Logic and penny pinching go out the window when it comes to personal appearance. It is little surprise then that the global hair care industry is valued at $83.4 billion annually. That’s more than 20 times our national budget spent on weaves, shampoos, waxes, and dozens of other products, and the market is still growing at more than $2 billion per year. Africa, a net consumer of the products, is a significant contributor to global sales. In 2014, in just three countries – South Africa, Cameroon and Nigeria – hair extensions and affiliated products pulled in more than $1.1 billion. Now, a Zimbabwean pharmacist and cosmetologist is tapping into this huge market, and putting her Zimbabwean product, Feso, on the global hair care map.
Kuda Manyepxa is a business woman based in Mount Pleasant, specialising in the manufacture and distribution of a miracle hair growth product called Feso. She has put her 22 years in the hair and beauty industry to good use, and Feso is already available in 69 countries.
Feso – known as ruredzo in vernacular and by its scientific name, Dicerocaryum senecioides – is a plant indigenous to Zimbabwe. It has been proven to thicken thinning hair, re-grow bald patches, repair a receding hairline, to improve scalp health and promote hair growth. Kuda’s product is made up of a combination of the powdered feso plant and 16 other oils which include: olive, grape seed, castor, tea tree and avocado oils among others. Feso works on all hair types and on both men and women.
Born and bred in rural Bindura, Kuda grew up herding cattle in the pastures where they would wash their hair in the stream with feso to make it silky. Little did she know that this herb – which grows wild at her rural home – would change her life forever.
However, success did not happen overnight. “I first trained as a pharmacist and hairdressing was my hobby. Eventually I left pharmaceuticals and opened my first salon.” says Kuda. She is now a certified cosmetologist and has been a hairdresser in many different countries.
Kuda told Harare News that many local women prefer not to wear their own hair because of bad hair issues. “When I came back to Zimbabwe, I noticed that almost all women wore weaves. I realised it was because of bad hair issues and also because though there is a lot of talent in our hair salons, there are no professionals.” Kuda added that the tight hairstyles and heavy braids favoured by many women can lead to damaged and diminished hair.
Kuda’s turning point came when one of her clients – who was about to get married but had very little hair which could not be styled – came to her.
“I went back to Bindura and came back with the feso plant. Coupled with my pharmaceutical knowledge I mixed the plant with some natural oils and gave them to the client. Within a week, her hair began to grow. Word got out, and soon more and more people began to ask for the concoction which was then raw and unrefined but still produced excellent results, although it left an oily residue.”
As demand grew, Kuda began to feel the strain on her wallet and after giving away the product for over two years, a customer suggested that she sell the concoction and thus the business of Feso began.
“I began producing more and packaging it and selling it for $20. Word spread until I was selected to participate in an international training program in the United States.”
Kuda describes an embarrassing episode during the training which ended up working to her advantage. “A woman from Chad challenged my product claiming that hair products don’t really work. She took one bottle and because she had no hair announced that she expected to see results by the end of the 3-week training. I had only brought 50 bottles with me and sure enough, by the end of the training, her hair had started to grow back. As a result, every bottle I had was sold and I came back to Zimbabwe with 49 outside markets, from zero.”
Kuda grew and nurtured her foreign and local markets and now sells 1,000 Feso products every two months. Currently, she is working towards opening Zimbabwe’s first local hair clinic. The Feso brand is growing with 24 agents in Harare and can be bought from all QV pharmacies.
Feso comes in the form of a spray, hair food, shampoo, and conditioner to cater for different hair types and ranges in price from $10–$25.
Image: Kuda Manyepxa’s popular hair growth product, Feso.