Tugume on taking bridal business a notch higher

Tuesday May 14 2019

Serene Beauty founder Cerinah Tugume works on a

Serene Beauty founder Cerinah Tugume works on a customer at her bridal salon on Mawanda Road, Kampala. Photo by Eronie Kamukama  

By Eronie Kamukama

Ms Cerinah Tugume styles hair and applies makeup but the kind that brides need. While she started by doing her own makeup and trying out hair styles in her friends’ hair, she moved on to open her own bridal company, Serene Beauty, in order to give brides the splendour and care they need on their wedding day.
“I have vitiligo and when you are growing up, it is a struggle. I got it at ten years, started wearing makeup at 19 and because I was disguising the vitiligo, it became easy to learn to do makeup. What was a misfortune, became a gift,” Ms Tugume narrates her start.

Innovation
She, however, thought she needed to take a fresh perspective to bridal services. So when she started, she set out to give brides more than a good look and included a massage, accommodation and food on the wedding eve.
Her strategy has worked. Almost 11 years in operation, Serene Beauty works on up to seven bridal teams on a Saturday of any peak season like December.
Before all this, Ms Tugume was thrown into doing makeup at no cost, after all she enjoyed the hobby. It is only after digging into her own pocket to buy good makeup that it occurred to her that the hobby could be a business for the long-term.
In August 2008, Ms Tugume got her breakthrough doing makeup at a friend’s wedding.
“I was really not charging but taking care of the cost,” she says, “I had invested quite a bit but because I was doing it for fun, I was not really doing the Maths.”
Some of Serene Beauty’s early customers were friends and their acquaintances.
In 2011, she had her debut into commercial hairstyling after a friend’s hairdresser cancelled a day to her wedding day. Within a year, she opened a Facebook page to expand the size of her clientele. For the years that followed, she took on bridal teams of five people and single-handedly styled hair and picked up makeup brushes in her bedroom.
“I would charge Shs300,000 for the bride and Shs100,000 for the bridesmaids. Then, money was not the driver but the passion of making a bride’s day great,” she says.
The weekly work of a makeup artist and hairstylist can be tiring especially if you are alone. It is in 2014 that Ms Tugume was convinced she needed Ms Priscilla Mutanda as a partner. “Partnerships are excellent. You cannot do everything but you have to know the person, they have to be honest and dependable even in hard times,” she says.
A year later, she rethought the startup’s direction and formalised it, something she says helps one to know they are doing business responsibly.
“I got married and could not use my bedroom anymore. So I reorganised the business, set up premises,” she says.
“I had booked the business name but because I had a job, I was too busy. When you are busy, you do not give full attention to your business.”
To this point, she believes she had invested about Shs60m in makeup. From experience, she admits, makeup is expensive. But the bridal salon has made strides by committing to certain business principles. “I do not waste my money on poor quality or cheap makeup because it does a bad job and is bad for your health,” she says.

Employee turned entrepreneur
This is a busy season for Serene Beauty. The company has made a fresh investment to allow more bridal teams sleep over on their wedding eve. Three months ago, Ms Tugume quit a communications job at a fuel distributor in the country to give all to her business and her family. Many people are in the beauty industry today and finding the uniqueness that grows clientele is not always easy.
For Serene Beauty, it is about developing a friendship and support at a time when stress is at its highest. Part of her approach, she agrees, are lessons picked from her former job including building, protecting, marketing, leading a brand and running a profitable business.
“Giving a certain experience which is from hardworking and trainable people is important for creating critical relationships,” she says, “I do not have full time workers because most work is on Saturday. When we have seven teams, there are makeup artists that work for me.”
Serene Beauty is eager to recruit workers but training and retaining workers is something the company is yet to figure out. The problem is, some walk into self-employment once they acquire the beauty skills.
“In a good month, we can make Shs20m before costs are taken off. But of course we rent two apartments, sometimes three. When I buy makeup, I do not spend less than Shs10m. Hair accessories are expensive,” she says.

Plans
Ms Tugume plans on pushing for business through franchises in major towns across the country and offering new services such as skin care.
She believes the beauty industry is poised for more growth especially with more entrants. However, the new entrants must differentiate themselves to make it in the industry. If their objective is to serve people, they will never run out of money, she says.
Despite having naturally grown into doing makeup and hairstyling, she believes keeping one’s hands busy and learning from sources such as Youtube or even fellow workers.
Lastly, it is financial discipline.
“Running a makeup studio is not about just doing the makeup. It takes discipline not to eat the money you make, to organise your finances, to save and reinvest. You can do it as a hobby but have to realise that it is a business,” Ms Tugume says as she prepares for the next five years. challenges
With her mind only after high-end makeup products, Ms Tugume has learnt her lessons the hard way.
“I have bought expensive brands of makeup for sale but I have come to believe that few Ugandans appreciate high-end makeup. Most of what they like is what Americans call drugstore makeup. Now I know it is only if there is a makeup artist that wants quality makeup, I can sell to them,” she explains the trade’s experiences.
Also, after doing makeup for a big brand in the country without payment, she learnt that this business runs well with advance payment. The company is viewed as strong now.

Challenges
With her mind only after high-end makeup products, Ms Tugume has learnt her lessons the hard way.
“I have bought expensive brands of makeup for sale but I have come to believe that few Ugandans appreciate high-end makeup. Most of what they like is what Americans call drugstore makeup. Now I know it is only if there is a makeup artist that wants quality makeup, I can sell to them,” she explains the trade’s experiences.
Also, after doing makeup for a big brand in the country without payment, she learnt that this business runs well with advance payment. The company is viewed as strong now.

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