Happening Now:

The mobile hairdresser who has created a thriving business out of African natural hair

Doreen Keziah is a mobile hairdresser and an organic hair care and skin care formulator. Photo | Pool

What you need to know:

Doreen Keziah, 29, is a mobile hairdresser and organic hair care and skin care formulator.  She runs her business “NextAwe Nappturals” on social media

As Keziah pursued Industrial Chemistry and Management at Kenyatta University, her family and friends knew that it was just a matter of time and one day she’d wake up with a new business idea. 

It could be a product line, her wish list business that she often talked about and what fostered her to pursue Chemistry. Or, a salon. Or, a clothes venture. Keziah always had multiple start-up ideas.

On a particular day in 2019, Keziah updated on her social media platforms that she was offering mobile hairdressing services. For years, she had worked as a model posting her work portfolio and hairstyles online. Her hair would oftentimes be a conversation starter and the same question would follow from her fans, “Can you do my hair?” someone would ask, a request that she'd turn down immediately.

One time, she got a bride who requested for her hairdressing services. After persuasion, Keziah gave in and this marked the beginning of her hairdressing journey.

However, mobile hairdressing was not her goal. She wanted a physical salon where people could come.

“For two years, I had been working online for different clients and I was saving up to set up a salon business. Then I found myself in a financial rut and I realised the salon idea was unattainable. With the money I had then, I started a second-hand clothes business but it flopped. Going mobile was an impetuous decision,” she says. 

Her then-boyfriend now husband designed the logo and poster of her new business and she went on to market it on social media. She called it NextAwe Nappturals. “NextAwe stands for Next level of Awesomeness.  I derived the Nappturals from the movie, “Nappily Ever After.” 

From one client referral, she has over the years built a clientele of at least 15 clients a week making Sh150,000 every month. She moves around with a handbag that consists of braiding tools, a barber apron, extensions/braids for the day's appointments, hair moisturising crème, hand lotion, lip balm, rosewater, some warm drinking water/soup, snacks, a shawl, and phones.


Relationship with hair

Like most women keeping their hair natural, Keziah’s relationship with her hair had been one of pride, learning, unlearning, and the occasional pain.

“I grew up hating salon visits because there's was always the fear of the sting of the blow dry perilously close to my earlobes or hairdressers being very harsh when combing out my hair,” offers the 30-year-old.

With easy access to platforms such as YouTube, she decided to take the matters into her own hands—learn how to make her hair. First, it was how to comb it, then braiding simple braids before going for the complicated hairstyles. She would practice on herself or her friends’ hair and then post the outcome on social media. 


Growth of natural hair movement

Over the last decade, the natural hair movement has grown in Kenya and many women are more intentional in understanding the mystery that is Afro hair. There are tens of natural hair movement groups on Facebook and it is common for professional women to rock in natural hair twists or wear their natural hair.

“When the natural hair movement began, few people understood how to maintain their natural hair. Our African hair has been declared unworkable, something that I once believed in. However, Social media played the medium of connecting with other naturalistas across the world. We exchange information and give one another support. One thing I like to remind natural hair enthusiasts is that beautiful hair doesn't just grow from your scalp, you need care for it to grow long. We need each other,” she offers.


Her clientele

While she is cutting her niche for herself as a mobile hairdresser, Keziah knew from the start that she had to be different from other hairdressers. For starters, there are thousands of salons in the country offering the same services.

“I believe that people come to me because I have proven to be patient and skilful enough while working with natural hair. I keep my hair natural as well and I share videos online of how I manage it. Another success factor is that I am a resourceful hairdresser,” she offers adding that the business gives her the pleasure to travel and experience the world differently every single day.

Since going natural in 2015, Keziah spent many hours researching organic cosmetic products and even sought online courses on hair care formulation. By the end of last year, she had a complete hair care line consisting of shampoo, conditioner, protein treatment, and twisting cream among others.

“I am the Chief Development Chemist of the brand and I have four people working with me. We source most of our ingredients locally and spend every Monday of the week researching and formulating the products,” says Keziah whose biggest marketing asset is social media and referrals. 


Challenges

Keziah reveals that mobile hairdressing is tiresome and on most days of the week, she operates on little rest.

“I have to wake up very early to ready myself as I see my first client at 8 am. I also sleep late to ensure that my online pages are up to date with current hair art. This tied to extensive marketing can be overwhelming. I oftentimes take naps while on commutes,” she offers.

The other painstaking challenge is miscommunication from the clients’ end. “Because of my operating style, I have a small window to chat with my clients when heading out to my appointments. You find that most Kenyans do things on impulse like a change of hairstyle or timings which can be really inconveniencing,” she offers.


To mitigate this, Keziah came up with booking guidelines and policies that include how to prepare your hair before the appointment and a booking fee.

“At first, while I was laying out the booking guidelines, T&Cs and Policies, I thought it'd never work for my industry. It's fulfilling that these took effect so easily and are mostly adhered to. 

Seeing my business grow from struggling to getting one client a day to the blessing of “I need to figure out how to accommodate the spill overs” is very fulfilling. Besides developing a wide range of products and reaching a wider market, I hope to equip passionate people with skills in natural hairdressing, handling, and management,” says the 29-year-old.