Spurred Into Burundi’s Cosmetics Industry - Praise Mutanu - J'adore

February 15, 2022

Praise Mutanu is a woman whose life is defined by love. She has a gift for creating love in all the pockets of her life and seeing it vividly in everything she does. She sees it in the barista, who remembers to write her name on a coffee cup, and experiences it through her steadfast faith in God. 

Above all, love has been a guiding force for her formidable cosmetics business. The name of the business, J’adore, was born out of the affectionate exclamations that customers would make when purchasing her beauty items. It is a fitting name for a business built devotedly with the heart.

Although Praise now knows Burundi as home, her first encounter with the country was on a visit. While there, she encountered a problem that many flustered travelers have when rummaging through their suitcases. She had forgotten to pack underwear. Upon an assessment of the options available, Praise found low-quality goods and a distinct lack of shops offering this crucial item of clothing.

On her next trip to Burundi, Praise filled a suitcase full of underwear from Kenya that was superior to what was available in the Burundian market. Soon enough, women who bought her underwear began asking for cosmetic goods such as lipsticks. Praise was all too happy to provide for their growing needs! Unbeknownst to her, that small bit of entrepreneurial acumen would cause a suitcase of underwear to become a cosmetic empire. Today she has several Burundi-based clients in her network from all walks of life.

Praise opened a shop in Burundi in 2013 after encouragement from her customers. To start the business off on the right foot, she prayed over her first shop. Even then, Praise had an acute awareness of her purpose and aimed to stick to her newfound love of cosmetics, even in choppy waters. She quit her job at a Nairobi law firm and faced her future with unwavering hope.

There was no shortage of challenges. Reckoning with a language barrier when dealing with customers who predominantly spoke French and having to pay rent for the shop out of pocket made the first months difficult. The growing business owner had to ward off dissenting voices that encouraged her to seek employment instead of struggling unnecessarily in a foreign country.

But Praise is not one to shy away from scaling mountains that seem insurmountable. Not even when her shop was closed by the mayor for supposedly flaunting indecency by selling underwear. The reserved nature of Burundian society was not conducive to a business that openly sold lingerie. Praise mounted a petition with the conviction that her business was worth fighting for.

She fearlessly grew her business with a clear plan for expansion. Praise recognized that word of mouth would be a key tool for development in the awareness that Burundi is a small country. She paid keen attention to how her brand presented itself and meticulously attended to every customer who entered her shop with the utmost professionalism. Her reputation preceded her.

Social media became another tool she used to define her brand on her own terms. Before long, Praise added a salon to her business portfolio. The name of the salon is The Luxe Clinic, or TLC for short. The name doubles in meaning as “tender love and care,” which Praise believes everyone needs to experience.

She fondly recalls an older man coming into her shop to buy a bracelet for his 16-year-old daughter. He candidly shared that such an occurrence was taboo, but businesses like J’adore have made it increasingly acceptable for men to buy beauty products. These days, TLC is often inundated with men seeking beauty treatments alongside their trips to barbershops. Seeing people embrace self-love with no inhibitions gave Praise confirmation that she was fulfilling her true purpose through her business.

With a thriving business in tow, Praise aimed to sharpen her skills to elevate her business even further. She learned of the opportunity to polish her business expertise during a conversation with a friend over coffee. After an introduction to Sinapis and an understanding of our alumnus’ successes with business growth, Praise had no doubts and signed up immediately.

One of the most mind-blowing lessons that Praise has learnt from Sinapis is, in her words, “As we do business, we are not only doing it to enrich ourselves. We are also enriching the community.” Praise applies this to her business through her strict adherence to fair treatment of her staff. Pouring into the people she works with is a key component of her success because of learning that building community can be at the centre of a business.

Through Sinapis, Praise encountered a revolutionary approach to competitive businesses. The success of her cosmetics business caused similar businesses to crop up. Her former employees and friends even opened some. While trying to remain afloat in a sea of businesses emulating her own, Praise learned to use the competition as fuel to become more efficient and find innovative strategies to keep her business ahead of the curve.

At the foundation of Praise’s business, however, is her faith. It is the rock solid foundation that she built her business upon and is the vital ingredient that she encourages any upcoming entrepreneur to have. For Praise, a business without God will always be hard to run.

Sinapis equipped Praise with the knowledge she needed to elevate her business.

As she looks ahead, continuing to piece together systems that improve productivity is one of her priorities. Her vision remains as clear as ever. Praise wants J’adore to go global, starting with regional expansion throughout East Africa.

There is no doubt that the woman who moved to Burundi despite not speaking the language, took on city officials head-on for closing her shop, and single-handedly spurred on the mainstreaming of lingerie shops in Burundi, has the ability to do that and much more.

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