From renting out barbeque grills to owning beauty products line
Born in an enterprising family by a mother who started all sorts of small businesses, Thiitu Karega found herself renting out barbeque grills to supplement her income as a treasury operation analyst at a bank.
The businesswoman has since left her banking job and now runs a line of organic hair and body products dubbed Binti Naturals.
“I studied International Relations at USIU with a very idealistic desire to become a diplomat. After internships at the UN for UNICEF and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I later got a job at National Bank where I worked for eight years before quitting in January this year to focus on my business,” the 33-year-old told Nairobi News.
While working in the banking industry, Ms Karega bought a grill for sh6,000 at Kamukunji which she would rent out for sh1,000 per day.
“In two years I had bought two more grills as the demand was on the rise and I could get people around Nairobi asking for more grills and sometimes even rent out twice a day, as a client would use the grill over lunch and another wants it for dinner,” she said.
In a country where many young women are transitioning back to natural hair, the demand for oils that can moisturise kinky African hair is on the rise.
Being a naturalista herself, Ms Karega started off with a hobby of making natural hair oils in her kitchen to maintain her tough hair. When she finally got the perfect mix, she started sharing it out for free with her friends who also spotted natural hair.
It was her circle of friends who proposed that she considers selling the product and after much soul searching, she finally gave in.
In 2014, she ventured into commercialising her products and formerly registered it as a business in December 2015.
“I bought a simple mixer for sh2,000, 3kgs of Shea butter and 2kgs of cocoa butter then bought a couple of big bowls and started playing out with the butters until something came up.
“I am the first guinea pig. Before I put it on anybody else I must have used it for a few months, not just a couple of days, and then when I realise its stable I rope in my siblings, my mom and a couple of friends,” said Ms Karega.
Over the years she has managed to get friends with different skin and hair types to test her products. She often makes changes after obtaining feedback.
The Binti Naturals line currently has hair and body butter, whipped organic Shea butter, hot oil treatment and edge control for the hair.
All products are only available at the Westlands organic market held every Sunday at The Alchemist and she also delivers them to clients who order from her Facebook page.
Ms Karega is yet to get the mark of standardization on her products which makes it impossible to sell in different outlets.
“I have actually started the process by getting everything in place so that when I go to Kebs (Kenya Bureau of Standards) I will be ready. The thing I have heard from people in the natural cosmetics is that the laws are still based on chemical based cosmetics. I have met people who say their shampoo was not passed because it didn’t foam as much as the other shampoos which are not made from natural products,” she said.
Ms Karega does not draw any pay from the business, she ploughs back all the profits into the business in a bid to increase production.
She admires the work of several local organic cosmetic lines like Mimi Organics’s Lina Hanson, Suzie Beauty’s Suzie Wokabi and internationally Madam C J Walker line especially products from the new line that uses her maiden name Breedlove.
Her advice to young people who want to start businesses is to begin with the little they have, put realistic timelines and join available business incubation programs like Akili Dada and WeCreate.