Nywele Creative: The firm boasts of 15 staff and an annual turnover of over Sh50 million.
Georgina Kirungo, founder of Nywele Creative, has always loved trying out different hairstyles but had a hard time finding the right hair extensions.
“You go to a shop and there are so many extensions in plastic packaging hanging on racks. You have to ask somebody what it is like inside and they can’t really tell and you just have to look through the plastic packaging and make your decision,” says Ms Kirungo.
“I loved experimenting with hair extensions in terms of length and colour. I was not really satisfied with what I was finding in the market in terms of quality and I knew I wasn’t alone,” she says.
Ms Kirungo set up Nywele Creative, a company that sells hair extensions such as weaves and wigs made out of real human hair, in 2012.
Starting off as an online business, on Facebook, by 2015 demand had grown so much that the company had five physical locations at Green House, Garden City, Westlands, Two Rivers and The Hub in Nairobi.
Today, the company delivers products across Nairobi but outside of Kenya, with Tanzania and South Africa being its major markets.
Other markets include Uganda, Rwanda, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Sweden and the US.
The company sources hair from around the world and employs services of a manufacturing company based in the UK to turn it into different hairstyles.
The hair extensions are then labelled with the Nywele Creative brand and shipped to Kenya where they are distributed across the world.
Although Ms Kirungo still sells her products online, tapping into Kenya’s growing e-commerce business, she appreciates the opportunity physical shops provide to showcase the advantages of real hair extensions over synthetic varieties which include durability, reusability and versatility. For customers who are not familiar with her products or those who have a hard time ordering them online, the shops offer an opportunity to see the extensions on mannequins, touch them, learn how to use them and even enjoy a cup of coffee while making the buy decision.
“Some people look at using wigs or weaves as proof of not accepting one’s natural hair. Hair extensions help us enhance our natural hair and protect it. “It is self expression as well. What inspires us is to allow women to achieve anything that they want with their hair regardless of their situation,” says Ms Kirungo.
A client can spend anything ranging from Sh16,000 for hair extensions to about Sh550,000 for a top-of-the range wig.
According to Ms Kirungo, Kenya differs from other global markets in that women here prioritise quality over trends. “The quality standards of hair extensions that Kenyans demand are very high, even more than in London. Kenyans want to invest in something that is going to last them for a long time. They are not looking for fads or trends,” says Ms Kirungo.
“In the UK trends set the tone, clients are willing to spend less on lower quality hair types that are trendy and in two weeks order something else and get rid of the hair, but Kenyans do not look for what is popular.
“They want hair extensions that they will still be using in the next three years,” she adds.
The 28-year-old started the business with a few hair extensions worth Sh7,000, from her personal savings, and later secured Sh30,000 funding from her aunt.
Today her business is financed from internal revenue and external investors.
The firm boasts of 15 staff and an annual turnover of over Sh50 million.
Euromonitor International, a market research firm, projects that haircare sells in Kenya will hit Sh14.2 billion by 2022.