Scented success: Passion for cologne birthed my venture

Lisper Kihara, the founder of Harp scent shop in Nakuru. [Yvonne Chepkwony, Standard]

The moment you step into Lisper Kihara’s shop along Maasai Market, Nakuru, the interior design and blended scents immediately capture your attention.

With well-arranged scent candles and body perfumes, the business exudes a cozy atmosphere, complemented by portrait displacement, a novel on the table, and various species of plants that appeal to different clientele groups.

Kihara, during an interview with Enterprise, mentioned that her friends know her for her strong sense of smell and her passion for fresh scents.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I have a sense of a dog; I have a strong sense of smell, and scents have always been natural to me, with authentic effects,” she said.

Having a personalised scent, Kihara explained, comes naturally to her due to her years of passion for using scented candles.

“I focus on scents for you, your body, and for your house to smell good. We have scents that are tailor-made for the house,” Kihara said.

In January 2020, she quit her corporate job after hitting a dead end working at an insurance company and sought a fresh start.

As the owner of Harps Scent, Kihara developed a taste for scents and appreciated them, but encountered problems sourcing them in the past, which led her to explore and venture into the market.

“I used to get my candles at Nakumatt in Nakuru, but following its closure, I realised that whenever I wanted to order scented candles, I was forced to order them from Nairobi, which was tedious,” she said.

The challenge prompted her to start her business with Sh150,000 in savings, seizing the opportunity to bridge the gap in the market.

“Creating a solution to a problem and making money out of it prompted me to establish my business. The challenge of ordering products and being disappointed after delivery was among the reasons I ventured into the scent business,” she added.

Kihara explained that scents have four families: floral, fruity, fresh, and woody, which give humans an aura of belonging.

As a unique venture, she educated her customers to understand more about scents and how they can be blended to achieve desired results.

Her joy in the venture focuses on her passion for scents and getting people to love them.

“Scents are emotive; I want my customers to come back to the shop, so I try as much as possible to make them understand and identify with the product,” she said.

Kihara emphasised the importance of research, stating that reading books and using the internet have helped her understand clientele needs.

Scents, she noted, go with moods depending on the time, which might differ every moment.

Lisper Kihara, the founder of Harp scent shop in Nakuru. [Yvonne Chepkwony, Standard]

Her stock is procured from Nairobi from specific shops, following a rapport she had created with some business owners in the city.

Her dream is to ship products directly on a large scale, which requires significant capital.

“I sell my products to hotels, Airbnb, walk-ins, online, and offices, among others, but I have retained loyal customers who appreciate my work,” she said.

The business has allowed her to meet people who share her passion for scent, books, and plants.

She is proud of her venture into helping people relax and take care of their bodies.

“My next line will be opening a spa, which is connected with scent. This venture has taught me how to manage money, improve customer service, and learn more about the niche,” she added.

She has since employed one person to support her and manage the business.

Kihara emphasised the importance of online presence, which she tends to increase by ensuring that all her social media platforms are updated for visibility.

“I’m trying to diversify by focusing on gifting, artwork, mostly things that set the ambiance. The products are affordable but make your house look cozy and smell nice,” she added.

Her business, like any other, faces financial challenges, but she is determined to remain on top.

Her advice to others is to take a leap of faith and learn along the way.

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