Why I chose to set up a medical spa business in Kenya
When you meet 44-yer-old Peris Mbuthia, you could easily mistake her for a lady in her 20s.
It’s easy to understand why. The mother of two is the entrepreneur behind Timeless Medical Spa at Lavington Mall in Nairobi. She is a staunch believer in the radiance of one’s skin.
Peris attended Rumuruti Secondary School. She set off to United Kingdom to study nursing at North London College in 1993. Upon graduation she worked at the Royal Hospital in Wimbledon, UK, for a few months before getting married. “My husband and I moved to the United States where he was working,” she says.
In America, Peris went back to school to study auxiliary nursing, after which she was licensed to practice. “I got a job at U-Common Hospital in Boston Massachusetts,” she says.
When she became pregnant with her second child, unlike the first time, she suffered from severe acne, skin eruptions, cysts and similar afflictions.
“I was (and still I’m) overly conscious about how I look,” she says. And which modern woman isn’t? Before this incident Peris had occasionally suffered everyday skin problems like black heads, bruising, and dark spots.
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“Being a nurse myself I would just grab the right treatment and I would be fine.”
She, however, found it difficult to respond to this avalanche of pregnancy related skin eruptions. Even after birth, the acne persisted.
“We relocated to Canada after my husband got a new job. In Toronto, I visited a cosmetic clinic but even they could not find me a solution,” she says. She got curious, wanting to find out more about the human skin and its aesthetics.
She successfully applied to study her new found passion in Canada.
What is odd though is the fact that instead of using her skills in Canada, where she would have arguably made more money, she chose to come back to Kenya and set up Timeless in Nairobi.
Here, she further explains her choices as she raced to set up a stable flourishing medical spa business.
When I struggled to find a solution to the eruptions on my skin with my second pregnancy I began thinking hard what I was going to do. Canada is an industrialised country. If there was one place I believed I would get a solution it was in Canada. But that was not to be. This informed my choice to take up a course in cosmetics.
It turned out that the African skin is not similar to the white skin in its characteristics. One can, therefore, not be certain if solutions work with Caucasians but not with the black skin.
It requires special expertise to work on the African skin. Where would I apply this newfound knowledge? While Canada has a sizeable population of Africans I felt that it would have greater impact in Africa: Kenya (my mother country) to be specific.
It was time to confront culture
The general culture in Kenya, for the longest time, was that beauty and looks weren’t supposed to matter. They were near-taboo subjects. One would be chastised if they mentioned that they needed medication to treat something on their face so that they could look more appealing.
However, deep in every person, we care about how we look. We care about appearance. The west may have led in revolutionising the beauty industry but we Africans have been affected as well.
Coming back to Kenya to start a medical spa I wanted to be among pioneer hubs where Kenyans of all walks of life could visit for beauty therapy and treatment sessions.
It is a good thing to stick to your passion and skill set
I am a nurse by profession. Before studying cosmetics I worked as a community home care nurse in Toronto. In a sense, cosmetology has very little variance from nursing. Nursing is my profession but cosmetology is my passion.
When the two combined I very much settled into my career. Timeless Medical Spa opened its doors in July of 2016. Before that I had been back in the country to try out a stationery business but somehow it didn’t work out.
With Timeless I have realised I don’t struggle so much because I am serving my passion.
I have spent a good part of the last three decades outside Kenya. Coming back home in 2016, I had few friends outside my family.
When Timeless opened shop my immediate challenge was how to let people know about us and our presence in Nairobi.
The few customers I began with – who knew of the spa from word of mouth – loved our services and kept giving us referrals.
We have grown our customer base on the back of providing good services because there is nothing that pulls customers than a good review from a previous customer. Today we are online and on social media as well.
One of the things I had to do at inception was put down our policy and values. I resolved to focus on quality and not quantity. For instance, we are available every day from 8am to 8pm.
Within those 12 hours we can only attend to a maximum of 15 clients. On days that clients stream in more than we can handle, we ask to book them forward. With a staff of six, we have resolved that a patient may need anything between 40 minutes and two hours for us do a good job.
I would rather have 10 customers (in a day) who would come back and recommend us to others than 100 customers who would never come back due to having a bad experience.