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Home / Achieving Woman

Not even divorce slowed me down

Achieving Woman
By Munde Okuna | 5 years ago | 6 min read

 Susan Kinuthia: Photo; Courtesy

Susan Kinuthia is by our own definition a Jill of trades, her big heart for Arts has seen her close doors many wouldn't dare...who leaves a managerial job especially after a divorce and two children to raise! She lets us into her aesthetic world.

Not many people have the guts to leave a managerial job with several perks to dive into the murky waters of self-employment.

An even fewer number would dare to do so after a divorce and when facing the reality of raising two children on their own. But Susan Kinuthia did just that because “I am not your average woman. I have a just do it mentality.”

Susan, 35, is what would be described as a Jill of all trades – she can braid hair, sew, do make up professionally, do interior design, draw and paint. The second-born in a family of three siblings, Susan discovered her talents in the Arts at a young age.

“When I was young, I realized I really enjoyed doing things that allowed me to express my creativity. I would practice plaiting using the grass on our compound and now I can braid hair. I also used to alter my clothes – I would turn my trousers into a skirts.”

Susan’s mother passed on when she was young, so she developed a close relationship with her dad. “He noticed I was gifted in the Arts, so when I completed high school, he advised me to pursue a diploma in graphic design,” she says.

 Photo; Courtesy

In 2005, two weeks after completing her diploma, Susan landed a job with a graphic design firm. “I did not even have my certificate yet but I just took a matatu to a design company in Hurlingham and asked if I could work for them and although they were not recruiting for a graphic designer at the time, they told me they had an opening for a receptionist.

 I took the job and when it came time to hire a designer, I was the first pick. That is why I tell people to seize any opportunity that comes because had I not accepted the receptionist job, they probably wouldn’t have remembered me when hiring a designer.”

Rising up the career ladder

Susan rose up the ranks to become the corporate branding manager and in 2007, a major player in the outdoor advertising field came calling – Magnate Ventures. They employed her as a manager. Although Susan was doing a job she enjoyed, she still felt she was not using her creative skills as much as she would have liked so she opened a clothes boutique. “I hired three tailors and we would make clothes. I enjoyed it.”

Susan got married in 2008 and in 2009, she got her first son – Trevor. She continued to make strides in her career as she raised her young family and in 2012, Susan got her second son – Christian. She then decided to close the boutique because she had too much on her plate.

In 2013, life started to take a not-so-blissful turn as cracks began to appear in her marriage. “Things did not seem to be working out. I am a happy person and I did not want our differences to bog me down so we decided to part ways. I have seen marriages where people are bitter and I did not want to reach 70 and be that person,” Susan says.

Re-evaluating life

Susan started to re-evaluate many areas of her life and decided to only do the things that made her happy, and that included in her work life.

In January 2014, she did the “unthinkable” – she resigned from her well-paying job to start a company – BrandVenus that did branding and signage for companies. Susan got two big clients able to sustain her, but she realized it was not a job she could do over the long-term.

“The thing with branding and doing signage is that it is a one-off kind of job. Once you have done work for a company, it is rare that you get repeat business, and even if you do, it is likely to be for smaller additional jobs. I needed to start a business that would bring repeat sales.”

 Photo; Courtesy

The birth of Ruzena

That is when the idea for Ruzena came about. Susan has worn her hair natural since 2011 and she had experience in whipping up her own concoctions to make her hair manageable.

“I decided to go into the natural body care products business because I had experience in making natural products. My sons and I also have eczema and I had struggled finding solutions to stop the discomfort until I found a natural products regimen.”

Susan did all the research she could on natural products and in three months, she decided to give her all to the Ruzena dream. “Ruzena is Latin for Rose, which was my mother’s name. This brand is a tribute to my mother.” Ruzena is a natural body care line with products ranging from face and body soaps, to hair products.

Regrets?

When we ask whether she regrets leaving her well-paying job, she says, “No. I am glad I got the guts to quit my job to pursue entrepreneurship despite having recently become a single mother with two mouths to feed and bills to pay.

People around me talked but I let it roll off like water off a duck’s back. I’m glad that my family has always been supportive, especially my dad who stepped in in a big way to ensure my boys and I are fine. Looking back, I should have done it sooner but I’m happy I’m here now.”

For the one year Ruzena has been in operation, Susan has been making her products from scratch with the help of her brother. “We recently signed an agreement with a factory to do the manufacturing but before that, it was just me and my brother doing everything.

We would just get casuals to help in packaging. People are often surprised when I tell them I do not have a background in chemistry. It is all about passion. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist and that’s why I was reluctant to let go of production, but I realize to grow, I have to learn how to delegate.”

Susan wants to grow her product line to include two more products in the next three years. She says her store has been exclusively online, but she will soon start partnering with store owners.

“I like the online platform because I get to explain the benefits and uses of each of our products. When a product is on a store shelf, you cannot explain its benefits. You just have to hope a customer will see the product and know its use. I also like the online platform because I get a lot of feedback. I have developed and re-developed my products a couple of times before mastering what works.”

Susan’s love for all things natural made her team up with a group of friends to form Kurlly Diaries, a natural hair community. They organize annual meet-ups to share their experiences and businesses in the natural hair sector.

On her parenting style, Susan says she is not your average mother. “I do not take myself too seriously. I live and let live. I am a strict mother when I need to be, but I let my children express themselves.

 There is this misconception that when you become a mother, you have to act a certain way. I don’t believe you should stop doing the things you love just because you are a mother. I also do not dress down. You should not let yourself go in the name of motherhood. To me, I still feel like I am 21 years old.”

 “I have learnt that no matter who stays or leaves, God has our backs and we’re always going to be fine,” she says.

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