In the early 90s, Mr. Kinuthia used to load coffee at the then flourishing Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (KPCU).
He then moved on to hawking perfumes and on his first day made a tidy sum of Sh600, which was good money back then. While the money was not bad, he wondered if he was doing the right thing but went back the next day and made the same amount.
However some of his friends who had pursued higher education met him hawking and mistook him for a beggar. They even offered to find him a job as an office messenger at Kenya Power. This got him worried and he became uncomfortable about meeting his friends.He Changed strategy, he began selling to salons and offices.
The salons began asking him to also supply them with shampoo. Seeing a golden opportunity, he researched and found out he could make his own using a charcoal stove (jiko), sufuria and blending stick. Armed with Ksh3,000, he began making his shampoo in a small room in Kirinyaga road, Nairobi.
The salons loved the shampoos and he would sell out within a short period. He even began hiring a handcart (mkokoteni) to supply to his clients. This was how his brand, Interconsumer Products was born.
Soon the one man business grew and he bought his own handcart and hired someone to pull it. His clientele also expanded and to satisfy demands he also introduced conditioners and gels to his products range.
In 2001, Paul Kinuthia formalised the business and hired professionals to help with the running of his booming venture.
By this time, he had spent so much money on police officers and KRA officials who had taken advantage of the fact that he was unaware of some business aspects, such as, his entitlement to corporate tax relief as an investor to aid him in recovering the money he spent on machinery and constructing the factory.
Steadily, his products infiltrated the Kenyan market with the affordable prices attached to the brand attracting multitudes. His flagship Nice & Lovely was especially a major hit.
Interconsumer was headed for success and there was nothing stopping him. The company grew and made profits amounting to hundreds of millions.
They even won Business Daily’s Top 100 SME competition before crossing to revenues of more than Sh1 billion and joining the Club 101 competitions.
In a market that was once dominated by international brands, Nice & Lovely became a powerhouse. It attracted the attention of multinationals and at some point Mr. Paul Kinuthia was sued by French cosmetics giant L’Oreal.
The brand instigated legal proceedings against him claiming he had infringed on their trademark Dark & Lovely.
This is why the decision to sell his beauty and cosmetic arm of Interconsumer to L’Oreal was nerve wracking. This included selling Nice & Lovely, Gold Touch Face Cream and Clarion Nail Polish.
He had initially been approached by L’Oreal in 2010 asking him to be the distributor of their products range but he declined due to their previous lawsuit.