In Summary

  • Kennedy Zziwa, the owner of Hairbyzziwa Company Limited, abandoned the corporate world to focus on a hairdressing enterprise. Zziwa, who works on socialites and politicians among other customers, tells Eronie Kamukama how he has built his business.

For the first three minutes of our meeting, Mr Kennedy Zziwa does not stop talking about hair and hair products. He talks about running a hair salon in uptown Kampala, venturing into producing wigs, human hair extensions and working on getting his hair shampoo, treatment and conditioner on the African market soon.
Besides the chattiness of this 29-year old, a discussion on the hairdressing business shows his high ambitions for a normally disrespected enterprise. I quickly engage him on what cultivated such an appetite and for a moment, Mr Zziwa becomes an 11-year old again.
“I joined the Ebonies in 1998 as an actor. They had these trips where they would go all over the country and there were people in charge of constructing the stage, others hair and my caretaker was doing hair and makeup. I would see these hairstyles on stage and go back and try them on my mother,” he recalls.
While growing up, Mr Zziwa realised African parents always encourage children to study hard and become doctors or engineers. This stirred a bias towards the corporate world and he drew towards an artistic world. Despite this, in 2007, he went to Makerere University to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.
In his final year, he realised that if he did not start what he wanted to do for the rest of his life, he would get stuck in the corporate world.
During the last semester, he attended a beauty school. “With my savings from pocket money and a job as a project site manager, I decided to study at Tina Beauty School. They had a branch in Wandegeya. So I would leave my faculty and go to study,” he says.
He later graduated with a bachelor in computer science in 2011.
Starting out
Mr Zziwa went back home after a year at the beauty school but the friction between him and his mother who always pushed him towards the corporate world forced him to open a saloon.
With Shs800,000, he bought salon equipment and rented a one-roomed house in Gayaza, Wakiso District, and started dressing women’s hair.
Soon, parents started trekking to his salon for children’s haircuts. He then employed a barber and later learnt the barbering trade too so that he could cut costs.
The business grew and by the time he left, he had employed two stylists. He then travelled to Liberia and returned with a fresh mind but his business was a bit shaky.
His parents offered to pay for a master’s degree in the US. In 2012, he went to China. His first clients were Ugandan prostitutes. After a month, he moved to Beijing where he worked as a hairdresser until 2016.
He returned to Uganda in 2016 for a holiday and while on a visit to a salon in Kampala, he was charged Shs30,000 to wash his dreadlocks. “I was annoyed. I asked about other places and I realised people were being cheated. I decided to start up a place here,” he says.
In March 2016, Mr Zziwa formalised Hairbyzziwa Company Limited. Two months later, with about Shs200m, among other things, he set up a management system, paid rent for a year and launched Zziwa Hair Studio as part of his marketing strategy.
Mr Zziwa still admits that managing cash in his business is still work in progress as he lacks an accountancy background.
“I have a teller system. I am learning on the job. I have made mistakes, some very expensive but these are learning experiences,” he explains.
He ensures that cash paid using cards and mobile money is wired directly to the bank account whereas hard cash exceeding his threshold is immediately deposited in the bank.
Achievements
The computer engineer in one year, has grown his gross sales to Shs35m per month. His clientele has grown from one ordinary customer to political and social celebrities such as the royal family, ministers, artistes such as Juliana Kanyomozi, Bebe Cool and Iryn Namubiru. He has gone from a five-man operation to a 15-man operation.

Challenges
His biggest challenge is debtors who refuse to pay on time. “People sit, get a service and then when it is time to pay, they promise to pay,” he says.
He has not had it easy with employees as some leave the business after he has polished their skills for his kind of clientele.
For the kind of projects he plans to run, Mr Zziwa says he lacks the pool of capital to fund the new products but believes saving will help.
Operating the business with substandard equipment on the market has been hard since they are costly to maintain.
Mr Zziwa still admits that managing cash in his business is still work in progress as he lacks an accountancy background. “I have a teller system. I am learning from the job. I have made mistakes, some very expensive but these are learning experiences,” he explains.
He ensures that cash paid using cards and mobile money is wired directly to the bank account whereas hard cash exceeding his threshold is immediately deposited in the bank.

What makes his business tick?

Being open to learning
Constant learning has been a top priority. He explains that most of the things he does, he learns from YouTube tutorials.
To get his business ahead, Mr Zziwa says customer care has been key.
Mr Zziwa has made technology an integral part of his business. He thought it convenient to set up a credit card system besides a mobile banking and hard cash payment system. He explains that the credit card system comes in handy when dealing with huge sums of money since services stretch up to Shs20m.

Employees
Mr Zziwa intentionally refuses to employ skilled people.
“I don’t employ 100 per cent skilled people. I employ people who are fresh and willing to learn. I have the skills that I have learnt from hard work so I train these people skills that meet international standards,” he explains.
In addition, to fight inefficiency, he ensures barbers learn hairdressing and hairdressers learn barbering.
He has nurtures good employee-boss relationship based on respect, more so because this is a trade that is almost disrespected in society.

Consistent prices
Another strategy is to have consistent prices with all customers. “Even if it is the president or a boda-boda cyclist, they pay the same prices,” he says.

challenges
His biggest challenge is debtors who refuse to pay on time. “People sit, get a service and then when it is time to pay, they promise to pay,” he says.
He has not had it easy with employees as some leave the business after he has polished their skills for his kind of clientele.
For the kind of projects he plans to run, Mr Zziwa says he lacks the pool of capital to fund the new products but believes saving will help.
Operating the business with substandard equipment on the market has been hard since they are costly to maintain.
Mr Zziwa still admits that managing cash in his business is still work in progress as he lacks an accountancy background. “I have a teller system. I am learning from the job. I have made mistakes, some very expensive but these

People uplifted by zziwa’s salon

Mr Kennedy Zziwa hires employees whom he can train to deliver the services he wants. Here is what they say about Mr ZZiwa’s hairdressing business.

“Mr Zziwa is a very focused person. I like the way he sells his business. He is doing things differently and by this I mean the staff is number one priority. Also, he took time to study. He understands customer care, how to manage workers and he is with you through the business,”
Ms Sharmillah Ashuma, Manager Zziwa Hair Studio

“Mr Zziwa has good customer service. He also knows what he is doing because not many people out there know how to handle natural hair,”
Damalie Wasukira, Customer

“Mr Zziwa is a very good boss, a free person who makes you feel comfortable at work. He is perfect at what he does. He is our face out there and surely brings us clients,”
Kevin Sirika, body builder and hairdresser at Zziwa Hair Studio.