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Teacher quit profession, turned henna painting into lucrative business

Aisha Mohamed had to quit her Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) teaching profession just to concentrate fully on her henna painting hobby six years ago.

Ms Aisha, 32, a resident of Mkomani in Lamu Old Town, completed her ECDE course in 2014.

The following year, she landed a job, was employed under the Board of Management (BOM) in one of the public schools within the town, and earned Sh9, 000 per month.

Ms Aisha worked for about one year, only for her to quit in early 2016 after her childhood henna painting hobby became irresistible. She loved henna decorations and while a small girl, she could spend much time just sitting watching keenly to her grandmother or mother doing the painting for clients.

She became possessed with the art, practiced, and became perfect.

Ms Aisha told coast business magazine that after completing High School, while waiting for results to proceed with college studies, she decided to spend her free time nurturing the henna art.

Ms Aisha says at the beginning she was shy and jittery, so she was choosy with clients, sometimes only drawing family members, relatives, and friends to taste the waters and gain confidence.

By the time the KCSE results were out, she had fully mastered the art. In fact, she was an expert in henna decoration and had even become the sought after artist in town. She never attended an art school to learn henna painting.

She said she was not willing to study teaching but had to bow to pressure from her parents.

“I had to join one of the colleges in Malindi in Kilifi County where I completed my ECDE course in 2014. I got a job but realized later that I can’t really concentrate since my passion has always been in henna painting.  Sometimes I could even miss classes just to go and decorate clients,” said Ms Aisha.

She explains that instead of relying on the Sh9000 monthly salary, her henna art could enable her  get at least Sh10,000 just within one week.

 Aisha said at the end she opted to quit teaching and embark fully on the henna drawing business.

Six years down the line, the henna artist is now living her dream of becoming an independent entrepreneur.

Today, Ms Aisha’s clientele has grown rapidly.

Her business is booming with most of her clients being both domestic and international tourists.

She says for local clients, she charges between Sh500 and Sh2000, especially with a small tattoo, which is popular with most of her customers.

For tourists, particularly international, she charges between Sh2,500 to Sh5,000. The price varies with the size and length of the painting or even the design or pattern requested.

She says the terms of her henna business are even better when decorating brides before their weddings.

“When dealing with brides, my terms are different. I can charge as high as Sh10,000 per bride client for a complete body painting that takes about four to five hours. And there are some seasons where I can receive orders to decorate brides almost daily. In a good month, I can go home with as much as Sh100,000. As you can see, my decision to resign from teaching isn’t regrettable at all,” said Ms Aisha.

She added, “I am comfortable where I am and I don’t see any reason going back to teaching whatsoever.”

She says constant praises and encouragement from clients have motivated her to turn the hobby into a full-time job.

Her cousin, Fatma Bakari says she has been encouraging her to start a Facebook page.

“Her business has prospered. I have been her number one client. I like her way of doing things. That’s why I insist on her starting either a Facebook page or a Whatsapp group to enable her to get orders directly. Apart from working at home, she also needs to embrace going to where the client is if necessary,” said Ms Bakari.

Ms Aisha’s paint is entirely made of henna, a plant that grows in the tropics to between 12 and 15 feet high.

The leaves are crushed and mixed with other ingredients to create a paste.

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