For most women with dry skin, finding the best oil that moisturises well can be a struggle. Lucy Kimani, the founder of Dona by Dawn ventured into the beauty market out of passion and from her own skin struggles.
“As far back as I can remember, I have always suffered from dry skin. I used to buy lotions with glycerine or mix up concoctions. Then I discovered that I could actually create a product that works for my dry skin,” she says.
When she returned to Kenya after working in Malaysia for a pharmaceutical company, she knew the direction she wanted to take.
In a market with a fresh appeal for old-fashioned products such as coconut oil, avocado oil and shea butter, Lucy started making Dona by Dawn products with women who have dry skin in mind.
“I started by using shea butter, cocoa butter but over time they were not working as well as I wanted them to,” she says.
After two years of research, she added cetomacrogol cream. In 2014, she commercially manufactured her first Dona by Dawn body lotion.
“My first products in the market were lotion, shampoo and conditioner. The lotion was for dry skin and I tried it on my friends and family first before putting it out in the market,” she says.
The lotion has cetomacrogol cream which acts as a base, combined with shea and cocoa butter that she gets from Ghana, castor oil, olive oil and Vitamin E.
As small, local cosmetics shake up the beauty industry, Lucy is unworried about competitors.
“This is a young industry, so we are not in competition. There is space for everyone in this market and the African woman's skin is very diverse in its needs. So as the market grows, we are growing together,” she says. She adds that women used to buy beauty products based on their brand name and popularity, but this is slowly changing as they embrace ‘Made in Kenya’ with natural ingredients.
What worries her is the failure by retail chains to stock local products and high manufacturing taxes.
“Retail chains are slowly coming to understand that our products are as professionally manufactured as the international brands. Customers are asking for our products by name, so the retail chains are now approaching us directly,” she adds.
For women who are hesitant to be entrepreneurs, Lucy says she started with Sh10,000 and her business has grown and now she has added hair food, hairspray and curling butter in her product line. “Women are natural planners and risk-averse. For a business to succeed, planning takes 40 percent and courage and self-belief takes the 60 percent. If you know you have a great idea that satisfies a need in the market, start with whatever you have because the business environment is dynamic. There is no safe ground, improvisation and flexibility is key. You have to be very determined to grow,” she says.
“Women tend to be swayed by other people's decisions and criticisms. A huge part of being an entrepreneur is growing a thick skin. I have surrounded myself with a tribe or council of few friends who are genuine in their feedback,” she adds.
So for an entrepreneur who has her own beauty products, what is her skincare regime?
“I am very minimalist due to my dry skin. I use a moisturising shower gel, which is a very light formulation that does not strip my skin of oils. I then seal my skin with a body lotion. For my lips, I use petroleum jelly. I rarely use make up, save for lipstick and eye pencil during special occasions,” she says.
“In the evening, I use the same shower gel and apply a moisturising cream which is made with a heavier oil base.”