Mueni: Zahara Cosmetics and Xpose director talks beauty business.

A candid conversation with Mueni: Director Zahara & XPOSE Beauty shops
With a Disaster management background, she would have never imagined that she would be running one of the main beauty shops in Voi town. Nita Mueni explains to Millicent her journey through unemployment and how she ended up an entrepreneur in the beauty industry.

Who is Nita Mueni?
I term myself as a hustler just like Ruto. I am a woman who believes in hard work and a native of Taita Taveta county, born and raised here, attended Mwakingali primary and alumni of Murray Girls high school. I am also a mother and a wife.

About your business, when was Xpose beau-ty shop incepted?
My husband started Xpose in the year 2009, January when I was interning with World Vi-sion. After my internship, I came back and started doing business here and there until 2010, when I started my shop Divas. Divas was a nail parlor as well as a cosmetics shop. So I started running the Xpose stage branch from the year 2013 when we exchanged shops with my husband until now. This was after we turned Divas to Xpose- the whole-sale shop.

Where did the idea of Zahara Cosmetics come from?
Zahara is the newest baby which started this year, and it is entirely my venture. Initially, we intended to have Xpose as a walk-in shop, but at the time, we could not get the right space for it. People also influenced us as they kept telling us we were at a point where we should try what best-lady is doing. Another reason is selling over the counter is quite tricky in the beauty industry while dealing with women. We also needed the growth I believe because everything increased from employees to insurance covers, taxes, to salaries.

How did you find yourself in the entrepreneurship journey?
I was drawn into entrepreneurship through circumstances. After my internship, I hoped I would get a job; I applied to very many organizations but to no avail. I started by selling juice around while saving up. By September of 2010, I got myself a shop and started Divas while still selling juice, and slowly, I started growing, and that was the start of my journey. The wholesale shop began in 2013 after Divas turned to Xpose. That is when my husband took over.

Do you have any background in beauty?

No, I don’t have a background in beauty. I studied Disaster Management, and community development in college took an internship for six months with world vision, and months later started my first stint in business, and let’s say that was my introduction into business. My mother, however, had a salon, and growing up, we had to help out at the shop, so I have the basic skills that are needed to work in a salon.

What is your view on entrepreneurship and employment?
I doubt I would have survived being employed because I like being my own boss and working under my own terms. I also get challenges here, but with the kind of income, I make I think I am comfortable.
I would pick entrepreneurship any day. I don’t want to get employed
You have a team that works under you, how do you find that?
It is very challenging and encouraging to others. It also tricky because I work with la-dies, and they are not easy to handle.

What is your view on competition in the beauty industry in Voi?
Competition in Voi is quite stiff with Triple V, supergirl, pretty belle, da brat, and the ACK beauty shop as the main competitors. The problem is Voi is very small, and it is easy for customers to run from shop to shop and inquire about prices, which is quite challenging but so far so good. I can say Xpose is a pacesetter in the beauty industry here in Voi. The market share is not bad.

How do you balance motherhood, entrepreneurship, and friendships?
I had to reduce friendships because I barely have time for myself, let alone friends. I never go on leave and only take a week’s vacation during the festive season all year. As for motherhood, I always try to prepare my kids in the morning and spend all evenings after we close shop with them as well as Sundays when I bring them to work with me. My husband, we find our time, and I have found a way to balance it all out.

Where do you see Xpose and Zahara in a couple of years?
We plan on expanding to the larger Taita Taveta regions, maybe have shops up to Taveta. I hope to have branches in other towns. Our sales range from Makindu to Samburu and Rombwe through our wholesale shop.

What kind of challenges do you face in your line of work?
The main challenge is dealing with counterfeit products; it is so hard to control these things. Dealing with women is also very hard in this industry. It is difficult to please a woman. It is also hard being an all hands on deck boss because I am the manager, the accountant when someone is not in, I have to fill in for them, so it is not an easy task. It is even overwhelming. I am still the manager at the Xpose beauty shop while I run Zahara and when my husband is not around, I run all three shops, which is quite tedious. There is also a wide range of products which makes work extremely difficult.

Your Advice to upcoming entrepreneurs
Don’t give up. It is never easy, but keep at it; you won’t regret it. When we started, a sale of 10,000 was cause for celebration, but now that is too little. Don’t be greedy or expect it to grow immediately. Remember, as you grow, you will learn and get better.
It is never easy, but keep at it; you won’t regret it. When we started, a sale of 10,000 was cause for celebration, but now that is too little

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