Woman of Passion:Running a family business taught me what a finance degree could not

 Leah Kimotho, is the owner of Makeup Cloud, a Kenyan Hair business. PHOTO| POOL

What you need to know:

  • After graduation Leah Kimotho could not get a job despite her finance degree
  • Her father offered her a position in the family business, a hardware
  • The two years she worked with her father taught her everything she knows about running a business
  • The 28-year-old is today the owner of Makeup Cloud, a hair business

On Monday morning, 28-year-old Leah Kimotho invites me to a set where she is shooting videos and photographs for her business. As she wears a different colour of lipstick and then slips on a different wig, you can see her demeanor changing.

“Hair is a big part of every woman’s day. How her hair looks directly reflects on the mood she will carry that day,” Leah tells me later on.

Hair wigs, she tells me, literally changed her life. After high school about the time she was joining the University of Nairobi to study for her finance degree, she took to braiding her hair on a regular basis. Naturally, with time, this took a toll on her hairline.

“My hair line was gone and I began having so many bad hair days. I was barely out of my teens, friends were making fun of my hairline and my self-esteem plummeted,” she recalls.

To save face, she began wearing her mother’s wig. She looked good in it and soon, her classmates were complimenting her. So she had her mother buy her some pieces which she made part of her daily wardrobe.

“By the time I was graduating, people on campus called me Leah Wigs but I didn’t mind because my hairline had grown back and my confidence had come back,” she says.

Starting with the family business

Like many young Kenyans graduating from our universities today, Leah hoped that her finance degree would earn her a good job with an auditing firm. For a few months, she searched unsuccessfully. When no job was forthcoming, her father offered her a position in the family business, a hardware.

“At first, selling building materials and car batteries seemed very far off from my dream. Unknowingly though, the two years I worked with my father taught me everything I know about running a business. Knowing what I know now, if I could go back in time, I would still take that job in the family business,” she says.

Here, she learnt how to negotiate with customers and haggle for good deals.  From her father, she learnt good customers service and how to keep buyers coming. Most importantly, she learnt how to manage a business.

Starting her own thing

With the salary the family business was paying her, Leah added onto her wig collection. Interestingly, around the time she began thinking about leaving to start her own business, she had more people walking up to her on the streets and at events to ask whether what she had on was a wig and where she got it from.

“That was how I began buying wigs for other people,” she recalls.

Three years later, today she owns a fully-fledged hair business stocking wigs and extensions. What sets her apart from the competition, she shares, is that her prices are competitive.

“The wigs and extensions vary in price from Sh4,000 to Sh20,000 depending on the length, style and whether or not it is human hair or semi-human hair,’ she says.

She imports all her hair but customises each wig according to client’s needs.

“My best days at work are when a client calls to tell me that because of my hair, she felt beautiful or confident on a day that was important to her. This means everything,” she says.

Her journey to owning a business has not been without its challenges. Her biggest one was earlier this year when Covid-19 struck and people retreated into their homes. This was a rough patch for her business. Then, slowly, new clients who could no longer go to their usual salon began reaching out looking to try a wig.

“Then businesses began closing and people began losing their jobs and a lot of clients could no longer pay for the wigs they desired. To meet them half-way we came up with a hire purchase option where a customer can reserve a wig and pay for it over a period of time,” she says.

Being in the hair business, there are days she will walk in the streets and see a woman making a hair mistake like wearing a wig and not laying her edges or not blending in the hair net to match her scalp tone.

“There is always room for improvement but the hair industry has grown these past two years. We know more about hair choices as well as hair care. I like where we are headed.”

Leah’s nuggets

  • The hair business is diverse. You will need to do extensive research before throwing your hat in the ring.
  • Financial management is a crucial part of the business. No matter how much you sell, if you can’t manage your finances, your business will not grow.
  • Be careful while delegating the management aspect of your small business. Not everyone you employ will have similar vision.
  • Don’t focus only on making money. Focus on business growth instead. Make your clients your friends.


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