Name: Thiitu Karega
Business: Binti Naturals
City, Country: Nairobi, Kenya
Thiitu Karega is the founder of Binti Naturals, a Kenyan-based beauty company that specializes in organic and natural ingredients that promote healthy skin and hair. As a certified treasury operations analyst with a BA in international relations, Thiitu has worked for the UN and the Government of Kenya in various capacities. She left her position at the National Bank of Kenya to focus full-time on growing her business and credits MOOCs (massive open online courses) with getting her business skills up to speed. She was named one of Kenya’s 34 inspirational women entrepreneurs by Lionesses of Africa in 2016.
“I am so happy that I finally jumped. I made my dream come true in starting this business, and that is invaluable to me.”
Binti Naturals is 100% self-funded, a fact of which its founder is proud. “Once in a while my family helps me out but I haven’t had to incur any debt or bring in a partner or investor. Everything goes back into the business, but this year we are exploring new avenues of expansion.”
The organic skin and hair care business got its start when Thiitu had trouble finding products that complimented her natural hair. Her sister sent her shea butter from the US long before people really knew what to do with it. So she started mixing it with other oils and products and used it in her hair and on her skin. The more her hair thrived, the more interest she got. Eventually a close friend suggested she start a business. It’s been growth after growth ever since. In 2016, she significantly surpassed her first year targets. “I had to ask someone to double check just to be sure,” the 33-year-old laughs.
The company’s biggest obstacle has been human capital. “Finding the right people who see and share the vision is challenging,” she says. But there are other hurdles too. “I never accounted for all the firefighting I would have to do. There are a lot of things that go unexpectedly wrong that you have to deal with and manage properly. I’m also a perfectionist so behind the scenes I’m usually quietly panicking when things don’t go how I imagined or planned.”
For now, Thiitu’s plans are simple … keep growing the brand and get it into the hands of as many people as possible as many times as possible. And to those interested in working in the industry? Thiitu says “There’s enough room for all of us. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t succeed. Do your research; find your niche and just start. As women, I think our biggest challenge is self-doubt and fear. Rather than take a calculated risk, we tend to wait until we have no choice but to do it to survive. I believe the biggest change towards women entrepreneurs has been among women themselves. We’re more supportive and a lot kinder to each other.”
For those just starting out, Thiitu has some sound advice:
- Start where you are, with what you have. You will never have enough money, time or connections to start with a corner office, a room full of stock and orders just waiting to be filled. So just start, one day at a time, one task at a time.
- There is no plan B if you are all in. You won’t go far if you already have an exit strategy. Focus on your plan and your ability to take a hit. Can you survive if someone doesn’t pay you? Can you still operate?
- The best time to do something is when you don’t feel like it. When you commit to do something, don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when your done.
- Success comes from failure. That’s a tough one to master because we’re trained to stop and give up when we fail and shamed for it as well. Each failure is an opportunity to learn and do better.