By Prudence Minayo
Multiple award winning Mikalla hair products was established in 2016 and has grown to become a household brand in Kenya. The personal care products-ranging from shampoos, conditioners, treatments, pomades, styling gels, waxes, cuticle softeners, toners, laquer removers, sprays to oils-are manufactured by Alkhemy Brands Limited. The founder of this wide range of personal products, Paul Ng’ang’a, grew up in a village in Nakuru. He never thought in his wildest dreams that he would venture into the multi-billion hair care industry.
Here is the story of the savvy entrepreneur as told by WoK.
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He pursued a Bachelor’s degree in business management at the University of Nairobi and then proceeded to the Chartered Institute of Marketing to do a course in marketing. Thereafter, he pursued an executive MBA in International Business Expansion at the Copenhagen Business School.
“I studied business management at the University of Nairobi, and then did marketing at the Chartered institute of Marketing, and followed this up with an executive MBA in international business expansion at the Copenhagen Business School in 2014,” Paul told the Standard in 2018 interview.
While in the process of finalizing his masters, he ventured into design consultancy and worked as the Managing Partner- Strategy at GreyOwl Limited. With the wealth of experience he had gained, Paul launched a marketing agency named Catapult Brand Consultancy.
Alkhemy and Mikalla
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Prior to coming up with Mikalla, the businessman, whose childhood dream was to become a lawyer, had been toying with the idea of creating something that would have a big impact on the masses and that’s how Alkhemy Brands was born.
In a past interview, he said that he realized women spent a lot of money on hair care products yet the quality was not impressive. When he was coming up with the concept of his business, he wanted people to enjoy quality products at an affordable cost.
“We deliberately set out to create products for African hair and skin. We then went ahead and said these products don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. We try to maintain a good balance between quality and cost. This means choosing to sometimes making smaller margins in terms of profits to make sure our products are affordable,” Paul Ng’ang’a told The Standard.
AlKhemy was the result of work put in by a small team of friends who knew engineering and a chemist. The group, which began the work in a small room, was formed out of the recommendations he received from various people. They wanted a product that won’t just be appreciated but will get enjoyed by the people as well. Getting the products right was a matter of trial and error with their very first line leading to the collapse of the storage tank. Their patience and perseverance paid off and flagship product Mikalla was introduced to the market in 2015.
Paul Ng’ang’a said that at the time most of the players in this industry were multinationals who focused on the middle and high income earners. This is why it was imperative for them to create a product that any average Kenyan could buy at an affordable price without compromising on quality. He also added that they realized there were limited products designed to specifically address the needs of the African hair, most were for caucasian type hair.
Their leave in conditioner was awarded Best Innovation of the Year in the hair category at the 2016 Afro Hair Awards. In 2017, they scooped the Afro Hair brand of the Year award trouncing other competitors, like, Tony Airo’s, Keyara and Marini, who had been in the industry long before them.
To venture into the business, he faced the challenging task of funding. Most banks were ‘afraid’ of start-ups considering them risky and private equity firms were interested in the big bucks. They were not interested in a paltry sum of $100,000. For the financial institutions, it was deals worth a lot of money that counted. Hence, the businessman had to sink into his savings and also use money from his other business venture.