Inspired by her frustration of not finding Kenyan beauty products lined up in the shelves of stores, Anna Njoroge moved back to Kenya from the U.S in 2014, after been gone for almost sixteen years, with one major goal in mind, to ensure that she made the first step in closing the gaps we have in the beauty industry.
When she started looking in the market, she discovered there is very little of what she expected as compared to what she was used to abroad. The prices were ridiculous, the quality wasn’t as good and availability was also scarce as compared to international brands.
After a bit of exploration, she wanted to create an authentic brand/set of products that worked for Africans and is inspired by the beauty of Africa, thus the birth of Ythera Beauty
Here is her story:
Let’s start with you telling me who you are and what you do
My name is Anna Njoroge, founder and C.E.O of Ythera, which is a Kenyan brand that is focused on embracing the potential of a woman’s life in all its beautiful complexity. Our goal is to influence personal care, beauty and skin care.
What we have in the market right now is the fine fragrance body mists, which were launched in 2017 and our most recently launched body creams that complement the body mists. I believe in creating a brand which we as Kenyan women can relate to and use in their day to day lives. I want to build a brand that we can be proud in wearing and sharing and carrying around as our own.
In December 2016, we went into product development, tested the market and tried out the branding, naming, testing out the different smells and conducting surveys and in July, we released our two scents, Frangipani and Tuber Rose body mists in a 250 ml bottle. We then released the third one which is Vanilla Orchid, we just did a smaller one (125 ml) to see the uptake.
So why body mists?
The reason for body mists was actually never in my radar but when I decided to create a brand, I had to narrow it down to the specific products.
A friend of mine who has been in the beauty personal care for a long time told me, “No one manufactures a local body mist in Kenya.” So, I went looking in the markets, beauty shops and true to the fact, there was no local company manufacturing any body mists.
I took a step back and asked how many women in Africa can afford high end products on a daily basis. I then decided to come up with a globally appealing yet affordable product for the African woman
I am curious to know the process you went through. So, you thought about body mists, you found this company that will do all these things for you. How did you get from having the idea to the actual products?
I first did a lot of research. I also had a lot of amazing people who connected and are still connecting me to the people I need. From companies that stock the bottles and caps to the people I could talk to to stock these products. In this process, I learnt quite a lot about manufacturing.
In manufacturing, there is a thing called Minimum Order Quantity, meaning you can’t just walk into a warehouse and order 100 bottles but by hundreds of thousands. But what if I don’t want 100 bottles? You get to know that you can import them for much less since the minimum is about 40,000 bottles.
What about the packaging? This is actually more difficult especially if you’re a startup because manufacturers mostly target large fish so if you’re not buying in huge amounts, let’s say 40,000
This pump? No one manufactures a pump in this country. Not a single one. But I was privileged to find someone who could supply them to me.
What process did you go through as a starting entrepreneur especially in such a problematic manufacturing industry?
There are so many things you have to consider at the very beginning before you even think about going to manufacture. You have to run your numbers. Before you even say ‘Okay, here is my idea’, first ask yourself, ‘Who is my customer? Do they exist? Why would they buy the product?’ because that also tells you if there really is a market.
Another crucial thing is are your materials accessible? Do they exist in this market? And if they don’t exist in this market, what is the cost of bringing them in? And if you bring them in, what are the tax implications? Are they even allowed to be brought in legally? Those are all the things you need to look at. Regulations. These products of yours, who regulates it? How do they regulate it? What are the requirements? What is the implication, the tax, whatever is the tax implication? That’s all part of your cost. And you realize, your cost and margin and the prices you have in the market, maybe we are not ready for that product yet. Because we also remember we are also price conscious as a culture. We are very, very price conscious. So those are all the things you have to consider before you even decide “I’m going to manufacture”.
Why the name Ythera?
When I was thinking about a name, I wanted something that would not be mistaken with anything Western. I wanted something African. Something limitless. Ythera is literally inspired by this African woman who is powerful, resilient, smart, feminine & ethereal.
In my short time doing this, the one thing I’ve realized in this process, it’s not about you, it’s not about me; because no matter how much I love it, if no one else wants it, that’s it. It won’t work.
Another thing you must do is listen. Listen to your audience, listen to what they have to say. Think about your customer. What do they want? What do they buy and why do they buy what they buy?
These are but some of the things that have made Ythera beauty become what it is today 😊