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Enterprise

I left bank manager job to set up own beauty enterprise

Lucy Wanjau
Lucy Wanjau beauty business entrepreneur during interview on June 13, 2019 in Nairobi. She supplies beauty products under brand name Zaron. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG 

When Lucy Wanjau quit her job as an assurance manager at a bank to enter into business, she wasn’t quite sure what laid ahead in the always challenging entrepreneurship world.

However, two years down the line, all her concerns have vanished as her business journey has unfolded as a success story.

She is now the sole local distributor of beauty products by Zaron Cosmetics, a Nigerian company that prides itself in offering an assortment of cosmetic products “specifically formulated women of colour”.

Her product range include mascara, face palette, brushes, eyebrow pencil, concealers, loose powder, matte lop fix among others. “I bumped into Zaron online where they had stated they were looking for a Kenyan connection to distribute their products,” says Ms Wanjau, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Nairobi.

What prompted her to quit what is seemingly a good job for the uncertain world of entrepreneurship?

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For the four years she worked at the bank, she was struggling with feelings of job dissatisfaction and unfulfilled dreams. Deep within her, she desired to be her own boss where her “successes or failures will squarely sit” on her shoulders.

She started by selling diapers as a side hustle, to get a feel of what entrepreneurship was all about.

“I distributed diapers for Kim-Fay East Africa for a few months but I didn’t make money because it was a small-margin business,” she says.

It was Kim-Fay — the makers of Huggies, Kotex tampons, Cosy and Fay tissues among others— that recommended her for the Zaron offer.

Armed with Sh1.5 million from savings and family, Ms Wanjau, 30, brought in her first shipment of Zaron products in January 2018.

Since Zaron was new in the Kenyan market, she had to contend with the big boys who had well established distribution networks and had strong financial muscle.

“Thanks to strategy and perseverance, our numbers have improved and today we are talking of a distributing a minimum of 1,000 products a month,” says the graduate of Proficiency in Insurance from College of Insurance.

Today, Zaron products are sold in 15 outlets in Mombasa and Nairobi with plans of expanding to other counties.

Aside from word of mouth, she has sold the products through Masoko, Safaricom’s e-commerce platform. “The beauty with Masoko is that it has a countrywide reach which has really helped us in minimising costs,” she says. She has employed two beauty advisors to help explain to potential clients what best suit their beauty needs.

Zaron beauty products, she says, target the youth and “the young at heart who are keen on accentuating their physical beauty, engendering inner satisfaction and self-esteem”.

She notes that typically, customers who buy Zaron products on Masoko are those that have used them before.

“You can imagine the disappointment when you purchase compact powder online then realise it is a shade lighter or darker than your skin tone when it arrives,” she explains. Ms Wanjau says the sky is the limit as she penetrates the cosmetic world populated by fakes and products that are not friendly to the woman of colour.

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