I was patiently waiting to talk to Maureen Murunga of Amadiva Beauty. I had known it would be a long stretch to see her so soon after the launch of her latest project that happened on 7th February, so I was grateful for the chance. It’s not every day you hear of a hairdresser, established businesswoman or not, launching a project that gets attention from corporates such as Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) and the H.E the President of the Republic of Kenya. Consider also that she’s a Nappreneur and we’re Hairpolitan, so it made perfect sense to call her up and see what the project was all about. After all we are here to celebrate any and all fetes that are happening in our community.
A little later she finalised the interview prior to mine. I had her full attention so I immediately jumped into it by asking her to explain what the partnership with KCB Foundation’s 2jiajiri program and Azizi Hair & Beauty College is all about. I am curious to know how such an idea would manifest. I wonder what opportunity she saw lacking, that she decided to put this together. She starts by explaining, “I have always known there is a space to put out a quality product but the question was how does it make money? How does it scale up?” A question I am eager to hear the answer to but we’ll get to that a little later. She has also always known that hair stylists are generally ambitious people who all dream of one day opening and running their own outfits.
Her belief was proven to be correct in 2013 when she rebranded from Urembo to Amadiva Beauty; and opened the branch at 14 Riverside. Three of her stylists approached her to buy out the Barclays Plaza Branch. She saw the potential since between them they had 30years worth of experience, were hardworking and had amassed a good client base. On their behalf, she liaised with a salon client who worked at Development Bank and got them financing. The determined stylists bought her out and ran the salon under the name Urban Hair and to date they have successful grown the business and paid back the loan. It was there that perhaps the seed, of teaching a stylist how to fish verses just giving them a fish to eat, was planted.
Fast-forward to 2016, Maureen returned to school. She enrolled for the 10,000 Women initiative supported by the Goldman Sachs Foundation at USIU Africa, Nairobi campus. She was tasked to come up with a plan to re-organise her current business model. It was quite timely because after nearly 6 years of running the salon she had started to note restlessness within her staff and even herself. It also greatly pained her that she had to close the Amadiva Buruburu branch after only 15months of existence due to financial struggles of keeping it afloat. She therefore sought an answer on how to replicate the Buruburu branch but without the intensive capital outlay that it required.
Maureen came up with and presented a concept of rolling out express franchises in the form of fully kitted container salons to the 12th cohort of the initiative. On paper the idea was great! It solved the conundrum her business was facing and created an interesting business model worth looking into. After her program she put together a think tank that worked for 3 months to make the idea viable. She also started sourcing for financing for the concept but was turned down on every end.
Fortunes changed after she received an impromptu invite from the media personality and fellow Nappreneur, Terryanne Chebet. The request was to be part of a panel for a TV interview that would be discussing youth unemployment. Initially Maureen wondered what value she was adding to the panel, but it slowly dawned on her the universe was presenting her with an opportunity. One of the panelists, a representative of the KCB Foundation’s 2jiajiri program, spoke passionately about their plan to fund partners who were willing to help teach and create business opportunities for the youth. After the interview she chatted up the lady and they agreed to meet up to discuss how they could work together.
In subsequent meetings, the synergy between them began to be clear. KCB through it’s foundation has set aside KES 10B to: “help empower and equip unemployed and out-of-school youth to grow micro enterprises by providing them with technical skill training opportunities as well as up-skilling and certifying existing micro-entrepreneurs who wish to move their business from the informal to the formal sector,” their website states. In 2017, KCB Foundation’s 2jiajiri programme as a whole, will train 10,000 young men and women.
As the discussions gathered momentum, Maureen roped in her mentor Gladys Ogallo. She’s the owner of Azizi Hair & Beauty College that took over from the former Revlon Professional International Academy. Together, Amadiva and Azizi Hair & Beauty College will train 120 stylists and beauticians this year alone. The first cohort made up of 40 beneficiaries, who were recruited in December 2016, is slated to graduate in the month of June. The next and 2nd call out will happen around May of 2017.
The partnership aims to launch 10 containers, on a no interest basis, in 2017. The container concept, designed by Twenty X Four, has everything a salon needs to operate optimally. In terms of staffing there would be 2 experienced anchor staff members overseeing those trained in the program. Each container is able to host 13 people from shampoo girls & boys, nail technicians to hair & beauty stylists.
Eventually KCB’s plan is to have one container in each of the 47 counties in Kenya. By my rudimentary calculations that would have already set to give just over 600 young people employment. Extrapolating that over many containers and years one can see how this will greatly impact the industry as a whole let alone set to whittle down the large youth unemployment numbers we currently have.
The foreseeable problem was that Amadiva Beauty currently has just two branches. Clearly not enough to absorb 40 let alone 600+ programme graduates. Enter the idea of scaling the salon business by franchising fully kitted containers that would then absorb the program trainees; and provide them with incubation spaces to apply their newly learned skills.
The franchising blueprint is to set up a 40ft container salon at a cost of KES 2,000,000 and to charge an additional franchising fee yet to be disclosed. Thereafter, the new salon would be required pay a percentage of their revenues per month (not for the first 3 months though), to Amadiva for managing the back end systems, business numbers and marketing. The support team will be at hand to vet suitable proposed locations. Once the loan is repaid and the business it on its feet, the owner(s) will have the option to continue under the franchise or rebrand and set up their own outfit.
I am fascinated with what drives this 42 year old, mother of two and daughter of a single Mother, to bring professionalism and hope into what many consider a very informal industry. She explains that she started working in a similar informal space when at the age of 10 when she and her mother would physically bringing in clothes from the back streets of London to sell at Nairobi’s then Freemarket. “The dream for me is to empower stylists, to create employment and for the industry to have dignity. I’d like us to move from being viewed as that informal sector to something formidable,” she says.
If you are a Nappreneur growing your business and wondering what next, the answer lies in the concept providing future generations with a clear and empowering route to creating wealth. “Anyone who is going to make this work is in the industry right now. We’re the only ones who are going to make things change. Let’s get involved, let’s not whine.” As we await the announcement of what the new salons will be called, we can be rest assured that Maureen has the industry’s overall success at heart.
14 Riverside & Prestige Plaza
Tel: +254 (0) 723 607 793
FB Page: Amadiva Beauty