Meet Therese Karitanyi, Founder & Managing Director of Iraba Cosmetics (Kemura)

Iraba Cosmetics makes personal care products for very curly/coily hair. Iraba wants to take hair off the worry list for consumers. They want their hair products to be a source of fun, pride and confidence. Iraba’s philosophy is that hair should not be a source of frustration, insecurity or stress.

How did you conceptualize this idea?

I was always a curious kid… I observed what I now call “hair behaviours” around me and was puzzled by certain things…I’m still trying to answer some of those questions today.

In terms of a path to this point….it hasn’t been linear. Having an engineering/business foundation has been helpful in staying structured and cutting through the noise, but really, it’s the willingness to learn, and the interest in finding solutions that continue to drive the project.

From your perspective, what do you think is needed for the e-Commerce sector to thrive in Rwanda and in the diaspora? What does it take to build a global online business for a niche product?

e-Commerce, like any model, only works if it fits the users. As providers, we learn to respect that our buyers have choices, so if their experience is not ideal, they’ll move on. In Rwanda, like elsewhere, it boils down to creating a compelling purchasing process, and we also have to design for our own realities (awareness, payment, delivery etc.).

For Iraba, e-Commerce is exciting because it opens up client bases that we could have never dreamed of, but the logistical challenges are very real! It also puts us on a stage where we’re competing against industry giants…it’s a great opportunity and an even bigger challenge.

For a project of our size, the complexity in logistics is higher than one might expect because we chose to serve the globe. I always get excited when I see an order from a place I have never heard of. Iraba is teaching me some geography too!
That said, we’ve had to cut back on some coverage to try to reduce that complexity and focus our efforts. We still ship worldwide but focus on North America and serve Kigali through Sunshine Pharmacy at MTN center-Nyarutarama.

What are the values that drive your business?

Goodness, ease, simplicity. The user comes first above all else, and that’s easy in a way, because I am a user too. In fact, the hardest part has been to keep pushing through the awkward stages, when you know you can do better but you can’t get there until you do just “okay” first. So I will always be grateful to our first clients, who encouraged us to keep going by letting us know that we were on a good path.

What is your vision for Iraba (for 2020 and beyond)?

To tighten up operations and introduce some new and exciting initiatives…stay tuned :)!!

How can people get in touch with you to inquire more about your services?

Please go to and sign up with your email, we send love notes once in a while :). You can also follow us on social media at @irabacosmetics (on all platforms) and then…please tell a friend! You can also reach us at