Kenya: Rather than continue pursuing medicine, which he studied at Kampala International University in Uganda, Dr Herman Koome decided to go off the beaten track.
When he took up the course, he believed he was destined for hospitals. But his roommates, who were studying pharmacy, got him considering other options.
“They regularly came into the room with chemicals and mixed them to rehearse for their practical exams. That art of mixing chemicals, especially making drugs and ointments, really caught my attention,” said Dr Koome.
He gradually developed an interest in drugs and cosmetics manufacturing that he could not shake off.
And despite completing his medical course, getting an internship at Itojo Hospital in Western Uganda in 2005, and returning to Kenya to open a clinic in Mombasa, his mind was still fascinated by chemical processes.
“I started a clinic, but even as I operated it, I was consumed by the desire to venture into drugs and cosmetics manufacturing.”
After two years, he abandoned the clinic and used the money he had saved to import three pharmaceutical plant machines for blister packaging, tablet punching and encapsulating from China at a cost of Sh13 million.
He started off with a painkiller he named Cetapan. However, registering the drug’s brand name became a problem.
“I also had to register with the National Environment Management Authority, Nema, and build my company away from residential areas, which made getting land at a secure location a challenge.”
The challenges he faced killed his morale to pursue drug manufacturing, so he decided to focus on cosmetics.
Armed with Sh80,000, Koome manufactured his debut product, Vasson Body Milk Lotion.
It caught on well in the market.
“The lotion brought a smile back to my face. It encouraged me to manufacture other products,” he said.
He registered Kenya Cosmetics and Detergents Ltd, located in Kilifi, and now manufactures a whole range of products under various brand names.
They include Vasson lotion, body cream, scrub, shampoo, hair relaxer and petroleum jelly; Axil detergent and dishwashing liquid; Vuela hair care range of products; and SOL shoe polish.
Koome estimates his current worth based on assets at Sh6 million.
With the cosmetics business doing well, he began publishing manuals on the manufacturing process. Last year, he launched his self-published debut manual, Cosmetic Formula Manual, which gives formulas and procedures used in making cosmetics.
“I found what I was writing about was a new area and would not have trusted anyone with the delicate and technical information. Publishers also take a lot of time with manuscripts,” he said.
Koome has four manuals on cosmetics manufacturing so far. His latest, General Handbook for Cosmetics, Toiletry and Detergents was published in April, and includes information on sources of raw materials, applying for bar codes and registering products.
His manuals cost between Sh4,000 and Sh19,000.
To condense the material contained in them, he started one-on-one training for clients interested in learning about one or two products. But soon, he had more clients than he could find time for, so he started holding larger classes.
Koome charges between Sh2,500 and Sh6,000 for his classes, where he offers tips on product branding and marketing.
He has three employees and mainly targets school leavers, women at home and retirees.
“This is creating employment as they can learn and start their own manufacturing firms.”
He plans to open a large manufacturing company in the future that would enable him make his products at cheaper prices and employ more people.
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