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Irene Kieru is the founder of AfroUrembo, an app that links beauty services providers and clients. She talks to Chebet Korir about her journey into technology

Tell us a bit about yourself?  

My name is Irene Kieru and I am a 36-year-old Kenyan. I am the firstborn in my family and I am often described as an enterprising person and a daredevil. Impossible is a word I do not deal with.

What drew you into starting up AfroUrembo?

Funny enough, it came from an MBA class in Madrid called Innovation.  The most boring professor asked us to come up with an idea of an app that doesn’t exist and my Japanese friend and I came up with something related to beauty and grooming.

That is how AfroUrembo came to being after piloting several ideas. I came to understand that as an African person there is no app out there that could sort me out in matters hair and beauty.

Tell us how the app works?

For the beauty services providers, they can download the app and create their profile. They should indicate their location, the services they offer and their availability and whether they are mobile or not. For clients, they can download the app and give their email address and telephone number.

Therefore, when a client needs to go to a salon all they have to do is go to the app and book. They can compare prices, read past reviews and rankings of the professionals they want to book. The booking will be confirmed after the client makes a payment. They can cancel or reschedule.

How accessible is the application?

The app is easy to use and navigate. If someone uses Uber, I’m sure they will find AfroUrembo easy to operate.  It is free on both android and IOS and one will only need to download and install in their phones and use it to book a salon.

How long did it take you to develop the app?

The whole process of development has taken us exactly a year.

What are some of the challenges you faced?

Not being a techie and wanting to develop an app was a crazy idea. Techies are special people, but I think they come from a different planet. I cannot speak techie language and they cannot speak my sales language.

 I also faced culture shock, having to deal with developers living in another part of the world and of different culture completely. I literary translated each word they said. If they told me the app will be live tomorrow, I took their word for it, but patience was not my virtue before this project so I had to embrace it.

Communication issues when partners are living two worlds apart were also a concern and so was introducing my idea to the market without a tangible product. People thought I was crazy, but the idea was good. When it came out the people who kept asking me about it did not embrace it first; new people did.

Children also enjoy the services?

How convenient is it for them? The app is all about convenience at your fingertips. The explore page shows all the categories available in the app. Of course, we have a kids section too and parents can book for services through the app for them.

Can the app only be used when one is online? If not, is there an alternative when offline?

Yes. The app can only be used online. We do not have options for offline users yet.

Have you monetised the app?

Our business model relies on charging a commission just like Uber and Taxify. The commission does not affect what the client pays for services. We have an agreement with salon owners.

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