At 17 years old, James Ngare started shaving clients at a friend’s barbershop within Lake View Estate, Nakuru after learning the art through observation and would earn a few coins during the school holidays.
His mentor, he says, was generous enough to allow him in his business and motivated him to own a big barber shop in the county.
Ngare, now owners Jimmy Jey Barber and Spa in Nakuru, whose clientele ranges from middle class to high profile persons in Nakuru with the caliber of governors, bishops, and company CEOs, among others.
When Enterprise visited his premises on Monday, met customers were served a glass of juice and biscuits.
“In every business value your customers understand them in order to provide the best services and their wants,” he says as he gives a haircut to a client.
The interior design of the premise with the lighting makes you think you are in a studio for a photoshoot, the environment is soothing and welcoming.
Born in Meru, 32 years ago, Ngare family relocated to Nakuru for a greener pasture in 1996.
Being the firstborn in a family of four, like any other child, his dream was to be a pilot but things changed with the environment he was brought up in, exposing him to an ordinary life.
“I can say that I spend most of my high school time at Onyi barber shop (local barber), he was kind enough to give me a chance in this field,” he said
He recalls vividly when he would receive a Sh20 commission as proceeds which at the time was a big deal to him, the earning made him passionate to explore more in the industry.
In 2010, he was employed at a barbershop in town, where he worked for five years which was a eye-opener for him.
Without proper learning in the field, in 2011, he decided to do a course on hairdressing to sharpen his skills and understand the emerging trends in the industry.
The short course he said he learnt on how to handle clients and deal with big machines, exposure, and experiences gave him an upper hand to maneuver in the hairdressing industry.
During his employment period, he earned around Sh24,000-Sh30,000 given that it was on a commission basis.
After noticing that his employer was earning good money in terms of profit, and him being the main contributor he started his own barbershop.
Ngare opened his first shop in January 2015, with a capital of Sh300,000 which he said to have been part of savings and loan.
His first barbershop at Masters Plaza, he started with two-seaters, a small room, where he employed one person.
Business was good as the clients he had in his previous workplace had shifted with him and some from referrals.
After two years, his business had grown, then he decided to shift to a four-seater and employed five. Within a year he would move to another bigger room with a sink with a six-seater shop and employed nine employees.
Things were good on his side as customers flooded his shop seeking haircuts, manicures, and pedicures forcing him to relocate to the current location at Stone Plaza in efforts to expand his business.
The business now accommodates massages, make-up applications, executive hair shaves, facials among other services for males, female,s and children.
The business has grown since with 23 employees, as the services offered ranged from Sh500-Sh10,000 with seats added to 18 seats. He earns Sh24,000 a day.
His first challenge after being in employment, he said, was managing the business, Ngare explained that it was a hurdle for him to pay bills and adopt self-employment.
“Initially I thought when you are self-employed, you just walk in at 8 am and leave at around 5 pm, it’s not the case, it needs discipline. It’s like working 24 hours. I learnt it the hard way,” he added.
He was forced to learn through experience and enrolled in a school, he got to understand his employees and how to manage them after taking a short course on management. Taxes, licenses, the high cost of products due to government regulations, and electricity have remained to be a problem for the growth of his business.
“There are noises from the competitors but I have learned to ignore them and give a blind eye as I concentrate on my business, for the youth there is no such thing as a bad job, try to perfect what you want to do and modernise what you’re doing,” he added.
Appreciate the lows and highs
His lowest moment, he says, was during Covid-19 pandemic as the service industry was closed due to their direct contact with customers.
At the time, he was forced to close his business for three months, at the time, he learned to work from home by visiting clients directly at their homes which was still a risk even after following government safety measures.
In the end of 2020, the business begins to pick again with its customers returning slowly as they observed the Covid-19 rules.
The best moments for him was in 2017 when he won the Nairobi Beauty Award and emerged as the best barber and his shop was voted the best in Kenya.
In 2022, he was voted the best Barbershop and Spa in Nakuru during Nakuru County Mums and Dads Awards.
“If I’m told to change something in this field is the prices, in Nakuru we undercharge, but I hope things will change,” he said.
He plans to open a hair and dressing college to enroll more people to join the industry in effort of encouraging self-employment.
As a corporate social responsibility, Ngare does free haircuts twice a month to street families, something that he has been doing for over five years.
The idea he said is to make the street families feel rejuvenated after seeing the state the families live in.e gets his clients through social media, the business website in which he has advertised his services, and sometimes by referrals.