What you need to know:
- Beauty by Airam, her company, boasts two eye-shadow pallets, and Maria says this is just the beginning. She plans to make hers the most sought-after makeup line in Kenya.
- Once she made the decision to start the beauty line, Maria took time to research on the places where she could have the items manufactured.
Aged 20 and still two months away from completing high school, Maria Kariuki has started building her own makeup line.
“I fell in love with make-up after I was introduced to it in my teenage years by my mother, and also from watching people around me. I started experimenting with it whenever I had free time. I tried out different kinds of looks on myself, and I ended up developing a desire to create my own makeup line,” she says.
Beauty by Airam, her company, boasts two eye-shadow pallets, and Maria says this is just the beginning. She plans to make hers the most sought-after makeup line in Kenya.
“I have started with the eye-shadow pallets because there are few Kenyan brands that manufacture that specific product, yet so many people use it. I intend to create other items as the company grows,” she says.
Once she made the decision to start the beauty line, Maria took time to research on the places where she could have the items manufactured.
“I found a company in China. I reached out to them and chose the pallets as well as the packaging material. The manufacturer usually sends me the ingredients, various colours, and pigmentation on different skin types before sending the pallets over so that I can confirm that it is what I want. I choose every color and pigmentation for both pallets and how I wanted them arranged,” she says.
She opted for two different palettes, the Colourful pallet and the Nude eye shadow pallet to cater for those who don’t like vibrant shades. The nude pallet contains brown and light pink hues while the colorful palette has pink, orange, red, a bit of blue, and green hues which the bolder users prefer.
“I decided to make two sets because it does not make sense to buy one pallet that has twelve colours only to use three options. This segregation gives a buyer the flexibility to buy the colour sets they like and will actually use,” she says.
For her first shipment, Maria ordered less than 100 pallets because she wanted to gauge the market response, get feedback and learn more about how to market the items before going for a bigger shipment.
“My family saw potential in my passion and they supported me. My mum gave me a loan which I will pay back once I make sales. She also helped me package my idea.
“Initially, I used makeup only to look prettier and classier. Eventually, it became an art and I discovered that I have so much passion for beauty,” she says.
Maria combined the African and Indian aspects of her identity when deciding how to package her pallets. One has African prints while the other has Indian prints.
“I sell all my products online, on Instagram @beautybyairam_,” she says.
Each pallet goes for Sh2,000. Since she launched her company in January this year, she has sold about 40 pallets, although she has experienced fluctuating sales patterns.
“One of my aunties bought ten pallets, and that has been my biggest sale. She likes what I am doing and she gave the pallets out as gifts as a way of marketing my brand,” she says.
Maria has found that clients prefer her nude pallet more than the one with bright colours.
“I think nude colours are in fashion right now and the quality also makes it lovely. I have learned that marketing is not easy. Having a brand is one thing. Putting it out there is a whole different ball game. I have had to learn different ways of marketing my brand online, including using advertisements on Instagram. I also got in touch with local influencers and asked them to promote my brand by reviewing my products and sharing their findings.
“My biggest challenge so far has been finding loyal clients. I am gaining followers on Instagram, but I also need people to actually buy and use the pallets, so I am working towards growing my sales,” she says.
Her advice to budding entrepreneurs?
“If you have an idea but are scared of failing, just go for it and make your dream a reality because, at the end of the day, you really cannot tell if you will be successful if you do not try.
“I hope my business will grow to become a top make-up brand. Eventually, I want to hire makeup artists and open a beauty parlor,” she says, adding that she hopes to study communications and media once she is done with secondary school, and then study cosmetology.