Ironically, some young people are spending countless hours drafting and sending job application letters in search of white color jobs, while those employed, are quitting pursuing their passions in businesses. What’s more, the latter are not only becoming regional brands but also going ahead to create employment.
With the ever eluding job opportunities and increasing cost of living, it is time young Africans started thinking of what “they can do to their countries” instead of the other way round. That said SLA contributor Maureen Murori caught up with a young entrepreneurial Ugandan lady, whose life’s motto is: “Why not?”
Maxima Nsimenta is the CEO and managing partner at Livara, a cosmetics company dealing with natural skin and beauty products. The Steve Jobs inspirational quote: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me,” is what keeps Maxima awake striving to do something different but wonderful!
Maxima and Maureen spoke extensively about founding Livara and Maxima’s personal growth since the venture. Here is what Maxima shared:
For some young people, starting and running a business is a challenging task that they would rather not take up. What was/is the inspiration behind your venture?
While I was still employed as a Field Engineer at one of the world’s largest oil and gas service companies, I had the opportunity to travel vastly. During my travels, I noticed that some of the high-end cosmetics products used oils and ingredients from Africa. It is these oils that especially made the products that much more valuable.
Whenever I’d return home, I’d notice that we weren’t adding value to these oils locally. This seriously perplexed me. In addition to this, after about one and a half years of employment, I stopped getting the fulfillment I initially had with the job. I felt empty and purposeless. It started becoming more of a mechanical aspect of my daily life.
Yet, when I indulged myself in beauty and cosmetics, I felt content. I then proposed to build a company that would manufacture top quality natural and organic cosmetics that would compete with the international brands. However, I’d do it from my country, Uganda. I planned to prove to myself and the world that quality can be made in Uganda. It took me about a year to prepare for Livara; mentally, financially, structurally. Then when I had my minimums in place, I took the leap.
When people are starting out a business, there are several things that they learn on the job. What are some of the things (positive or negative) that you learned about your business or self since starting your venture?
Before I started out in business, I was used to getting what I wanted when I wanted and how I wanted it. In business, especially the manufacturing business, everything is based on processes and systems. Given that I’m building my company based on systems, it always hits me at home where it hurts. Not everything is instantaneous; perfection takes time and is worth the wait.
I have learnt to respect people’s time and competencies a lot more. I have also come to understand and learn the value of teamwork from a front row seat, I cannot do everything alone. Business has taught me to learn to trust and rely on people to do their job, a lot more than I used to before.
I have become addicted to knowledge acquisition. Nowadays, I read a lot more to be on top of my game. However, because of this, I realize that I have less time to build my other personal relationships -many of which have been affected. I hope it pays off eventually.
Most importantly, I have become more spiritual than before. I have put my hope and trust in God, to guide and help me with the things that are beyond my control. There are several things that could have gone wrong but suddenly and unexplainably did not. For me, that is my God at work; leading me through this journey.Not everything is instantaneous; perfection takes time and is worth the wait Click To Tweet
What skills did you acquire either through practice, work placement or learning institution to improve business?
I’m not certain if research is a skill or a culture! But it is the most important thing that I picked up from my previous jobs. I only executed plans after more than adequate research had been carried out.
Before my business, I had three jobs that were all scientific and research based. I’d literally spend nights up learning about different things related to one particular aspect of a bigger picture. It was my job to adequately understand the pros and cons and have a comprehensive yet conclusive position on any decision I made. This research-based decision making has been a fundamental skill for my business today.
Presentation skills: Many may overlook this, but this is crucial. Although acquired and built over time since my university days, presentation skills have become a great acquisition that has helped me to negotiate better deals for myself and my business.
Report writing: This includes writing project studies and reports. This is a skill that helped me write my business plan that won me incubation space at the Uganda Industrial Research Institute where we are based. Had I not known how to write a business plan and adequately present it, I do not know how far I would have come by now!
Communication and interpersonal skills are other skills that keep on resurfacing and pushing me forward. The two keep evolving and changing with different circumstances. So, the basics molded me. And they continue to do so, even today. In the end, I’ve learned that it is always the relationships we have that help to either build us or break us in life.
What is the greatest challenge you have experienced so far and how did you, or are you handling it?
Opening my first store has been my greatest challenge since I started Livara. To open up a store required me to have a substantial amount of money in place, a good variety of products; an effective low-cost marketing strategy and it would also mean an increase in the number of employees.
Opening the store was imperative for growth. However, it meant that my costs would increase drastically. I had to study the company’s growth since the release of our first products on June 25, 2015. Then weigh the pros and cons of opening a store. In the end, I had to risk it and take the leap. I opened my first store on December 2, 2016.
My dream is to have 6,000 Livara stores around Africa. I also realize that this dream started with the first store, and for me to achieve my dream, I needed to stop procrastinating and open shop!
I continue to review the company’s growth financially and market wisely as we look for ways to expand at the least possible cost.
What has been the most rewarding experience?
My most rewarding experience is when someone sends me a message telling me how my products have improved their life. I started Livara to make a difference in Africa and to impact people’s lives positively. So, when a mother writes to me mentioning how her daughter’s skin is much healthier since she used Baby Opal; or how her daughter’s hair has grown and is more manageable since she started using the Livara hair care line; or when a young gentleman calls me to tell me that his formally receding hairline is back and his hair is thicker; or when a young lady sends me a picture of her smile while wearing one of the Livara lipsticks and thanks me for it; it makes me get up every day and work even harder.
The joy that people get after using my products is the greatest reward for me. Luckily, I live this experience almost daily, and this has helped me go through the challenging moments with more ease.Maxima Nsimenta started @livara_beauty to make a difference & to impact people’s lives positively Click To Tweet