What you need to know:
- Starting with a capital of Sh7,000, the enterprise, which begun as an online venture, is now a Sh50 million enterprise with five shops in some of the biggest malls in Nairobi.
From as early as she can remember, Georgina Kirungo paid particular attention to her hair, and loved trying out different hairstyles. When she reached adulthood and got the freedom to experiment with her hair, she had a difficult time finding the right hair extensions.
“I loved experimenting with hair extensions in terms of length and colour. I was not really satisfied with the quality in the market, and I knew I was not alone,” she says.
In 2012, Georgina, 31, set up Nywele Creative, a company that sells hair extensions such as weaves and wigs made out of human hair. She says that she has curved out a niche in the market, cashing in on increasing demand for virgin hair extensions, a factor that is behind the success of the business, which clocked 10 years.
The entrepreneur started off with a set of hair extension worth Sh7,000, and would later get Sh30,000 funding from an aunt, money she used to expand her business. She employs six full time employees, bringing in an annual turnover of over Sh50 million.
The cost of Nywele Creative hair ranges from Sh10,000 to Sh500,000. Having started off as an online business, they now have five physical locations - at Green House on Ngong Road, Garden City Mall on Thika Highway, Westlands, Two Rivers Mall and The Hub in Karen. The company also caters for markets outside Kenya such as Uganda, Rwanda, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Sweden and the US.
Georgina employs the services of a manufacturing company based in the UK to turn her hair into different styles and cuts. The hair is then shipped to Kenya where it is distributed across the world.
Although she still sells her products online, tapping into Kenya’s growing e-commerce business, she appreciates the opportunity physical shops provide to showcase the advantages of real hair extensions over synthetic varieties – hers assures durability, reusability and versatility.
For customers who are not familiar with her products or those who have a hard time ordering them online, the shops offer an opportunity to see the extensions on mannequins, touch them and learn how to use them.
She observes that Kenya differs from other markets in that women here prioritise quality over trends.
“The quality standards of hair extensions that Kenyans demand are very high, even more than in markets such as London. Kenyans want to invest in something that is going to last for a long time.”
Georgina begun looking for hair that she felt suited her personality while studying in the UK. A chance encounter with a virgin hair supplier led to a light-bulb moment that saw her open her own hair studio. From that point, she began carrying out research, learning more about virgin human hair and hair extensions sourced from countries of origin.
“I spoke to experts in London who had been sourcing for virgin hair for decades and created networks. I saw a gap in the Kenyan and African market as a whole, and created the right business relationships with different sources across the globe.”
Through her sources, she was able to order for some virgin human hair extensions and introduced the product to the market. The response was amazing.
“Many women loved the product, and through referrals, I got more orders. We created the ‘all under-one-roof’ concept when it came to hair extensions. Clients can purchase and have their hair extensions installed in the same place,” she adds.
She cites consumer awareness as her biggest challenge.
“The Industry is unregulated, therefore, anyone can put a sticker on their product reading ‘100 percent Virgin Hair Extensions’ when what they are offering is high fibre synthetic hair extensions that mimic the characteristics of virgin hair without the effort of sourcing true high quality hair, which requires expertise and skill and is an extremely costly process.”
She adds that some vendors go as far as confusing consumers by naming their extensions semi-human at a lowered or "more affordable" price.
What’s next for her?
“I see myself expanding my events and wellbeing businesses to the scale of Nywele Creative and elevating my business to the next level, potentially offering the ability to franchise my brand across the country and possibly the rest of the East African region.”
She adds that she wants women to have convenient and reliable access to the highest quality hair extensions available globally here in Kenya and to give them the opportunity to enhance their hair with length, volume and colour using the best quality.
The business offers free training to promising individuals at their stores, after which they offer the chance of full time employment. Luxury brand training skills are available to both sales associates and creatives.
Georgina has opened three other successful businesses over the last 10 years, including Home Spa KE, an organic wellbeing range of natural products, as well as Kenya and Niche Experiences, an events business.
In 2018, Nywele Creative was selected amongst the top 100 mid-sized companies by KPMG, she is also a winner of the Business Daily’s Top 40 Under 40 Women as well as the paper’s Youngest Entrepreneur of the Year 2018.