Growing up in Goma in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo finding a powder foundation on the market was almost like finding gold dust recalls Gisela Van Houcke, founder of Zuri Luxury, an aspirational African hair and beauty brand and chain of hair bars.
From an early age she has been passionate about beauty. Van Houcke has been wearing hair extensions since she was fourteen. When she fled her war-torn region to live in the UK she could walk into any hair and beauty store and find the products she needed.
She gave up her career as lawyer at one of the leading law firms in London to move back to her home continent, where she was again disappointed about the lack of affordable quality products. “How could that be, given that black women are the biggest spenders on beauty and hair products,” she wondered.
Afro hairstyle best seller
Finding out that there were so few African women involved in the industry fueled her motivation in 2016 to start Zuri, a beauty brand for and by African women. It has the ambition to gain a slice of the fast-growing market as the number of working middle-class women is growing. The market is currently estimated at US$ 12 billion in sales annually.
Zuri has been a client of XSML since 2021 and received US$ 800,000 in two loans to invest in inventory, furniture, and equipment for new hair salons. Since our loans, the staff grew from 19 to 60 employees. The company not only offers hair products, but also cosmetics and accessories.
Customers value Zuri’s beauty advice. The company's name comes from the word mzuri which means ‘beautiful’ in Swahili.
Growing off and online
Zuri has now five hair bars (three in DRC, one in Uganda and one in Rwanda), a web shop and numerous re-sellers across the region. This year it will still open a second hair bar in Kinshasa and a franchise in Goma.
It has 15,000 customers, 500,000 followers in its social media and sales showed an average annual growth rate of 75% between 2016 and 2022. Zuri digitalises all customer interactions on its platform and uses the data to provide personalised customer service.
“We are not there to change African women. We are there to enhance their beauty and give them more confidence in themselves," says the entrepreneur. From all the different hairstyles Zuri has on offer, the best-selling product is the wig that resembles the Afro the best.