Sylvia Deborah Mukunzi’s dream was to become a news anchor, while her parents wanted her to study medicine, views that were a source of conflict.
Failure to agree led her to pursue a course in business, graduating in 2012 with CPA(K) and Bachelor of Commerce, Finance from Kenyatta University.
“Business was the next best alternative since I was also very passionate about it,” she explains.
She started off her entrepreneurship journey with a salon business in August 2021, opening the Arden Spa and Barbershop located at Kasuku Lane in Kilimani, Nairobi.
“Growing up in the coastal town of Mombasa, my mother and I dreamt of creating a space to serve head and shoulder massage clients. We knew the many benefits massages provide, from relaxation to relieving chronic pain, and hoped to start such a business,” explains Sylvia.
Although she knew what she wanted to do for a living, she was assailed by doubt and kept seeking reassurance from those close to her.
“I was scared, and every possible scenario of failure went through my head. The discouragement from many people I discussed my business idea with didn’t help either,” she recalls.
Eventually, she decided to take the bold move she had been putting off, and as the Covid-19 pandemic raged on, she started the business.
“My partner was, however, very supportive, and he has gone far and beyond to ensure Arden is what it is to date,” she says.
Sylvia raised the capital from her savings, which she combined with a loan she borrowed from a Sacco, raising Sh3 million to start off.
"We settled on borrowing from a Sacco because the interest rates were lower compared to those fronted by a bank," she explains.
The business has been a learning curve entailing making mistakes, learning from them and improving every day. The business also demands making a lot of sacrifice. Her clients are both men and women, mostly those seeking modern trends although the services cut across all age groups.
"Arden is a unisex name which means a forest or a place of solitude and wellness in Hebrew. Since we are creating a brand, we felt the name resonated with what we are working to achieve.”
The business serves between10 to 15 clients every day.
She has encountered a number of challenges while running the business, and in her experience, a business can take up to two years before breaking even.
"I would advise someone going into business to have a thick skin and put in proper structures to ensure efficiency. It is also important to know right at the beginning that you will hire and fire a lot but eventually settle in,” she adds.
She also advises investors in such a business to employ the services of an accountant if one is not qualified in the field because proper accounting is important. One should also set aside some money to keep the business going during the period before stabilisation.
The massage services on offer range from Sh1, 500 to Sh5, 000, while the haircuts cost between Sh700 and Sh1, 500. They offer manicures and pedicures too, which range between Sh1, 000 and Sh2, 500, while nail works charges cost between Sh500 to Sh4, 500.
As for waxing, it costs Sh1, 000 to Sh4, 000 depending on the experience you’re interested in.
"The most fulfilling moment is when clients come in to get ready for work, an important meeting or to simply to relax, and thereafter leave looking happy and satisfied,” she concludes.