Esther Kamau, a Class Eight dropout, did not know that her struggle with acne would steer her to create an organic skincare line that has now blossomed into international markets
Esther Kamau was always a bright student. When she sat for her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education in 2000, at Kiagotho Primary School, Nyeri County, she passed with flying colours. But her grandparents, despite being able, refused to continue paying for her school fees and sent her back to her parents in Nairobi.
Coming from a dysfunctional family of a drunkard father and a jobless mother, there was no hope that she would continue with her education. Her dreams seemed to be going down the drain. “I remember going back to my grandparents’ home and crying out to my grandfather to take me to school, but he told me that he was not sure whether educating me would pay off,” she recalls amidst tears.
But it was not in Esther’s nature to give up in life. Throughout her life, she had taught herself how to braid her hair. She moved in with her cousin, who encouraged her to try out braiding people’s hair to sustain herself.
She got employed by various salons, but her employers always took advantage of her young age and illiteracy and sometimes she would not be paid for her services.
But as luck would have it in 2006, an opportunity came up when a nominated Member of Parliament offering sponsorship to street urchins gave her a one-year college scholarship. She enrolled at Three in One Beauty and Hair School along Jogoo Road, where she graduated with a Diploma in Hair and Beauty.
In 2007, she landed a job at Josh Hair Salon in Westlands and a year later, another at Diamond Plaza as a senior hairstylist. In 2010, she had already opened her own salon at Imenti House owing to the string of clientele she had acquired.
While Esther was passionate about making hair, one more thing kept bugging her, she had dreams of developing a skincare business.
Esther had struggled with acne since her teenage years. She had tried out most products and most of them either bleached her face or never seemed to work. “I realised that skincare industries were missing many products that were truly natural and chemical free,” she says.
She desperately started researching online for natural remedies and when she tried them. The acne dramatically faded away.
She did the same on her daughter, who was also struggling with stubborn eczema and the problem disappeared.
Birth of Hajash Naturals
Her flawless skin attracted her friends, who got curious about what she was using. She started making face remedies for them for free. Soon after, they suggested that she makes other varieties including lotions and face creams.
She embarked on months of researching about ingredients and exploring different companies. She went on to look for local businesses that had made it in the industry.
“In 2017, I signed up for the Marini Naturals master class, a three-part series on entrepreneurship, where I was trained on how to start and manage a new business. I was glad that I had an idea, but I needed more, so I went to Cosmetics Kenya Limited Institute, a company that conducts industrial-based training on all aspects of product formulation,” she alludes.
It was important to her that she offers products her clients could use safely. Confident that she had found the perfectly natural and all organic solution for all types of skin, she created her own skincare line, Hajash Naturals. Esther started manufacturing skin care products in her house.
She started with several products, including face wash and hair growth oils. And the reception of her products was amazing. “My clients kept asking for more and the high demand of her products prompted me to move the business to a bigger warehouse,” says an elated Esther.
Hajash Naturals has been approved by the Kenya Bureau of Standards. They have been signed with the Nairobi county government to showcase at trade fairs within the county and also at the flea market. They have also expanded their horizons to neighbouring countries and today, Hajash Naturals products can be found in Botswana, Uganda and Tanzania.
Their raw materials are sourced from different farms across the country and sometimes, ingredients that are not locally available are imported.
So far, the business is worth Sh3 million and has 15 employees. In a day they sell 15 to 20 products and in a month make about Sh300,000.
She wants to venture into soap making, but her challenge has been finding a natural composition that is solid enough. Esther says the business requires never-ending resources and finances and she ensures that her supply of raw materials is constant.
Her drive is to create solutions and not just sell products. Hajash plans to expand to other cities and also open up a training centre on natural products.