Starting any business with a personal passion is always a good building block, and Susan Kinuthia is taking her love of natural skin and hair products to the next level, using it as the inspiration for her own company, Ruzena Naturals. This new kid on the beauty block is creating high quality, natural skin and haircare products for people who are sensitive to mass produced, chemical laced products on the market.
What does your company do?
We manufacture natural handmade soaps from shea butter, cocoa butter and cold pressed oils like sesame oil, black castor oil and palm kernel oil. We also make body and hair butters from shea butter, cocoa butter and essential oils. We bottle crude avocado oil, unrefined black castor oil, and our own special formula hot oil hair serum. We only use raw/ unrefined organic oils and butter that we buy locally and from Uganda. We educate women on the importance of using natural products on their hair and skin. We do not add any artificial colour or synthetic fragrance to our products because we serve a market that either has allergies or skin conditions that are easily triggered by chemicals.
“We manufacture natural handmade soaps from shea butter, cocoa butter and cold pressed oils like sesame oil, black castor oil and palm kernel oil. We also make body and hair butters from shea butter, cocoa butter and essential oils.”
What inspired you to start your company?
My passion for beauty and natural hair. I’ve worn my hair natural since 2011 and while looking for natural hair products here in Nairobi in vain, I started mixing my own oils and butters to nourish my hair. I saw the same struggle with fellow women with natural hair in a Natural Hair Forum that two friends and I run called The Kurlly Diaries where we teach women how to style, grow and manage African Hair and decided to fill the gap. My other inspiration was my family’s struggle with Eczema. My children (7 yrs and 4 yrs) as well as myself suffer from eczema. As I was looking for a way to manage the condition, I started to mix butters at home and it inspired me to turn it into a business.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Ruzena Natural products deliver what they promise: safe, natural and effective hair and skin care. They are handcrafted with love and knowledge thanks to the extensive research we’ve put in. They are a breath of fresh air from the chemical filled alternatives on the store shelves and are great for the whole family. Our customer service is unique as I handle it personally and get to talk directly to each and every customer to understand their need before I offer a solution. This is one area that I have not delegated because I want to understand my market firsthand in order to serve my customers better.
“My inspiration was my family’s struggle with Eczema. As I was looking for a way to manage the condition, I started to mix butters at home and it inspired me to turn it into a business.”
Tell us a little about your team
I have a young, supercharged team of 4 staff including myself and 3 production trainees that work part-time. As the Founder & CEO, I oversee every department. I’m also the creative director, I do all the design work and matters branding. I’m the formulator and key researcher, and I have personally crafted all the formulas with love and passion. We have an Operations Manager who is my brother and the person I work closest with. He helps me oversee production and is in charge of the three trainees that we hire during production, bottling and branding. We also have an administrator who also doubles up as an accountant, and last but not least a delivery man.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Until 2014 I was in full time employment working as a Corporate Branding Manager for a leading advertising firm (Magnate Ventures Ltd) for 7 years. I’m a Graphic Designer by profession but have always had one leg in Sales & Marketing and my job entailed both. I quit in January 2014 because I felt I had a lot of unexploited talent and passion that could not be put in a ‘corporate box’. I started a design, branding & signage company called BrandVenus Design Ltd which I’m still running alongside Ruzena Naturals, although the latter takes 60% of my time. Mid last year I felt the need to start an FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) company that would utilise my passion for beauty and natural hair, as well as give me a break from boardroom presentations that I had done for 7 years. The idea of starting Ruzena Naturals came in June and by August I was already selling products to my friends before I went public by November. I hit the ground running, I didn’t want to over-think the idea because I knew it was viable and it made sense. Before these two ventures, I had run a fashion design house between 2010-2012 while in employment. It didn’t work well though because of my busy work schedule and the demands of raising a young family.
“Ruzena Natural products deliver what they promise: safe, natural and effective hair and skin care. They are handcrafted with love and knowledge thanks to the extensive research we’ve put in.”
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
Now that Ruzena is a year old, I feel confident to outsource production and start producing in bulk to broaden my market. That is my immediate plan. The reviews from the customer are what I needed before expanding too fast and ending up with products on the shelf that nobody wants. I have signed agreements with 4 stockists around Nairobi and I’m in discussions with a few others. I plan to introduce at least four more soap variants in the next year, as well as a hair treatment and body lotion. My core products are soaps and I aspire to be the preferred brand for handmade naturals soaps among other natural products.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
When a customer calls in with a good review, especially one that has been suffering from skin issues for a long time, I feel that I have impacted directly and positively in their lives. There is no greater joy or fulfilment in business than a satisfied customer.
“Our customer service is unique as I handle it personally and get to talk directly to each and every customer to understand their need before I offer a solution.”
What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
The smallest step in the right direction can end up being the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you must, but just take the step.
First published here