The story of Nelly, a female entrepreneur in Kenia

Nelly Tuikong was raised on a farm in Kapsabet, Nandi county which is in the Western Kenya region. She was born into a middle class household. She has two brothers, and is the middle child. When she was in primary school her family fell on hard times and had to rely on her mother’s sole income to survive. Her mother was a nurse and worked diligently to sustain the family. Nelly managed to finish high school but her parents could not afford to pay for her tertiary education.

By: Wanja Rahab

After high school, she moved to a larger town to seek employment. She secured a secretarial job where she was earning a meagre salary. She engaged in a small business to help meet her needs. After a few jobs Nelly proceeded to work at a hospital under a Kenyan-American program named Ampath. While there she interacted with many nurses and helped take care of abandoned children. A lot of mothers would abandon their newborns due to poverty. Nelly’s fortunes changed when a doctor and his wife came to work at the hospital as part of Ampath’s exchange program. They built a rapport with Nelly and offered to sponsor her nursing education at Indiana University School of Medicine in America. This university is part of Ampath’s program. Nelly had decided to pursue nursing to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Nursing was to be her career path until something else piqued her curiosity.

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When she was in primary school her family fell on hard times and had to rely on her mother’s sole income to survive

As a student in America she found a large gap in the market for black women’s makeup. The rare makeup she found was too pricey. At that time the global recession was beginning to affect America, yet the makeup industry was expanding. A new makeup brand launched at a mall she was patronizing one day and she had a eureka moment. She identified the gap in America and wondered how big it was in Kenya. She ironically found the Kenyan market lacked makeup for black women. At that time there was only one Kenyan makeup brand. Makeup was also not part of Kenyan culture. This is about 9 years ago. Things have changed partly due to her brand entering the market.  Also, most Kenyan ladies aged 50 and below have embraced makeup as part of their daily beauty routines.

Nelly began researching makeup in Kenya while in America. She returned to Kenya while continuing to research the makeup market. She had no preconceived notions about the African skin makeup market and learned as she went.

Pauline cosmetics was born in 2014. It was named after Nelly’s mother as homage to her. Nelly calls her mother a warrior and inspiration for steering their family through a very difficult time. It was a painstaking process from conception to execution. She initially had trouble identifying a good manufacturer, how to ship the products to Kenya, how to ensure the sample (which was handmade) would be the same quality when mass produced and other challenges.

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She ironically found that the Kenyan market lacked makeup for black women

The brand is available in Nairobi and 8 other major towns and cities in Kenya. In Nairobi alone they’re in 20 outlets in different locations across the city. Being easily available has partially contributed to Pauline Cosmetics’ success. The brand has also received rave reviews from a range of local influencers. Nelly has appeared on several television platforms to speak about her brand – from inception to execution.

Pauline Cosmetics is a story that inspires all of us to dare to venture into the unknown. Nelly has mentioned that if she only ventured into what she knew, Pauline Cosmetics would not exist. Nelly should inspire us all to dare to venture where our heart takes us and our minds will sustain us.