From the Office to the Saloon, Jane Awino Okoth shines in Business
For the past nine months Jayne Awino Okoth has been doing what she has a passion for that is running her own hair saloon business.
What started as a childhood game, plaiting her friends’ hair, has turned out to be big business for her as she travels far and wide, thanks to the support of Keroche Industries Foundation.
Speaking during the second graduation of Keroche Foundation mentorship programme, where Okoth was one of the nine graduants, philanthropist Dr. Manu Chandaria applauded the efforts of the mentees and the mentors. He said that successful businesses thrive because of great ideas combined with someone who was brave enough to try.
So far, her business has been good and she is always training her staff to match her expertise and retain her customers.
“I am happy that I stuck to my passion and it is now paying off. I have also created employment for more people.” Okoth said.
Keroche Foundation is the brainchild of Keroche Breweries CEO, Mrs. Tabitha Karanja, whose 20-year journey to create and manufacture Kenyan owned beer has become a celebrated benchmark for locally owned businesses in Kenya and Africa.
Keroche Foundation was established to address the knowledge and experience gap that confronts young Kenyan entrepreneurs. The key objective of the Foundation is to provide a “HANDS UP” to young established entrepreneurs who desire to expand and grow their businesses, but who are experiencing challenges in navigating the commercial sector.
The Foundation mentors and shares business-related knowledge that inspires, connects and guides the young entrepreneurs to overcome personal and business challenges that plague them at the young stage.
Keroche Foundation also increases motivation, confidence and business success by connecting rising entrepreneurs to successful and experienced sector players by conducting practical, solution-oriented sessions over a one-year period.
The other mentees who graduated with Okoth were: Edward Kinyanjui Mworia , Caroline Wanjiku Gitau ,Kelvin Macharia Kuria ,Collins Mike Majale , Liz Muthike Kitua ,Reuben Kihiko, Muruguru ,Judith Chebet Mosobo and Catherine Wanjiru Mahugu.
Okoth’s passion grew stronger and stronger as days and years went by. With practice and interest she became an expert at a tender age.
After completing high school, her parents would not hear anything to do with her interests in enrolling at a beauty college. They wanted her to go for “ a serious profession like accounting.”
And in respect and for peace to prevail, she trained as an accountant and was later employed.
But her heart was however not at peace and decided to persevere for some time to make money to support her young family.
She still made her friends’ hair during the weekends and whenever she had time. Her friends would then refer her to their other friends.
“That is when I decided to quit my accounting job and concentrate on hair dressing. It was very hard at the beginning because I was not making enough money,” said Okoth.
She had a small clientele considering that she depended on the word of mouth and she also did not have equipment needed for some hairstyles, like a drier and blow drier.
Awino could not even afford a baby-sitter for her son and so she had to carry him along to her business premises.
Later, lady luck struck when one of her friends introduced her to the owner of Farouk’s Salon, one of the biggest salons in Nairobi.
“This was a very big step in my career, I was exited about it but also nervous because I did not have any professional training,” says Okoth .
She was only familiar with an African kinky hair but now she had to work on Asian hair and Caucasians as well.
She took the challenge positively and she learnt everything she could in the profession and applied it whenever she had a client. With time she acquired a number of clients.
Still, Okoth wanted more; she dreamed of her own business premises where she would be her own boss and run the business to the best of her abilities.
After 12 years of faithful and sincere dedication at Farouk’s, Awino finally called it a day and said goodbye.
She did not have much money but she was still determined to make the bold step. “I only had Ksh15,000 and a topping from my supportive and caring husband,” she said adding that it was the best decision ever.
Okoth later took a step of faith by starting Rapunzel Hair Affair Salon in Westlands, Nairobi. Thanks to the knowledge she had gathered and the Indian friends she had made, she could get hair from them and use it for micro-weaving her other clients.
But her biggest breakthrough came when she joined Keroche Foundation. According to Njoki Karuoya, Chief Executive Officer-Keroche Foundation, Okoth joined them when she did not know how to take her salon to the next level.
“She wanted to open more salons and at the same time, she wanted to do something unique in the Kenyan hair industry”said Keruoya.
After attending mentorship classes, she began to realise that she wanted to manufacture hair.
“One of the classes was led by Prof. Bitange Ndemo. He told us that for our businesses to work we must brand ourselves and standardise our work. We also have to be unique,” said Okoth.
After much thoughts , research and consultations she realized that all the human hair worn by women in Kenya is imported. She therefore decided to import the hair but manufacture it in the country.
With the support of the foundation, she was able to polish her weaving skills by signing up for advance weaving technique courses with leading trainers in the United States, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Ghana and Zanzibar.
These skills have helped her to acquire big clients, some of who were her previous clients from Farouk’s. She was able to travel to the US and later work with the American singer Beyoncé’s hair and her make-up team which further expanded her network and expertise.
Okoth has since started a hairline, Porsh Hair, which sells natural hair to some of the richest and powerful women in the country and dresses their hair.
“I have been able to meet people I never imagined that I could ever meet in my life. It is funny that they call me back because I did a good job. They even recommend me to their friends and colleagues,” she said.
“I am happy that I can now manufacture hair here and custom-make it to fit my clients’s head and style. In the process I make them more affordable,” she said.
Okoth shares her success with the society by training women living with disabilities on hair dressing. She also starts them off by buying them basic equipment like blow driers.
She also uses some of the human hair to make wigs, which she gives for free to cancer survivors and patients to restore their dignity after losing their hair during chemotherapy sessions.