When Terryanne’s eldest daughter was little, she struggled with a dry skin condition called Eczema. Terryanne searched for a natural skincare solution that would heal her daughter’s skin but could hardly find any in Kenya. Based on a doctor’s recommendation, she tried shea butter and it worked. Terryanne soon realised that some mothers in her circle were also searching for natural solutions to their children’s eczema. This spurred her to start Keyara Organics- a leading home-grown skincare brand in Kenya.
Terryanne Chebet is a Media and Communications professional with more than 15 years of experience in Media practice, Media leadership and Management. She is also the founder of Africa’s Leading Ladies, an online group for African women to connect, learn and share experiences. She started Keyara Organics from her kitchen and it has flourished because of her expertise and passion.
This piece is about Terryanne’s journey with Keyara Organics and the lessons you can take away from her experience.
What is the intention behind Keyara Organics?
The intention behind Keyara organics has always been to provide a skincare solution for the whole family using as many natural ingredients as we can. We aim to make products available for the man in the house, the woman in the house, the child, the toddler- we want everyone to be catered to.
What inspired your decision to leave journalism to start Keyara organics?
There were so many things that I needed to do with my life and I would not have been able to do them while working as a journalist. It would not have been fair to the job. It would take too much of my time and waste their time as well. So I decided to focus on what I needed to do to be able to get to where I wanted to go.
I am 41 years old right now and I have been telling my friends that “this is possibly my highest productive decade so you may not see me much, you may not hang out with me a lot.”When I am 50, 60, 70, I can relax and enjoy life a lot more.
I also left because I needed to be home more. As a journalist, I could count the number of times I was actually home before 10 PM for the 10 or 12 years of my career.
Has your experience as a journalist helped in running Keyara?
My journalistic background has helped me immensely. Being in the public eye has helped me put my brand in a place where I can reach many people. It has helped in building a better brand and getting visibility from media houses. Also, the confidence I have today may not be there if I had not been a journalist before this.
What are some of the challenges you have experienced and how have you dealt with them?
One of the biggest problems is the packaging and I believe this is an African problem. Many of us in the skincare space has had a problem getting quality local packaging. So we end up having to import packaging. That affects the margin because we are paying for freight and a higher grade of plastic. All this eventually affects the pricing of our products.
We have thought of different ways to solve this problem and one of them involves buying a moulding machine to make our own plastics but it is very expensive. However, one of us in the skincare space decided to fill the gap by shipping in containers in bulk and then we buy from her.
Sourcing products has also been quite a challenge. For instance, shea butter comes from West Africa and shipping it into Kenya is very expensive. Luckily for us, we found out that shea butter is also available in Northern Uganda and South Sudan and they are neighbouring countries. So now we source from Northern Uganda.
In running your business, you interact a lot with local communities and business. In your opinion, how important do you think local communities are to the businesses they choose to support?
They are absolutely important. I think that it is a thing of pride to be able to invest in our own and contribute to these little economies. I am pretty big on working with what we have locally and patronising small businesses in our communities. For us at Keyara, we source raw materials like aloe vera from local farmers in Kenya that harvest those items.
Supporting local businesses will never stop being a priority for us. In a couple of years, we have seen the skincare industry in Africa grow- brands are consistently popping up in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and we are effectively creating an economy of our own through our patronage.
By supporting local businesses, we also create gainful employment. Whether it is a full-time person or a consultant, the people who are working on packaging, the people who print out labels- the whole value chain gets impacted and enriched. The more we push for our African brands to grow and support them, the more we grow our economies.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business of their own?
This might sound cliche but just start. Start where you are, start with what you have. Just start. I started Keyara organics with about 60,000 shillings which is 600 dollars which I took out of my salary. I bought some shea butter and some containers and began producing in my kitchen. Looking back, had I thought that let me wait for big money to come in, let me wait for a million shillings, I would not have started it. So my advice is start where you are, start with what you have and start on something that you are passionate about.
Nothing beats creativity. There is a lot of copycatting in the small business space and I understand that because it is a lot cheaper and easier to start out copying someone else’s model. Still, I want to challenge us to think broadly and not limit ourselves to the same patterns and thinking. We need to be creative and innovative in our approach because that is how we build a business that can scale.
Be serious about your business. We are in such an entrepreneurial age in Africa. Everyone wants to start something and some people just start and are not serious about it. Be as serious as you can, learn from the mistakes of those of us who started as a “side hustle.” If you can afford to from the beginning, make the business formal, do your accounting right, get a consultant to handle your books, just do it right from the beginning and the business will grow.
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This spotlight feature on Yomi Odutola is powered by Visa. Visa’s ‘Where you Shop Matters’ initiative aims to champion entrepreneurs across Africa while encouraging consumers to support small businesses by shopping local. Visa’s initiative is supporting small businesses through the Visa Small Business Hub, a merchant platform providing tools and information on how to start, run and grow small businesses.