T5 interview with Lulu Kimbio-Mbugua

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Ensure you have a proper mission and vision of the business you want to get into.


  • Do your research, thoroughly, while you are still employed and weigh out the pros and cons.


  • If it is a popular business idea, your mission and vision should be unique. Use your current resources to fuel your business idea and make smart moves.

Lulu Kimbio-Mbugua is a certified cosmetics formulator and founder of Luguah Naturals. She is on a mission to provide safe, effective, natural and affordable skincare solutions. You can grab her award-winning body butters at www.luguahnaturals.com.


1. Who, exactly, is a certified cosmetics formulator? Where do you learn how to be that?
A certified cosmetics formulator is someone who is trained in the art and science of creating new cosmetics from formulas. There are various institutions where you can learn about this. I am a graduate of Formula Botanica, a leading online teaching institution in the UK on organic formulation and indie beauty entrepreneurship. Anybody can make a lotion by following a recipe, same way anyone can make a banana cake if they follow a recipe. However, cosmetic formulation goes beyond following recipes and requires training because you are required to come up with your own formulas, based on a deeper understanding of the different ingredients and how they interact with our skin or hair.

2. When did you decide to start Luguah Naturals? What challenges did you face? How long did it take to become certified?
Luguah Naturals is a family-owned business and the idea came to us in 2016, but we legally started our operations in March 2019. The three-year gap was mainly a testing phase for our flagship products and to allow for market research.

There were so many challenges! Securing capital, sourcing for raw materials and ingredients, and coming up with a proper business model were some of them. People who were in the industry were also not keen on sharing details of their suppliers, which was quite disappointing because the cosmetics industry in Kenya is quite big.

I always appreciate and thank our customers for their brand loyalty because it’s them who keep us in business, and it’s one of them who nominated our brand in 2019 for the Kenya Beauty and Cosmetics Awards under ‘Best Body Butter’ and ‘Best Lip Balm.’ We won both awards! When your customers  keep coming back, and recommend more people, then you know that your products are changing lives.

3. You made a bold move from the corporate world to entrepreneurship. What made you forge out? Do you regret it?
The move was extremely bold, and I wouldn’t advise anyone to make that decision hurriedly. Ensure you have a proper mission and vision of the business you want to get into. Do your research, thoroughly, while you are still employed and weigh out the pros and cons. If it is a popular business idea, your mission and vision should be unique. Use your current resources to fuel your business idea and make smart moves.

In my case, I was trying to conceive and the pressure that comes with digital agency work is no joke. I had to retire early, and the idea to start Luguah Naturals came to me when I was pregnant. Pregnancy and motherhood changed me, for the better, and I don’t regret my decision at all.

4. What's next for Luguah? Are you pivoting to online more? Are there any events that we can look forward to?
I like to keep people guessing when it comes to Luguah, but we have some amazing new products to release in 2022. I have been working to ensure that our products nourish and nurture our skin and hair. As a team, my husband and I have been figuring out ways of rebranding Luguah and repositioning ourselves. We rely on online platforms to market ourselves and make sales, but our products will soon be in select stores.

5. What rules have you set in your entrepreneur journey to keep your head above water? Are rules and boundaries necessary?
I had to reinforce the ‘no orders leaving without full payment’ rule after we lost some money on several orders. It vexes me that in this century, people can still be this disingenuous. All our website orders issue an invoice followed by a receipt after payment and I tell my customers that this system also protects them, because they can show proof of payment.
Another rule is, I keep my emotions away from the business. This is a very challenging rule because Luguah is so close to my heart. But if the business stops being profitable and can’t be saved, would I be willing to let it go or would I sink with it?

Lastly, I take on so many responsibilities in the business and I am learning to delegate, so that I have free time to spend on myself, my family and friends. Being an entrepreneur is not always glamorous, but being overworked and overwhelmed will not be a part of my story.
 

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