Ms Cerinah Tugume working on a bride. Serene Beauty offers a holistic beauty experience to bridal teams covering bridal hair and makeup, manicure and pedicure and full-body massage as well as accommodation and breakfast for bridal teams.  PHOTO/COURTESY


15 years on, Tugume has built a multi-million beauty business

What you need to know:

With Shs60 million, Cerinah Tugume quit formal employment to concentrate on her bridal hair and makeup business. 

It is a hot afternoon when I meet Cerinah Tugume at Serene Beauty, a bridal hair and makeup studio off Mawanda Road, Gayaza Road. 
She speaks with an inviting calmness, and wears a big smile sweet enough to relax my tired self from the sweltering afternoon heat.  

The chaos in Kampala streets has worked me so much that I can’t help, but sink my tired body into one of the couches at the reception area, from where I scan the beautifully manicured spaces. 

The studio, which sits on the upper floor of a four-storied apartment building, but extends onto other floors downwards, has an elaborate outlay curved into office spaces, salons, meeting areas, and guestrooms. 
It is an exceptionally beautiful display, fitted with classy furniture and well-thought-out spaces. 

In 2019, after working with Vivo Energy for six years, Cerinah made a tough  choice to leave corporate employment, which many thought was an obscure decision. 

“I had seen it all, I was ready to move on,” she says, as we finally settle down for an interview about her life, work, family, and the journey that has seen her build one of the most solid bridal hair and makeup business.

Having entered formal employment as a management trainee, Cerinah had scaled up the corporate ladder and understood so well that she had run her race.  At the time, the mother of three boys, was the Vivo Energy head of corporate communications. But for a long time, she had been thinking through the option of giving her business a chance.  

“I was a new mother, juggling family, work, and a side hustle,” she says as we delve into her decision to leave Vivo Energy for the unknown. 
“It was a hard decision I had been toying with for some time. I needed to adjust myself and it was a risk I was willing to take,” the founder and chief executive officer of Serene Beauty, says. 

However, her choice notwithstanding, her family and friends thought otherwise, reasoning that it was not the right time to venture into the unknown. 

But because Cerinah understood her decision better, she held on, believing that her husband, whom she had prepared psychologically for some time, would offer the perfect support she needed.  

“My husband knew I was leaving Vivo for the best and he had agreed to support me through the thought process. He knew I wanted to do something different for the good of our family and to pursue my purpose. And he knew what I exactly wanted to do because I had been doing it for a long time as a side hustle,” she says. 

 Before Vivo Energy, Cerinah had worked with the Ministry of Education as a monitoring and evaluation officer, after which she joined Hima Cement in 2006, where she worked for six years in corporate social responsibility, marketing and corporate communications. 

She also briefly had an eight-month stint with Rift Valley Railways, from where she joined Vivo Energy, her last placement in formal employment.
However, somewhere in 2008, Cerinah had discovered that she would earn some money out of makeup, which she maintained as a side business for much of her time in corporate employment. 

“I would makeup people on weekends. I eventually started making up people going for weddings before I settled and specialised on making up brides and bridal entourage,” she says. 

Side hustle
For 11 years, Cerinah would make up brides as a side hustle until she concluded in 2019 that the side hustle needed more concentration than her corporate job. 
All along she had known that this day would come. Thus, she had prepared herself mentally.

Three years before quitting Vivo Energy, in 2016 she had rented premises and registered the business under Serene Beauty.  

“I was thinking ahead and I had been saving through my job. Fortunately, before this in 2014, I had been joined by a friend with whom we are now business partners. So, when I left formal employment, we had saved some money from the business and from other sources to rebrand it and buy more equipment. In total, we invested about Shs60m,” she says. 

15 years later, Cerinah has built a multi-million shilling business that is now an authority in the beauty industry. 
“We started with makeup, but now offer a complete bridal package that includes makeup, hair, manicure and pedicure, massage, and accommodation. The accommodation part ensures that our brides do not have to run around on the eve of the wedding to catch up on salon,” she says.

In all this, one thing that Cerinah is particular about and values most, is delivering quality and building networks that have won her multitudes of referrals. 

“You can’t lose when you deliver quality and build networks. I am part of a business community called Business Network International where we refer business among ourselves. You cannot be a member if you don’t provide quality,” she says. 

However, this has not been without challenges. 
Like many businesses in the beauty industry, Serene Beauty has had to navigate through a setup that largely relies on unskilled employees. 
“Our beauty industry is not well developed. So, it has very little relatable education qualifications. We have had to inject a lot in our employees to take them to standards our customers expect us to be,” she says. 
Beyond this, is the cost of cosmetics, taxes, and a business environment that has lately faced several challenges.  

However, even with these challenges, Cerinah has several plans down her sleeve, key among which is to make weddings a stress-free affair. 
“I want to be part of a large team that offers services across the board with the goal of eliminating wedding stress. There are so many things that happen at a wedding that take a toll on the couple and the family. I am hoping that we shall have a time when this will not be a thing of the past,” she says.

Born in Kampala, Cerinah has been married to Andrew Tugume since 2015, and the two are blessed with three boys. 

She went to school in Makerere College School before joining Greenhill Academy, from where she joined Makerere University to study Statistics and also holds a Masters in Economic Policy and Planning. 

As the third child in a family of five, Cerinah was always vibrant and friendly and it is from this personality that she has built a persona of warmth, enthusiasm, great influence and a go-getter, who sees opportunities where there are challenges.