THE FOUNDERS FEATURE: LINDA MARIAH.
Linda Mariah is the CEO and owner of the Beauty cottage Salon in Langata,Nairobi. It is a 15 year old business that has grown from a single employee to 15 employees handling more than 40 clients a day, with the sole purpose of making women feel good about their hair, nails and make-up.
Linda... Why business and not employment?
I have been entrepreneurial and apt in looking for that extra coin since I was in high school. I made money redesigning books and selling second-hand clothes and fashion items to my classmates in primary and high school.
You found your passion through your own struggles. Tell us how.
I am an artist and love to work with my hands; and now people’s faces are my canvas.
Growing up I had very bad acne, which really affected my self-esteem. This drove me to start doing my own makeup. In primary school there was this boy I liked, but he used to call me beard face because of all the pimples on my chin. Later in high school people called me pineapple head because my face was covered in pimples.
I struggled with acne and I wanted to help other women feel good and comfortable in their skin through makeup.
When I started the salon, I was only doing makeup and nails. This is what I could afford. Clients would come and ask, “Linda why would I come all this way only for nails and then have to book another appointment somewhere else for hair? Why can’t you do hair as well?” I guess that was my first client feedback-driven decision that got me to buy a dryer and a sink, even though I couldn’t do hair. Soon after that I started doing interviews and tried to look for people to do hair (getting good help was not easy ).
About 15 years ago, I had this grand opening for my salon on 4th May where I invited clients and hairdressers as well. But on D-day, the hairdressers didn’t show up and I had to turn away clients.
I kept going but hairdressers kept disappointing me. Either they wouldn’t keep time for appointments or just wouldn’t show up to work. So I slowly started learning to do hair. I learnt how to do cornrows, braids, weaving....now I can do everything!
How does your personality impact your business?
I am currently the Creative Director- I come up with the hairstyles and new ways of doing hair. I try to be a step ahead of everyone else rather than being the one chasing others and constantly playing catch up. Previously, I would get frustrated trying to compare what we were doing and what other salons were doing. Eventually I decided to stop trying to compete with other people and start doing my own thing. We started doing crochet braids in 2011 and it took awhile for the trend to pick up but now, it’s pretty much one of the easiest ways to do your hair, or as they say, “It’s gone viral.” That’s how much I try to stay ahead of the game.
I also work on the marketing and focus on getting customers.
Are you book smart or street smart?
I get amazed when people call me and ask me how I started my business.
I was never a straight A student. I was always talented with my hands. I loved art and working on people. I guess you would say definitely street smart.
Tell us a friendship memory you have?
After I had my baby straight after high school,only two girls came home to see me. Years later when I met one of those girls, she told me that she only came to see my baby because I was there for her when her mum was unwell and collapsed. Do good it always counts.
How do you bag all these big media personalities?
We are in a world of influencers and referrals are a powerful tool. Some of them actually find us online and (based on the reviews) come to get their hair done.
Have you ever felt like closing your salon?
Since I stopped trying to find another profession or doing this as a side hustle, I have never looked back. I find my work easy and honestly enjoyable. I love it.
What is your motivation?
A customers smile and compliments. Making a woman happy is not easy in this business where alternatives are in excess. Seeing them happy when they leave is the best feeling ever.
We have 15 staff members and all of them rely on that workplace to make a living. It keeps me motivated knowing that we have to keep going to sustain these families.
Do you think there is a convergence between hair styling and fashion?
Yes. The two always go hand-in-hand. It is simply pointless to have a 1/3 of you look good and 2/3 look like a train wreck or vice versa. It’s either all or nothing: and nothing is not an option.
Styling and beauty are a feel-good business, what styling tips do you give to your staff to ensure they look good at work?
You need to look and feel good about yourself to make someone else feel the same, especially a paying customer. Our work ethos advocates for this everyday. I randomly buy my staff makeup and encourage them to have well kept hair and nails. They also get to practice new styles on themselves and therefore look, neat and classy just as our clients.
What is your ideal look, outfit and hair combo?
I'm a lazy dresser. You will find me in jeans most of the time. Nevertheless, my guilty pleasures are fitting skirts that end just around the knee, matched with simple tops. I am still trying to fight my addiction to animal prints. When it comes to hair, I'm ready to try anything.
For bookings you can reach Linda at 0725398881
Instagram handle @lindamariah254
Dressed by: Sarai Afrique Fashion House
Article By: Caroline Kuria.
Photography: Visual Magic Africa