many uses. The fragrant flowers are used to create perfume and the leaves are dried and then turned into a fine powder that’s used for dying clothes, hair and temporarily dying the skin (henna tattooing).
Riziki Awadhi started Henna business way back in 1984 and never thought it would be such a roaring success. She now runs her own school, Rizfaar Beauty College where students are taught make-up and henna arts.
The students undertake a three-month training after which they are attached to firms where a good number of them are employed.