Young men offer manicure, pedicure and facial services at Superhighway Beauty Parlour at Nairobi Bus Station.[David Gichuru, Standard]
Once considered a preserve of women, male beauty therapists now dominate the trade in the city streets.
And they are gaining ground when it comes to applying nail polish, gel, and doing manicure, pedicure, facials, threading and tweezing, among others.
These men not only reap big from city women, but they are giving the established salons and beauty spas a run for their money. Their stalls are strategically located near Bus Station, Khoja roundabout, Commercial and Odeon bus termini and Norwich House.
Gibson Wateri, who co-owns Mwangi Beauty Spa with his brother, started the business back in 2004 in Eldoret, but relocated to Nairobi and got a stall near Bus Station. It was a brilliant decision for in a day he makes almost Sh10,000. In a good month he takes home close to Sh300,000.
He says he got a lot of criticism from his peers at first, but he has now come to prove them wrong. The two now own at least three beauty shops in the city with each attracting not less than 50 clients in a day.
“Even in salons you will find that men have taken over and there is just something authentic about a man taking care of a lady,” says Wateri.
He has employed over 50 workers who he says take home a minimum of Sh3,000 in a day as commission.
They target women who have just alighted from public service vehicles and offer them affordable beauty treatment. Wateri has been in the business for 12 years and says he had to fight off the notion that it’s a woman’s job.
Shadrack Kinaka, a beautician at the Super Highway Beauty Parlour near Bus Station, attributes the boom in business to their affordable rates compared to upmarket salons. He says that for a pedicure, he charges Sh500, Sh700 for facial, Sh500 for manicure, Sh800-Sh1,000 for gel, Sh1,000 for tips (fake nails), Sh500 for stick-ons and Sh100-Sh300 for eyebrows.
This is lower than salon prices, which range between Sh300 and Sh500 more for each service. Kinaka says Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest of days; when customers throng their establishments.
“Our clientele is made up campus girls, working women as well as mothers. Nowadays even men are warming up to the idea of manicure and pedicure and usually visit us accompanied by their wives,” said Kinaka.
Catherine Wanjira, a regular client at the beauty parlour, says she prefers being attended to by men because they take time to perfect their craft and are sensitive since they want to retain their clients.
“I come here to apply gel after every one week because their prices are reasonable compared to having to wait in lines at the salon and end up paying dearly,” she said.
Fridah Kibera, a student at Multimedia University, says she comes all the way from Rongai for treatment. Having created a good rapport with the beauticians, she is able to book sessions mostly on Fridays. However, they say that every good comes with its share of challenges and the traders have had to grapple with high rent prices, which eat into their profits. Every month, depending on the size of the stall, they pay between Sh10,000 and Sh30,000 as rent. They also have to pay for trade licences, which set them back thousands of shillings.
Eve worse, they have to endure harassment by city inspectorate officers who often come demanding bribes. John Mwaniki’s run-in with the ‘Kanjo’ askaris last week is an encounter he would like to forget.
“As I was opening my shop last week on Thursday, two county askaris accosted me and demanded that I give them Sh500. I refused and they started beating me up and later arrested me and took me to City Hall, where I had to part with Sh2,000 to get out,” he said.
Mwaniki says that once arrested, they are usually booked for crimes they did not commit and end up paying a hefty bribe.
The traders are now urging the Government to support them through incentives and with affordable market stalls.
“We do this to keep away from crime and instead of harassing us, the Kanjo askaris should treat us better,” concludes Mwaniki.