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The Iron Lady Of Beer

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Tabitha Karanja is in a svelte black dress and seated in the boardroom of her well-appointed Nairobi office. She has a disarming smile and a gentleness that makes it hard to imagine that, in this very boardroom, this soft-spoken mother of four has struck many a business deal and battled feisty competitors. Those who work with her know that beneath the pleasant exterior is a hard-nosed businesswoman with a strong mind and a stronger resolve.

This is evident every morning she revs up her Range Rover to 120kph, driving an hour and 91 kilometers to her Naivasha brewery from her home in Nairobi. This is a woman with a drive few can match. She is the face of corporate Kenya.

Karanja is CEO of Keroche Breweries, Kenya’s second largest brewer (East African Breweries Limited is leader). In all of Africa, she is perhaps the only woman to have founded a beer company. It is an industry for the big boys, but an industry she says she has never felt out of place in. Her heart is in beer-making, and this is where she says she will continue to be, brewing up more action in the years to come.

In August, Karanja celebrated her 50th birthday in Nairobi with close friends and business associates. In many ways, it was a tribute to the milestones she reached in the industry.

“I don’t feel old,” says Karanja. Where most women would have contemplated slowing down after 50, Karanja does not see retirement anywhere on the radar. If anything, the game has only begun.

In January, her brewery in Naivasha will increase capacity by 10 times in a $100 million expansion plan. Where currently it manufactures 60,000 bottles a day, the upgraded facility will produce 600,000 bottles, as Karanja stridently looks to widen her reach in the rest of East Africa and increase her market share to 20%.

Her top-sellers are Summit Lager and Summit Malt, which started production in 2008 as “naturally-brewed, sugar-free, and hygienic alternatives” targeting consumers in the low-end alcohol market that could not afford elite brands or were more dependent on illicit brews.

Today, it is clear Kenya’s social climbers want more. Business is anything but flat.

“We are launching another beer brand in the next six months. I want the Summit brand to be all over Africa. The brand should live beyond my time,” says Karanja.

Beer or paint?

Karanja’s story is one of resilience and determination. Her first job was with the Ministry of Tourism in Kenya. Thereafter, her maiden business venture, with husband Joseph Karanja, was a hardware store, which she ran for 10 years. She wanted to diversify, and began searching the market for ideas, which is when she saw a gap in the beer market. Her other option was to sell paint, but she thought: “How often will a man paint his house? I have to go in for fast-moving consumer goods.”

With a paltry KSh200,000 ($2,200) from her savings and the 30 acres of land in Naivasha that she owned, in 1998, she started manufacturing fortified wines from a one-room facility. After 10 years in the wine and spirit business, she entered the beer market with the Summit brand.

“People were left to drinking anything that was available in the villages. I came up with a product that was affordable, hygienic and met international standards,” says Karanja.

The challenges were many, as it took a whole year – and several desperate trips to the financing banks – before the brand finally gained traction.

“We didn’t have anyone’s support. People did not understand there could be another brewery in this country. We had to fight and break that monopoly by not giving up, and believing that if multinationals can do it, so can we, as it’s good for the country, and good for Africa, so we can create jobs. There was no looking back.”

Over the years, Karanja has taken on the might of the competitors and the many “smear campaigns” against her, but did she face any setbacks for being a woman?

“I guess I am one of the few lucky women in business. I have never had to face discrimination. People don’t see me as a woman, they see me as an entrepreneur. I believe in myself, and believe in whatever I am doing.”

This belief is an attribute she intends imparting to the next generation of Kenyan business leaders. In May this year, her company launched the Keroche Foundation to train and mentor upcoming entrepreneurs and small business owners. Her company employs over 300 people and gives back to the community through youth education.

The young ones in her own family are taking her cue. Karanja’s 26-year-old daughter Anerlisa Muigai is following in her mother’s footsteps. After a marketing degree in London, Muigai returned to Nairobi last year to launch Executive, a line of still bottled water for a niche market.

“I have always looked up to my mother. She has been my biggest inspiration, she gives me hope in so many ways,” says the young entrepreneur. “She is a successful businesswoman because she never gives up. She conquers every goal, is a go-getter and very smart. I like that she comes home and does not make the house an office.”

Karanja agrees that for a woman juggling work and family, there are immeasurable sacrifices to be made every day.

“Being at the top, you have to balance it all. When you sleep, you are so tired, because you have made sure everything has gone right, that you have fed your family, and you have given time for your business. It’s difficult as there are sacrifices you make, like giving up on your sleep. I sleep after midnight, and wake at six.

“Every day after work, I take a Summit Malt. It does not give you a hangover, it’s good for the body,” she says. Even at home, Karanja cannot stay without endorsing the brand she is so passionate about.

Entrepreneurs

From The Arab World To Africa

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Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi; image supplied

In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.

She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.

In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.

As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.

The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.

In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.

She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes. 

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Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty

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In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.

The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing. 

“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”

The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”

Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.

Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.

“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”

Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff, Hollywood & Entertainment

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Entrepreneurs

Covid-19: Restaurants, Beauty Salons, Cinemas Among Businesses That Will Operate Again In South Africa As Ramaphosa Announces Eased Lockdown Restrictions

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South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation announcing that the government will further ease the country’s lockdown restrictions.

Restaurants, beauty salons, cinemas are among the businesses that will be allowed to operate again in South Africa.

The country is still on lockdown ‘Level 3’ of the government’s “risk adjusted strategy”.

President Ramaphosa also spoke on the gender based violence in the country.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I stand before the women and the girls of South Africa this evening to talk about another pandemic that is raging in our country. The killing of women and children by the men of our country. As a man, as a husband, and as a father to daughters, I am appalled at what is no less than a war that is being waged against the women and the children of our country,” says Ramaphosa.

Watch below:

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