Mulumebet Iori – Founder, Byogenic Beauty Spot, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Words of Wisdom: “Women should avoid culture constraints. All African women need to push to have more education & exposure to grow.” – Mulumebet Iori

Interview with Mulumebet Iori, Founder,  Byogenic Beauty Spot, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Mulumebet Iori – Founder, Byogenic Beauty Spot, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 

Mulumebet Iori is one of the pioneers of the beauty care industry in Ethiopia. She is a professional Aesthetician Electrologist who has been in business since November 1993.

Fulfilling a life long dream, Mulu started Addis Ababa’s first beauty Center Byogenic Beauty Spa which offers a wide range of treatments.

Mulu now owns three Spas, she employs 45 people and through a training center she founded, she has assisted in creating job opportunities for 678 students. In addition to teaching the youth,  she co-founder GMM Garment P.L.C founded in 2004 by three Ethiopian women professionals – which employs 65 young Ethiopian girls.

A pioneer, teacher, and employer changing the economic landscape of Ethiopia – a real leading lady

Mulumebet Iori ~ YouTube promo video (approx. 5 min.):

Byogenic website:

Mulumebet Iori – Founder, Byogenic Beauty Spot, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Note: The key messages in the interview have been transcribed and slightly altered for legibility and succinctness. More information is provided in the audio and video version above. Please comment on the site, we want to hear your wisdom!

What was the catalyst for starting in the beauty business?

  • I always dreamt about having my own business. It was important to me to be beautiful and make others beautiful.
  • I continued to expand on the business since there was nothing available in Ethiopia in the beauty industry. Movies inspired me to bring the services to Ethiopia including skin care, message etc.
  • This helps with women’s confidence. Because when you feel beautiful and dress nicely you feel more confident.

Culturally is make-up acceptable?

  • Ethiopians don’t really accept make-up on face. Now we are starting to see more of it.
  • People are using more make-up when attending events, weddings, parties, or graduations.
  • Culturally people ask is it spoiling my skin? Do I have to wear it every day?

What are some make-up tips you have that help women look professional?

  • We started our training center to teach women how to wear make-up and how to care for their skin.
  • Wear a little makeup, sometimes it is enough.
  • Most importantly is to enhance the eyes and the mouth.  A little a bit on the eyes on the lips and foundation. That is all you need.

How did you go from Spa business to the garment business?

  • It was a family business and we joined a friend.
  • The garment business is encouraged for women in Ethiopia.
  •  I have cousin who is in the garment business, and a friend who is a qualified designer and I am in the beauty business. We incorporate all our talents.
  • I am in more in Public Relations of the business.

How about your beauty training business

When I started Byogenic it was with three people. When I started the beauty industry it was not well known in Ethiopia.

  • We served very few Ethiopian clients. We served more the international community who was more familiar with skincare and spa services
  • I started going out to speak at international women’s clubs, schools of what skin care meant.
  • My clientele started to grow and we out grew are capacity
  • So I decided to train while working inside spa
  • We received more clients. I realized we needed to expand our business.
  • We  needed to expand with qualified people, so I needed a professional training center.
    • I tried to get corporations to invest in it, however it was challenging so I started with my own investment. I just started with a small place and then I started to teach.
    • We started with 40 people in the first training programs.
    • People where getting jobs immediately
  • We really needed the training center to grow.

Did you have many obstacles when you were starting to grow?

  • Lots of obstacles
  1. Bringing product from abroad
  2. Gaining permissions
  3. People started to learn then quite

How did you go about importing products?

  • You have to go through government process
  • You have to have a license to import
  • I had distribution rights in New Jersey, and I had to contact them
  • Taxes needed to be paid
  • Cosmetics are not seen as necessary in Country, makes it more difficult.

When expanding business would you recommend the approach you took?

  • In Africa things are going right, going wrong. That you have to accept. We deal with it. You go with it to have success. You have to win the challenge.

If you were to start your spas all over again, would you do it in the same order that you did. For example, would you try to get your products first?

  • When I started I did bring a lot of products first, however, policies change so you have to change.
  • When policies change you have to figure it out through trial and error. We go to various offices to make sure we stay abreast of what the policies are.

There are a lot of salons around, on the street corners, what makes you different?

  • Firstly, these newer spas exist because of our training center.
  • There was nothing similar before our training center
  • We understand people want to have their own business
  • We are different, because professionalism, products and services
    • We continue to learn staying abreast of what is new
      • Many people want to relax and they enjoy the extras in the experience.
      • The smaller spas are appealing to another market, people who want less of an experience and pay less.

You are mentoring younger women, and sometimes the belief is that they become competition, rather than how you see it as helping the industry. You have created competition for yourself and at the same time created demand for the industry.

How do you motivate your team?

  • I am very open with staff
  • I let them know that I am a workaholic
  • I provide them training with the expectation of what I want to see for the Byogenic brand.
  • I don’t like people don’t want to work.
  • If we don’t have clients we don’t get paid.
  • We motivate not only by salary.
  • There is a commission based on what they do
  • We also have bonus two times a year
  • Once a year we gather and organize a party. We nominate best workers of the year, happiest person, the most competent/carful in the treatment rooms…Various categories are acknowledged based on their performance.
    • It is more of an emotional award .

How do you promote good service?

  • We meet once a week and we always talk about how to improve service.
  • We talk about if a client is dissatisfied.
  • We talk about it, but confront it.

Services need to come from the top and trickle down through the business.

What does service mean to you?

You have to welcome the customer. It is very important. Often customers don’t know how things work. They must make them feel comfortable i.e. Explain the message experience. We offer coffee, tea, water … prepare them for an experience and make them feel at home.

How do you train your staff to communicate with the client?

I always train my staff

  1. Their image has to be right.
  2. Reception of your client
  3. How to deal with the client. They should never be a ‘friend’ of the client. They are at their service. They should be friendly but not their friend.
    1. Limit what you are talking about. Avoiding talking about yourself i.e. Telling them I am poor, I have this many children.  The clients don’t come to hear our story.
    2. We don’t talk about politics because that will often lead to arguments or clashes.
    3. No gossip about colleagues to client.

Just talk to clients about her/his  service and sincerely complement them. Make them aware of other services.

They will show interest by asking about how the client’s week is? And leave it to the client to share.

Do you teach your therapist to interact differently with the client – to talk or not to talk?

We teach our therapist to talk 5 minutes, maximum ten. There are customers that like to talk longer, but we tell them not to because at the beginning therapist should be finding out where the client is sore and what areas to focus on.

Because she is doing manual job, she needs to concentrate on her technique, not create conversation.

What is some advice you can give to women to look current?

  • Looking beautiful gives you confidence
  • Everyone should be clean and well put together
  • A little make-up
  • Your jewelry should match
  • Manicure and pedicure

What is the most significant impact that you have made in your career?

When we started there were three of us, now 45 in spa and 65 in the garment business. I have helped put my children through university educated along with my husband.

I give education to a lot of people.

If you were to attribute success to one thing what would it be?

I am very stubborn. I have to do things the way I want.  Nobody can stop me.

What is the most challenging aspect of your career?

Staffing. You waste time, money, training and people leave you.  Especially at the beginning of my business, there was a lot of waste. Customers don’t want to see a new person all the time.

What is something you have done that did not work, what would you do differently?

I was trying to create a big premises for the spa, but it didn’t work. I no longer want to expand as we have three spas and a garment company, now I consider how much energy I have.

At the beginning I would look for a partner with a lot of money as this industry needs a lot of money.

Edgeness Insight (An enhanced version of you when you push the edge of your comfort zone). What is something that you are uncomfortable doing, but you need to continue to do, in order to make you as successful as you are?

When I fire staff. Sometimes I fear doing it. I have to it when you run a successful business.

What does success mean to you?

An achievement through time. I did my dream job. When I started with nothing, I didn’t know anything. Now I have different spas and lots of personnel. I have given many chances to Ethiopians because of training. I am a pioneer in the beauty business.

How do you define leadership?

In leadership you have look challenge positively during period of change.

Leadership Lessons Learned – Mulumebet Iori

  1. Be decisive
  2. Take risk and learn
  3. Acknowledge other accomplishments

Once you retire, how would like people to see you as a leader?

I would like them to seem me as an educator.

If there is one thing you would do that you haven’t done yet?

I am a great cook. When I retire I want to have a cheese and wine resort.

You mentioned you would not be where you are if you didn’t have the husband you have?

I needed an education to pursue the beauty industry and he encouraged me to do so. I had no money, but he encouraged me. I took the small kids with me to the US for the year.

Reflective Realizations from Mulumebet Iori

Q. What advice would you give to your 10 yr. old daughter?

Be strong and take all challenges with a  positive attitude.

Q. What do you wish you were told at that age?

I lost biological parents when I was 9 / 10. I wish they were there to tell me “we love you.”

Words of Wisdom by Mulumebet Iori

Women should avoid culture constraints. All African women need to push to have more education & exposure to grow.To be successful one needs a clear objective and vision.


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    1 Response to "Mulumebet Iori"

    • janet

      I am very impressed by your initiative, hope more women will see the importance of entrepreneurship, or self employment.

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