Lilian Mutuku, 29, graduated with a degree in Business Management and Marketing from Moi University.
A few months after graduating, she got a job as a marketer on an eight-month contract and hoped it would be the stepping stone to her dream job.
But when her contract expired, Mutuku had had enough of an eight-to-five job.
For the next seven years, she operated as a freelance makeup artist. Two years ago, she founded Lika House, a makeup service business in Nairobi’s Hurlingham.
Mutuku speaks to Money Maker about her entrepreneurial journey and why she will never return to formal employment.
Why did you decide to venture into self-employment instead of pursuing formal employment after your first job?
My contract lasted between mid-2015 and early 2016. I had some misunderstandings with my former employer, and I decided to leave and chase my dream in the makeup business. But soon I found myself in the family way with my first child, which meant I had to take a long break from the business. I started as a freelance makeup artist, but balancing between taking care of my child and looking for clients proved hard. At one point, I went back to my former employer and worked for a month before quitting again to concentrate on my business.
How hard was it getting started, and was raising capital a major problem for you?
I had little savings from working here and there. I had initially thought of taking a bank loan, but I decided against it because I wanted my business to be self-reliant in the shortest time possible. Unfortunately, the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the country just a few months after I started operations. This changed my whole business plan seeing it was hardly off the ground, with the government restrictions to contain the spread of the virus making things very difficult for small businesses like mine.
How did Lika House begin, and what services do you offer?
My passion for doing makeup on people started back in 2013 while I was still in campus. I never thought I would turn it into business. It was all for fun until someone asked me if I had ever thought of doing it professionally. I took this seriously and that’s how I started in October 2015. Lika House is a makeup brand that offers quality makeup applications, training and consultation services. Our makeup classes are either online or physical.
What made you focus on this line of business?
I now have nine years of experience as a makeup artist. It’s one of the things I enjoy doing the most.
What has the business taught you so far?
One of the most valuable lessons I have learnt is that you have to be innovative, especially in the era of social media. You also have to be resilient and not give up easily. Many people view owning a business as “cool” and expect to make a profit immediately. However, you have to put in the hours before you can reap the fruits of your hard work. You also have to understand your target market well.
Would you consider going back to employment?
Never again! I have tasted both sides, and I now know the sweetness of self-employment. I wouldn’t, however, mind partnerships or contracts as long as it’s in my line of work.
What are some of the challenges you have encountered so far?
Doing everything myself. Starting a new business with little capital calls for you to do almost 99 per cent of the work yourself. We can’t be good at everything, and so some tasks are more challenging than others, but it gets better with time. You learn on the job. Also finding someone who shares the vision of your business can be challenging.
Do you plough back profit in the business or invest in other areas?
At the moment, 90 per cent of my profit goes back to my business, and the rest is my salary.
What advice can you give to those going into self-employment?
There is no overnight success. Be patient and disciplined. Also, do something you are good at and have a passion for.
Besides running Lika House, what do you do in your free time?
Besides homeschooling my child, I also run a women empowerment forum called The HERd, which offers a safe space for women to interact, network, hold conversations about life. I enjoy singing, and I’m a member of the praise and worship them in my church. I’m also a YouTuber, creating content on motherhood and beauty tips.