Lucy Kimani, 43, is a mother of two and founder and owner of Dawn industries Kenya, which manufactures hair, beauty, and hygiene products. She talks about seeing her business go bankrupt and how she brought it back to
As long as I can I remember, I have always been an entrepreneur. Growing up, my mother worked hard to supplement my father’s income. She had a mitumba business at Gikomba market and she would also sell charcoal in the estate. During holidays and weekends, my siblings and I would accompany her and assist in the business. At times, when she was busy, she would let us open the business in the morning.
When I was in high school, I would assist my elder sister in her cereal business during the holidays and weekends.
After high school, I enrolled for a procurement course but took a break after studying for a year and traveled to Malaysia. I then pursued a Diploma in Sales and Marketing and took a PR course. Then I came back to Kenya and worked in the pharmaceutical industry.
I have always had extremely dry skin. I would mix several oils that had
What happened next?
The pharmaceutical industry was an eye-opener. I had met several cosmetics experts. I approached one of them and he showed me where I could get the raw materials for starting the business.
My idea has always been that the natural ingredients should supersede the chemicals in any product that you choose. My initial problem was that I had little capital. However, there was one company that had confidence in me and they provided some raw materials on credit. We made an agreement that I would pay them off once I started making some substantial money.
I started the company, Dona Industries, in a house in Ongata Rongai. The rent was affordable. I would mix my products with a
Eventually, I quit the pharmaceutical job and started a cleaning business to support the initial one. During the first year, running both was simple but after that, I had to abandon the cleaning business because my passion lay in the beauty products venture.
I would manufacture the products in the morning and do sales and marketing in the afternoon. My first customer was a salon in Rongai. She bought five
On the other hand, my lotion was popularized by my skin. My friends and family, who knew that I had exceedingly dry skin, were amazed when they noticed that my lotion had moisturized it completely. My products became well-known just through word of mouth.
Running a startup:
After running Dona Industries for some time, I went bankrupt. Most of my stuff was auctioned and I eventually had to close the business. Later, I was employed as a hotel manager.
I worked there for a year, but I would still pay the rent for my manufacturing base in Rongai. Unfortunately, the hotel was bought off and the new owner wanted to employ other staff. I had saved some money and decided to revive my business. This time, I renamed it Dawn Cosmetics, which
Luckily, most of my clients remembered my products and they were willing to purchase them.
Where I am now:
I have continued to improve the company and have a new range of products known as Dona by Dawn. Dona is my second born, so I named it after her. I have expanded the product range and have several employees and my equipment has improved. Our products are stocked in various reputable retail stores in the country including Mulleys Supermarket.
We target the simple Kenyan and aim to cater to their hygiene and beauty needs sufficiently. With this in mind, I would like the products to be stocked in all stores and supermarkets in the country. This will also increase my capability of employing more staff. I am glad that some hotels are purchasing my products for their clients.
My lotion contains natural oils that
I have also expanded my horizons to contract
One of my biggest challenges is the cost of packaging. This, coupled with bills such as water, electricity, taxes, and others, which are costly. If they become affordable for micro- manufactures then the market would be wider and more Kenyans would compete with multi-national businesses.