When you meet Martin Wambugu at his spa, it wouldn’t occur in your wildest dreams that he owns it – and an entire beauty college for that matter. This is because on a normal day, you would find the hands on entrepreneur passionately rendering services to his clients. He is down to earth and does not cut an image of a boss. Wambugu’s entrepreneurship journey is a hallmark of resilience and hard work. The 31 year old who hails from Kirigiti in Kiambu County studied up to form four. Unfortunately, he was unable to further his studies beyond that level because of financial challenges. However, that did not deter him from achieving his lifetime dream – starting his own business.
In order to realize his dream, his first step was being employed as a shop assistant. “I got hired to work in a hardware shop located in Nyamakima ( downtown Nairobi) that was dealing in electronic goods and I saved money regularly in preparation for my journey as an entrepreneur,” says Wambugu. After accumulating sufficient savings, he set up his own hardware shop in 2008. At first though, he would purchase electrical appliances from other hardware shops in Nyamakima and sell them to different customers at a small profit. In the process, he built his profile in the lucrative business.
Lady luck indeed smiled on the young entrepreneur and gradually, his business thrived. “With time, I realized sufficient income and I was able to import electrical appliances from China,” he explains. Due to the influx of the merchandise and his desire to reach other markets, Wambugu employed middlemen or ‘brokers’ as they are popularly referred to in the business circles. He would give them merchandise on credit and they would settle the same after making sales. This arrangement would cost him dearly. “One day, I gave out some merchandise to my agents to sell but they switched their phones off and I could not reach them at the close of business,” he laments. “Due to that unfortunate incident, I lost all the capital I had invested to purchase these goods and my business sunk deep in debts”, he painfully recalls.
Delving in the beauty industry
Getting in the beauty industry was not something that he had envisioned. As it were, he used to frequently visit one of his friends who had invested in the lucrative business at his place of work. Out of curiosity, he gradually became interested in the business. What drew him even further into the business was when at one particular instance, his friend made a cool Kshs. 2,000 in an hour after servicing a client. “Seeing my friend make that kind of money in just an hour was really impressive and I therefore made up my mind to venture into the business,” Wambugu says.
His friend’s business was located in Kiambu but he was keen on setting it up in Nairobi in order to access more customers. He was therefore in need of more capital in order to achieve that goal. At that juncture, Wambugu joined hands with him, pumped more capital into the business and the duo successfully made an entry into Nairobi’s central business district. Being hands on by nature, Wambugu honed his skills in the business very fast. Ultimately, he was even able to prepare some cosmetic products hence saving money for the business. His friendly demeanour also enabled him to win many customers and the business thrived.
Marcus Antonius in William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, says: “Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.” Being an ambitious person then, Wambugu was very keen on charting his own destiny. He is made of sterner stuff. After working together with his friend for eight months, they cordially parted ways. “By the time our partnership came to an end, I had accumulated enough savings to enable me put my own salon,” he says adding that the decision to part ways was inevitable because he did not share the same vision with his friend. Initially, he worked alone but after two months, he started hiring. Currently, the business has ten employees.
Entrepreneurs by nature should be hawkeyed in order to spot any opportunity that could be beneficial to their business. Against that background, Wambugu noticed that most of his employees lacked critical skills. They therefore needed further training. To address that challenge, he started training them on the job and they became very productive. He realised that he was talented in that field and he therefore hired a tutor to support him. When the number of students increased, he decided to register a college as an offshoot of the business. He named it Brinty Beauty College.
The college which has been in operation for eight months has a total of sixteen students and the courses it offers include: hair dressing, nail technology and beauty services. The students are also trained in entrepreneurship at no extra fee so that they can set up their own businesses once they graduate. They are awarded either certificates or diplomas in cosmetology and hair beauty depending on the length of training.
There are very many salons in the Nairobi’s central business district. They engage in cutthroat competition. To have an edge over the competition then, Wambugu uses various social media platforms to advertise his business. He also does a lot of online research in order to keep pace with the market trends. The unique value proposition of his business is offering high quality and unique services. “I regularly visit my competition in order to benchmark with them and gain more market share,” he says.
Satisfied customers though are the best way through which he markets his business because he gets referrals. “Once a customer gets satisfied with our services, he or she refers his friends to us and this is a very effective and cost effective way of marketing the business,” he observes.
He uses genuine products which though expensive, are very good in producing excellent results. “Sometimes we receive whose nails have broken because cheap and fake cosmetic products were applied on them and fixing them is a very hard task,” laments the young entrepreneur. “We do not compromise our services by using counterfeit products just to make a few coins,” he adds.
Brinty Beauty Spa offers various services such as acrylics, gel builder, normal gel, pedicure and manicure. He is planning to open more branches in the city and its outskirts as the customer base grows. The easy going and charming young entrepreneur loves watching movies, interior design and socializing. Indeed, he has what it takes to go places.