Daniel Mwaniki, a travel and tourism graduate is the proprietor of Uthaka Spot, a beauty parlour located in Nyeri Town, Nyeri County. The 34-year-old established the award-winning parlour after resigning from his former job as an assistant manager of a four-star Nairobi hotel in 2020.
Mwaniki had served in the hospitality industry for nine years before he resigned, stating that he felt exhausted by the time he quit.
“I realised that I lacked a social life since I had been working from the first day I joined college, a period which saw me rise from a front office associate to an assistant manager while still in school,” he told The Nation.
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In the hospitality industry, Mwaniki was accustomed to long working shifts with little breaks. When he quit, he was looking for an opportunity that would allow him flexible working hours.
His entry into the beauty industry was inspired by a friend of his who operated a successful nail salon in Nairobi. The friend introduced him to colleagues who owned similar businesses in Nairobi for benchmarking whenever he was free.
“I would volunteer to help as I observed the services being rendered, how they were done, the tricks and how to deal with customers,” Mwaniki narrated.
Finally, he decided to start his own beauty parlour but settled on Nyeri as the ideal location due to the stiff competition in Nairobi. Armed with Ksh350,000 comprised of his savings and a loan from a Sacco, he opened shop with only two employees.
The entrepreneur noted that at first, he faced a difficult task recruiting top quality beauticians since none of them wanted to gamble their employment with a new business.
“In this industry, most beauticians are paid on commission, as such, they saw my business as a risk since they did not know how it would fair,” he explained.
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His two employees were unexperienced in the field of beauty since one was a trained engineer and the other, a tourism graduate. Their were unable to find jobs in their field and settled on what was readily available to them at the time.
Mwaniki and his employees, all inexperienced in the beauty industry, had to learn on the job. At times, the inexperience worked to their disadvantage since they would at times unknowingly use counterfeit or low-quality products on clients.
The business also did not fair well at the start and he was forced to fall back on his parents for financial support. However, the lack of beauty parlours and increased demand motivated him to push harder.
“The industry is currently being driven by the demand of people who are professionals in a specific area, such as nail technicians and make-up artists,” he says.
To improve the quality of service offered at his parlour, Mwaniki enrolled his employees for short-term training in beauty schools. The classes cost Ksh45,000 which he split with the employees. From the lessons, Mwaniki and his employees are updated on the latest trends and products in the market.
Uthaka Spot has since grown in size and now boasts seven employees and offers services on nail and facial care, waxing, massages and make-up. The parlour also offers professional beauty courses in nail care and make-up at a cost of between Ksh6,000 and Ksh20,000.
Mwaniki’s target clientele comprises of the Nyeri middle-class which is constituted by people employed by corporates and state agencies in the region.
While his business may be growing, he still faces a number of challenges including the irregular flow of clients into the parlour.
“I only make good money at the beginning and the end of the month when my customers have been paid their salaries,” he says.
Mwaniki also notes that his clients often face job transfers and have to relocate, therefore, he maximises work opportunities during peak periods so as to support the low income spells of a month.
Awards & Recognitions
Daniel Mwaniki bagged the annual Founder of the Year Award (FOYA) in March 2022. The award attracted participants from eight African countries – South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Nigeria.
He was recognised as the Fashionpreneur of the Year in the over 30 category, after defeating more than 40 contestants in the same category across eight countries.
The FOYA awards had various categories for entrepreneurs in technology, agriculture and innovation, and had two stages. In the first stage, participants were eliminated and narrowed down to three per category per country. It only consisted of entrepreneurs under the age of 35 and checked on the impact of the businesses and the solutions the entrepreneurs offered to their communities, apart from employment.
Daniel Mwaniki notes that for the success of his company, it is important for his employees to be regularly trained to ensure they offer quality services in the ever-competetive and fast changing cosmetic industry. As a result, his employees also work as consultants which brings professionalism to the industry.
The entrepreneur advises those interested in venturing into the industry to be keen to detail and understand the needs of their clients.
“This starts from customer service – how you treat your customers, how you talk to them and what advice and offers you give to keep them,” he says.
Daniel Mwaniki notes that to stay competitive one should research and be creative so as to keep up with the latest trends in the market.
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