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Friday, 29 August 2014

Kenya's Terry Mungai on How Being Jobless Led Her Into Entrepreneurship

Meet Kenya's Terry Mungai , a renowned entrepreneur in Kenya’s beauty industry. She runs a chain of high-end salons and beauty shops, a training institute and a beauty pageant. She lost her job and was on the verge of losing her home when she became motivated to follow her passion. Having a good job one day and being jobless the next day led to her entrepreneurial journey, she said. “That experience was motivation enough. I wanted to be in charge of my destiny.”

She decided to sell her salon to pay off more debts and moved to a better location in Nairobi where she started Ashleys beauty salon. She recalls when setting up her first outlet she ran out of money and even had to sell her car to complete the project. “I did not have a choice because the salon was now going to be my livelihood. I figured I could always buy another car in future. Unlike the first time when I bought an existing business and had to continue using its name, this time around I had the opportunity to start something from scratch that could be associated with me. When we finally opened Ashleys, people really bought into the idea,” she says.

“Having been a corporate lady myself I had visited lots of salons and could see there was a gap. There was nothing different, and attendants treated all customers the same way. I could see an opportunity to invest in a salon that treated the corporate woman differently, in a particular way, pampering her.” Ashleys now operates 11 centres in Nairobi and Mombasa. Mungai says Nairobi’s notorious traffic jams and limited parking space motivated her to start expanding the business to bring the service closer to clients. “People don’t want to look for service, they want service to go to them.”

Mungai also holds the licence for the Miss World Kenya and has organised the beauty pageant for over a decade. In addition she started Ashleys Hair and Beauty Academy, mostly out of her own frustrations with the industry. At the time there were only a handful of such beauty training centres in Nairobi. Many people did not consider beauty a professional career hence there was limited expertise in the industry. She would spend months training new staff because although many had some technical skill, they lacked confidence and would get intimidated by some customers. But ironically, as her staff became more confident and mastered customer service, other salons would poach them.

“What hurt me the most is that I was investing in training my people and other salons would be waiting ready to poach them. This frustrated me for two years then I realised people respected the training I was giving. It occurred to me that if I trained people for a fee I would gladly let them go (after training) to create room for other students. We have now trained more than 7,000 people.
It is now a career of choice. People come in to get a diploma in cosmetology because they have a passion for beauty, not because they do not have other career options.”

“I am a risk taker and more importantly my faith in God propels me. I work hard and I give it my best. I don’t believe in failure.”

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