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Men in beauty: Campus duo defy critics to braid women's hair and do nails

By Benard Lusigi | May 24th 2021

Your perception of the beauty industry could be that it is a female field ran by women. Well, that could easily change when you meet campus duo James Mapesa and Ignatius Barasa.

The two lads are finalist students pursuing Cosmetology at the Mombasa National Polytechnic and Bachelor of Science (Entrepreneurship Studies) at Moi University respectively.

Mapesa and Barasa, both 25, had their lives turned upside down when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, forcing them to invent survival tactics for the new ‘moneyless’ normal.

And that is how they found themselves making waves in the beauty industry deep in the outskirts of Kakamega County, aka Katch.

According to the buddies, Covid-19 came as a blessing in disguise as it helped them exploit their talents to the fullest. They have set base in Kakamega town where they operate Relom Nailbar, a beauty and cosmetics shop cum salon, a few metres from Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology.

It is here they have been working since early April and the two students say they don’t regret venturing into the business. Mapesa had a few beauty skills in his pocket and had to teach Barasa who has had to learn gradually.

They say the partnership has made work easier and enjoyable for them. They offer manicure, pedicure, weaving and massage services to their growing list of clientele and according to them, the job pays well. Barasa says he developed interest in the beauty industry after seeing his friend doing it to near perfection.

“Instead of idling around, I decided to join my friend in doing the work, first as a source of income. After a while I became passionate about it,” says Mapesa. “I needed one month to learn and master the skills for the job.”

Initially, their peers laughed at them when they revealed their plans.

“People said we were behaving like women but we remained focused and now we are the ones laughing,” says Barasa.

The two comrades hardly remember the last time they asked their parents for financial support since venturing into their current business, as whatever they earn is enough to sustain their daily needs.

Ignatius Barasa and James Mapesa turned Covid situation into a business opportunity. [PHOTO: BENARD LUSIGI]

The two say they get their motivation from return female clients, who prefer being served by them instead of their female colleagues.

“Some clients come and when they find the salonist is a man, they immediately cast doubt on whether they can get the best service. But with regular practice, we convince them with how we handle them and the best service we provide them,” says Mapesa.

Adding that, “Since we deal mostly with ladies, at some point some clients want free service or romantic relationships, none of which is our agenda. It is a big challenge for us, keeping in mind how susceptible men are.”

According to the duo, services at the salon vary in prices depending on the effort and amount of work put into them. For example, ordinary nail polish application costs Sh150, but when applying a gel coating, the price rises to Sh200.

Pure gel application costs Sh500 while stick-on gel costs Sh1,000. Hairstyles are charged according to the style being done.

“For instance if you have your own braids, we might charge around Sh500 per hairdo, and the price is negotiable,” Barasa reveals.

They say at the end of the day they make profits to the tune of Sh3,000 and Sh3,500 in a good day. The salon has employed five staff to help ease the workload.

The duo state that as they plan to open their cosmetic company in future the hustle has taught them one thing; “Business is volatile, so you have to learn how to deal with setbacks with a sound mind and keep pushing until you get what you want,” says Barasa.

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