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“When I was in Kenya, I was thought of as one of the best, but at the back of my mind, I felt I still had a long way to go. When I got to Dubai, I realized how little I actually knew. The industry there wasn’t just about implementing what someone had learned; it was about creating unique signature treatments and massages. A therapist was not credited on how much they could mimic, but how much they could innovate.”
Co-founder and Managing Director
"I trained as a teacher, but I was never sure exactly what I wanted to teach until I came across the beauty and wellness industry,” says Astine Nyambura Muchiri. She is the co-founder and managing director of Mvua, a company that sells handmade spa products and provides spa business solutions.
Her journey in the industry started at Aphrodite School of Beauty Therapy, where she worked as a junior therapist before training students.
She qualified as a professional therapist in 2000 after passing a UK-based exam carried out by the International Therapy Exam Council.
“It’s one of the highest qualifications a therapist can get. Even so, I knew it wasn’t enough. Spa and beauty is a constantly evolving industry and if you don’t renew and refresh, you get left behind. I wanted to be the best, so I pushed myself.”
In 2006, Astine applied for a job as a trainer in Dubai where she trained therapists for a cruise ship company, Steiner-OneSpaWorld.
And as she trained other therapists, Astine got new ideas about spa designs, herbal treatments, and massage techniques.
In 2007, she sat for another qualification, this time the Swiss-based Comite International d’Esthetique et de Cosmetology, which is run by one of the world’s major beauty therapy organizations.
In 2009, after working in Dubai for three years, Astine decided to return to Kenya.
“I thought, given my qualifications, that finding a job would be simple, but it wasn’t. Most spas thought I was overqualified. After failing to get a job, I decided to go into consulting,” she says.
“Borrowing from the inspiration I’d picked from Dubai, I helped people who wanted to open spas with design and branding, as well as training their employees. I also helped existing spas improve their therapies.”
From her consultancy, Astine would make about Sh80,000 a month. And then in 2011, she got a job at a luxury resort, Planhotel, in Zanzibar.
“The best thing about Zanzibar was seeing how they infused spices into their therapies. I’d seen this in Dubai, but what made Zanzibar special is that we got to visit the farms where these herbs were grown and picked whatever we wanted to use,” Astine says.
“I knew that this was something I wanted to try in Kenya.”
She also worked closely with Thai therapists who taught her the value of good customer service and hospitality.
“For these ladies, beauty therapy isn’t just a job, it’s like a calling ingrained in their culture. Watching them do a message was like watching the magic happen.”
Astine returned to Kenya in 2014 determined to start her own company and implement what she’d picked up over 15 years as a therapist.