Rose Ntong’ondu: From selling Popcorns To Becoming CEO Of Her Own Company

By Prudence Minayo

Rose Ntong’ondu’s journey to becoming a successful businesswoman was marred with many hurdles. Despite knowing that make up was what she wanted to do from a young age, it turned out to be baptism of fire before she found her footing. From being locked out of her rental bedsit numerous times, to working without pay.

Here is her success story as told by WoK.

Passion for make up 

As a young girl, she drew a lot of inspiration from her mother and sister. Her mother was a hard-working woman who did not get an education but was very good in business. On the other hand, her sister operated a salon in Meru and she enjoyed seeing the transformation in women once they got their hair done. She also wondered how they would look with their face done.

From an early age, she fell in love with make up and knew she wanted to make a career out of it. After clearing high school, she went to the US, where her sister had relocated to, and did cosmetology. She returned to the country in 2000 to take care of her ailing father. In the meantime, she worked as a make up artist in order to get by but the money was not enough. At first, Rose tried getting a job at Nation Media Group without success. 

Selling popcorns 

Since she needed to make a living, she borrowed Ksh8,000 from her mother, bought a popcorn machine and started selling popcorns and smokies. At some point, the budding entrepreneur sold tomatoes and onions in Korogocho. She did all this and even opened a hotel yet her passion for make up never dwindled. 

Then, she met Dr. Irene Njoroge, a make up artist guru, a skincare specialist, and a beauty columnist for Nation. She worked with her for a year and got the opportunity to become a stylist for the Daily Nation’s beauty and style segment. The job was without pay but she did it to put her name out there. She also stayed in a Ksh5,000 monthly bedsitter in Umoja but could not afford to pay rent sometimes and ended up being locked out. 

Make up by Rose 

Finally, she decided to start her own company Make up by Rose, which she runs with the help of her supportive husband. To get started, she rented a make up kit and did not even have the money to pay for it. She left her ID and went to pay afterwards. 

Her first client was a bridal party who paid her Ksh6,000. She got the first client through word of mouth and from this wedding, she got about fifteen more. While it took her three years to be well known, she did it. Then, she started the first make up school in Kenya, Make up by Rose. After Covid, she would train about 150 students monthly. 

She enjoys making women feel and look good. Thus, she gets to know her clients very well. She also enjoys mentoring young girls through training. She teaches her students the art as well as the business part of the industry, thus, training them how to make it in the industry. 

One thing that really helped her was social media marketing. She said most people prefer Instagram since its trendy not knowing there is a lot of money to be made in Facebook. People feel Facebook is not trendy yet there is more money there since it has all kinds of people. She said depending on how a make up artist knows the business, they can make between Ksh5,000 to Ksh3 million monthly. 

The make up guru also has a staff whom she says she pushes to do well. In the 2021 interview with the local station, she said her daily goal was to make Sh100,000 and for her staff it is Sh30,000. 

Lessons from business 

One of the things she has learnt in business is to stay relevant, especially now that the industry is flooded. An artist also needs to work ten times harder and learn to have the right attitude. This is because some clients will come in with an attitude and the artist needs to know how to handle them. 

 Other roles:

Apart from running the business, she has also worked with other companies and done other roles, such as:

  • Worked as a consultant, marketing strategist and head of make up at Pauline Cosmetics Kenya.
  • Television host at TV10, running a make up and beauty show which has aired in Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi 
  • Served as head make up artist at Suzie Beauty.