Najma Juma, 29, a mother and wife, failed at business many times before she found her true calling in the business of beauty. She talks about her makeup venture, Urembo By Naj.
For four years, I practised as a community health nurse, but I had to step down because my daughter, now four, had some health complications, and the hectic schedule of being a nurse (which includes being on call at night) did not allow me to take care of her.
Although being a stay-at-home mum allowed me to take care of my daughter, I still needed some income and so I started up a number of businesses. I did everything including selling clothes and shoes but I did not succeed in any. I even ran a food café for a year, but I eventually had to close down.
In the midst of this, my friends and family would always compliment me on my makeup.
Ever since I can remember, I have always loved and been drawn to makeup -- I guess because I love to beautify things. Every time I would see make up being done, I would think of all the ways I could make it better. I would find myself watching shows and looking in magazines for the most creative and boldest looks.
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My friends and family have always urged me to turn my love for make up into a business, but I was never really sure. Their voices became louder after my food café closed down, but I was scared because I had heard that the makeup industry was completely saturated and, having failed in my previous attempts at business, I was not so keen to start up again.
What happened next
This time around, I did not invest any money before I started. Instead, I decided to use my own kit and began doing makeup for friends and family. Soon, my clientele grew and I was able to stock up on makeup. Eventually, in September 2019, Urembo By Naj was born.
My business is about bringing out every woman’s inner beauty and self-confidence with the stroke of a brush. I provide a wide variety of services that include beauty solutions for every occasion such as wedding packages, photo shoots, events and custom looks depending on what my clients need as per today’s trends. I also offer makeup application classes for my clients.
Doing my makeup work has also opened up modelling opportunities. I was once hired to do makeup for a photo shoot and a model did not turn up. I asked if I could fill the position and my career in modelling began. Indeed, I am now brand ambassador for Mahari Beauty Products and work in partnership with them to showcase their products and services.
Running a startup
My biggest challenge was not having products that catered for different skin tones. Skin tones are complicated and come in a variety of shades and, as a makeup artist, one has to be keen to not only source the correct products, but know the perfect makeup shade for different clients.
When I started, all I had was a small eyeshadow palette and my own makeup products which I used on my few clients who matched my skin tone. I faced challenges when I would get a client with a different shade and this pushed me to save up all the profit from the few start-up clients to slowly invest in other products. It took me a while to build my makeup kits but the journey for me was what pushed me because I managed to start my business without any capital and every new product was a personal achievement. However, I have received a lot of support from my friends and family which has been a big boost for my business.
Where I am now
My business has grown. I now not only have products that cater to different skin tones, but I have also broken even as my business is now profitable. I can testify that you don’t need years to build your brand as long as you are dedicated. My business has continued to grow even in the midst of the pandemic because women love to look beautiful. For example, people would choose not to have a big birthday party but instead do a birthday photoshoot with friends or family. In fact, I do not want to go back to nursing as I believe I am now where I belong. My dream now is to expand locally and to become internationally recognised. Another plus is that my work is flexible and so if I need to take my daughter to the hospital, I am able to without worrying that I will be fired for missing work.
Stay focused in the industry and area you want to succeed in and be prepared to work tirelessly to achieve your dreams. Secondly, understand your passion and dedicate your energy to that, and be nice to everyone. Treat all your clients with respect. Also, just because the market is full and there are so many other people doing what you want to do, your success is based on your passion, determination and your unique value which will make you stand out above everyone else. Lastly, you do not need a lot of money to start. Just start with what you have in your hand.