A career in the oil and gas industry is a dream come true to many.
So, when Maxima Nsimenta abandoned her job in Congo Brazzaville as an expatriate field engineer in the artificial lift department with Schlumberger, the world’s largest oil field services company, it had to be for something she was extremely passionate about.
To her, there was no doubt about her passion. It was undoubtedly in beauty products.
“I am glad that I can do my engineering work well, but that is not who I am. I like things to do with beauty,” says Nsimenta, who graduated from Makerere University with a first-class degree in Electrical Engineering in 2011.
While still at university, Nsimenta was part of the team that developed the first prototype of the Kiira EV, an electric battery- powered car. As an electrical engineering student, she was part of the group that worked on the low converter circuit that transmits high-voltage power to low-voltage power to give signals to the car user on the dash board.
At the same time, she was one of the brains that developed several software systems. Among them is the academic records management system programme. The software is currently used by the Uganda Police Force, Ndejje University and some schools within Makerere University, among other institutions.
“I was literally working while studying,” says Nsimenta. “While at university, I had the time to study, work and party. I just couldn’t be at university and not party with my friends.”
Upon graduating, Nsimenta was unemployed for eight months not because she had no job, but because she did not know the path to take.
“I was not happy with what I was doing. I was afraid of moving ahead on a path that was not mine,” reminisces the engineer who attended Namagunga schools from P1 to S6.
During the period she wasn’t working, Nsimenta did a lot of soul-searching. She prayed, researched and read a lot – trying to find a different career path.
Not sure of what to do, she took up a managerial position with Total E&P, which she still found unsatisfactory. This compelled her to seek another employment with Schlumberger-limited. For two and a half years, Nsimenta was based in Pointe Noire, Congo Brazzaville supervising hundreds of men drilling oil.
“It was a very strenuous job that required long hours of work, but every second was well paid,” says Nsimenta, who earned a monthly salary of $10,000.
JOURNEY TO LIVARA
The failure to get a salon to retouch her hair while in Pointe Noire made her shave and re-grow the hair without using chemicals.
“I went to several beauty salons in the capital. All the hairdressers, who were black, told me they only worked on white people’s hair,” she says. “I had never been so annoyed. I just cut off all my hair.”
During one of her vacations, she embarked on research that revealed to her Uganda’s untapped multibillion shea butter industry. Consequently, this pushed her in the direction of cosmetics manufacturing.
With the encouragement of her grandmother, Theresa Mbiire, mother to businessman Charles Mbiire, Nsimenta contacted Uganda Industrial Research Institute concerning her project. To her delight, she was given all she needed.
In 2014, she put together a three-people team of technical experts who started manufacturing her products while she had returned to her job in Pointe Noire.
“I believe in teamwork and technical expertise. All my products are laboratory made to ensure quality,” says Nsimenta, adding that natural ingredients are good, but one needs knowledge on how to blend them to produce quality products.
All her products are tested prior to being marketed.
“Due to my background at Schlumberger, I am keen on perfection. There is no room for error because a slight mistake can cause an explosion at the oil field,” she says. “So, my philosophy is: do it right the first time, always.”
A year later, she resigned from her job to concentrate on her company. But because of her outstanding performance, she was granted a year-long paid leave just in case she changed her mind. She, however, did not.
“Today Livara is small, but in a few years, I will be paying someone $10,000 [a month] to work for my company,” says the manufacturer of organic beauty products.
It is also the first company to manufacture organic lipstick in east and central Africa.
“I applied this in the morning. I had breakfast and lunch, but it is still intact,” says Nsimenta about her Livara lipstick.
At the moment, she plans to open up at least 6,000 Livara stores across the continent. In the short run; however, she plans on opening up a second Livara branch in Ntinda.
Her first and only branch so far is housed at the Cube at Kisementi, Kamwokya. She plans on opening up beauty salons that will be using her products next to her stores this year. Early this year, she started exporting her products to Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.
“But it is really on small scale,” she says.
Currently, she distributes her products to a selection of supermarkets, pharmacies and cosmetic shops in Kampala. Outside Kampala, Livara products are available in Jinja and Mbarara. She promises they will soon be in Mbale.
To celebrate Uganda’s natural beauty, Nsimenta hosts the Naturally Ug cocktail event sponsored by Uganda Waragi. The monthly event aims at raising awareness about Ugandan-made products. Her just-concluded event last weekend was graced by Nigerian artiste, Chidinma.
Nsimenta is a dedicated fan of Ugandan soccer. In her free time, she loves reading.