Roselyne Sachiti Features Editor
Many ambitious and persistent young Zimbabweans have been using innovative solutions to fix society’s most pressing problems that range from water shortages, sanitation, education, health care, science to technology among many others.
In Harare’s Mount Pleasant suburb, cosmetologist and businesswoman Kuda Mupawose Manyepxa (44) has made her contribution to the beauty industry in Zimbabwe and globally known.
Her latest challenge — women and men losing hair to tight braiding, thinning and falling of hair as a result of use of chemicals used by poorly trained hairdressers and even baldness in men.
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Her solution — Feso hair follicles renewal, a product she formulated to regenerate hair follicles resulting in balding heads getting their hair back, both male and female across all races.
The feso weed is found in most parts of Zimbabwe and using it as an ingredient has empowered many women in her rural home of Musana, Bindura, in the country’s Mashonaland Central Province.
But why worry about hair when there are many pressing issues in Zimbabwean society?
The owner and manager of Curtley’s Day Spa and Salon in Harare, Kuda, believes hair is not only about beauty, there is more to it.
“I love hair, it’s a hobby turned into a business and out of it other businesses like Feso have come out,” she said in an interview with The Herald Review.
Her story begins with the determination to correct the wrongs in Zimbabwe’s beauty industry.
She wants to see the industry grow in a professional way.
Having stayed in South Africa for 10 years Kuda returned home in 2012 and came across her first challenge.
“I realised that there were a lot of hairline issues with old and new clients. Most of the hair was thinning and falling. I started treating the hair correctly,” she said.
Her research revealed a number of issues that included lack of professionalism among many hairdressers.
“A lot of colleges in Zimbabwe are not teaching proper hairdressing and most are cheating people. Most qualified hairdressers including me had left the country. There was a huge problem with clients who had no hairline or half the head had gone.
“As such we have many unqualified hairdressers who are going for three months training only.
“The result is the wrong usage of hair products.
“Very few know how to style braids properly so that hair does not fall. There is a lot of traction alopecia
“I went back to old school days to come up with a pharmaceutical solution,” she explained.
Seeing many clients lose hair, Kuda, a former CAPS Holdings employee, started searching for a solution using her pharmaceutical background.
The story of one client, a bride, broke her heart.
“I had a new client whose wedding was coming up. I had visualised which hairstyle I wanted to plait. I persuaded her and when she eventually agreed, I discovered that she did not have hair on some parts of her head.
“I started looking for products that could heal her. I mixed products I knew,” she said.
During a visit to her rural home, Kuda remembered watching her grandmother and other women use a local slimy herb, feso, to wash their hair.
“I asked a villager to look for the feso and she gave me a bag. I came back to Harare and added it to my mixture which included oils. It started forming a slimy irritating mixture then I just left it overnight.
“The next morning, I noticed that the container was no longer slimy,” she recalled.
Following this discovery, Kuda gave the mixture to the bride and she used it for two weeks.
“She returned and told me that it was working and wanted more. It was milky as we were not sieving it and all my clients were getting it for free.
“They initially named it ‘Kuda’s Concoction’ and would just bring their bottles for refills,” she added.
For two years she gave the concoction for free.
Then one day, a happy client told her she was prepared to pay for “Kuda’s Concoction” giving birth to “Feso”, which is now available in 61 countries globally.
In early 2015 she packaged her first 10 Feso bottles for sale, but for Feso to be successful, she grabbed every mentoring opportunity that came her way.
In 2015 she was invited to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) under the African Women Entrepreneurial Programme (AWEP) to the US sponsored by the US State Department.
This invitation came as a result of Feso.
“While in the US, I learnt a lot on how to manage my business and ensure that I give my clients the best.
“The programme taught me to use what I have to help my community. They trained us to make products that would compete with any in the world.
“One of the things was how just good labelling would make my product internationally acceptable,” she said.
Feso is now being officially sold in 61 countries that include a clinic that is testing on cancer in New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, Scotland, Canada, United States, Ghana, South Africa among others.
She said she is now looking into network marketing locally.
Zimbabweans, she added, should support locally manufactured products.
“I do not blame people who look down on local products. The challenge is we do not compete on the international market. We have to be competitive. The key thing is whether your product is presentable.
People shun local products because of poor packaging. Branding is important. People buy what looks good whether locally or internationally produced,” she added.
Besides being a businesswoman, Kuda has also been mentoring many young hairdressers locally through the Zimbabwe Afro Sleek Hair show (ZASH).
“This is a hair and beauty expo which gives hairdressers an opportunity to expose and express themselves. I emphasise that they should treat anything with the professionalism it deserves,” she said.
She complained that banks do not take hairdressing business seriously and are rigid with loans yet it is a big industry.
“I bought this Mount Pleasant house because of hair,” she bragged.
Last year, ZASH winner walked away with a car courtesy of Kuda.
This years’ winner will walk away with a mini salon which Kuda will pay for.
“The winner will choose where she wants the salon. When mentoring someone you do not want to take them out of their work, you let them grow where they are,” she emphasised.
Wife to supportive husband Lloyd, mother to Takudzwa Curtley, Vuyiso and Tawananyasha, Kuda is poised for greater heights.
“My family is my team. We manufacture our products at home in buckets using a mixer. The labelling is also done at home and we hope to grow bigger. At present we have 500 bottles of Feso every two months. Each bottle sells for $20,” she added.
Having risen to glory with her entrepreneurship skills gained from 22 years of doing hair, Kuda has proven her mettle and talent to the world.
Feso is listed as one of Africa’s emerging products for 2015.
In November last year Kuda was invited to present and exhibit Feso on the African platform at Nepad.
It was also launched in Durban at the Nepad platform for Africa.
In 2002, Kuda was invited to South Africa to do parliamentarians’ hair, which led to her opening businesses in that country. The businesses include Inner Sanctum Day Spa and Salon in Sandton and Fourways, in Johannesburg.
In 2010 her Day Spa in South Africa was named as the best in Gauteng by the who’s who of Africa Forum.
Magazines such as the Jozi, True Love, Intem, Cosmopolitan, and Top Billing voted the Spa the place to be in Gauteng (2007-2011).
Kuda became a celebrity hair dresser and started the makeover programme in True Love with the then beauty editor for True Love, Ayanda Bhikitsha (2007-2011).
Kuda is a pharmacology graduate from Michigan State University and Dudley Cosmetology University in North Carolina (US) with extensive knowledge on the science behind good looks.
She later embarked on a diploma with London Chamber of Commerce & Industries (LCCI) and graduated with a diploma in Marketing, Sales and Public Relations. She also holds an IMM diploma from UNISA (SA) and an MBA in Entrepreneurial Development from Wits, SA.
She is a recipient of Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) “Best Service Award” 2014.
If hairdressing is the food of life, let Kuda plait, weave and relax hair all the way to prosperity and more prosperity.