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How you can cash in on your social media brand

Virtually anybody can become a star these days. You no longer need to have come from the ‘right’ kind of family or have loads of cash. Social media has opened up a whole new world of opportunities to build a business off the back of your personality.

And while not all businesses need to be driven by a personal brand, some are uniquely anchored to individuals. For these sorts of companies, the faces behind the business become just as important as the product being sold.

For instance, riding on the strength of her name, 19-year-old reality star Kylie Jenner has built a cosmetics company that raked in $18 million (Sh1.9 billion) last year.

Karen Macharia, who’s in her early 30s and also goes by the name Karsha, is among those forging the path for local entrepreneurs looking to bank on their personal brands to build a business.

By marketing herself online, she has been able to create a company that’s taken makeup artistry to another level. Here, she shares how she turned her personal brand into Faces by Karsha, a bankable business.

1. Identify and embody your product

My background is in commercial aviation, I have worked with Middle Eastern airlines. My experiences vary from handling loyalty programmes to corporate sales and marketing. After four years in the Middle East, I decided to move back home. I continued working with another airline, and what stood out for me then was how much value airlines place on their staff’s appearance. Every employee, especially the crew, are brand ambassadors.

Two years later, it was time to move on. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, so I asked my sister what she thought I was good at, what seemed to come naturally to me.

Her immediate answer was “anything beauty related”. She kept telling me that fashion and beauty were my thing because every time I would buy something, she would see it and want it, too. A few of my friends told me the same thing, reminding me of all the times I had done their makeup for them. That’s when I made the decision to train as a makeup artist.

2. Become an industry expert

I went to some Nigerians who had a beauty school in Nairobi’s Adams Arcade. That’s where I got my certification. From there, I practised a lot (mainly on myself) and posted the pictures on social media.

Muthoni Njoba, one of the city’s best-known makeup artists, was also a great help to me during this early period. She invited me over to her house and took me through all the products I would need to get my makeup kit together. That helped me a lot when I was going to shop for my products.

Back then, I bought the stuff I needed from Dubai, but I have since realised that they are much more affordable in the US.

I started Faces By Karsha at the beginning of 2014, but I didn’t land my first client until August of that year. Since then, I have grown my skill set quite a bit.

The kind of makeup I am doing now isn’t like anything I was doing in 2014. Some clients have enough faith to book me for their weddings without requiring a trial.

Despite the fact that I have grown my art to the point where I can see a face and know what would look good on it, it still feels good to have clients who trust your skills to that degree. I still, however, keep practising and looking out for new makeup trends so that I can stay on top of my game.

3. Define your style

It’s important to determine what kind of makeup artist you are. Try to set yourself apart. There are those who do very bold looks, but my niche is in the barely-there, subtle makeup look. My clients are mainly people who don’t like to layer on a lot of makeup and want to look as natural as possible.

Many of my clients have come to me because they have seen pictures of the work I have done and know I will accomplish the look that they have in mind. I do a lot bridal makeup, but there are a lot of other opportunities, like for TV work, advertising and magazine editorials.

4. Be authentic

In this business, you have to be very resilient. I don’t want people to think that I started this business because I was brave or anything like that – I was driven to do this by my circumstances at the time.

I have sacrificed a lot, but in the end it has paid off. Some people come into this industry and buy followers to seem more popular and give themselves credibility, but when you look at their work history, you realise that they haven’t done much. I chose to do my branding organically. Whatever following I have is legit. Those who are following me are doing so because they have seen my work and they like it. That’s the only way to get a true measure of your success.

5. Build brand awareness

Social media has been very helpful in promoting my brand.

I started creating awareness through my Facebook and Instagram pages. I also happen to know a lot of people and have met a lot of very helpful people along the way. We makeup artists know each other and whenever we have excess work, we call each other for assistance.

There is this one time when one of my makeup peers, Wacuka Thimba, called and told me that she couldn’t make it for a particular magazine shoot and asked me to fill in for her. That was how I started working with True Love and Drum magazines.

Lillian Muli had me as guest anchor on her TV show Fashion Watch, which led to a lot of calls. When I was holding my first workshop, Capital FM’s Somoina Kimojino heard about it and asked me to go on air and talk about it. That helped a lot as well. The brides I have worked with have also been very good at referring people to me.

It hasn’t been very quick growth, but about a year after I started, I was making as much money as I had been at my marketing job.

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