Breastfeeding pillows and diaper bags: Catering to Kenya's middle class moms

Building a business empire, one diaper bag at a time
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Building a business empire, one diaper bag at a time 02:57

(CNN)At the Baby Banda mother and baby fair in Nairobi, sales of Beauty Bee's flagship product -- a pillow that helps new mothers support their babies while breastfeeding -- are brisk.

"When we first did this event, in a good month we would move between five to 10 pillows," says Beauty Bee and Baby Banda founder Carol Ngige. "Seven years later we average between 200-250 pillows, so there has been tremendous growth over that period of time."
Founded in 2006, Beauty Bee sells a range of childcare products, including diaper bags and sheets, moving around 500 units a month in total. The company supplies supermarkets and hospitals, as well as selling directly through its website.
    Ngige is riding a consumer wave in Kenya. Household incomes have been rising steadily for the past decade -- the country's per capita gross domestic product (GDP) more than doubled between 2004 and 2014.
    This growth in disposable income has driven a boom consumer goods businesses, from health and beauty to beer, cars and white goods. In the Kenyan capital Nairobi, average consumption per capita is more than $2,800 per year, according to consultants McKinsey.
    These new, young, middle class consumers often spend on childcare products -- in particular baby food and diapers. As the population grows in size and wealth, this market is likely to keep on growing, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs like Ngige.
    Ngige started out sewing her products at home; today she employs eight people in her workshop. She says that her success has already attracted imitators.
    "We have tried to protect our intellectual property, but that does not stop unscrupulous businesspeople from taking what we rightfully developed and making counterfeits," she says. "But if we notice it we go legal about it."
    Despite the challenges of piracy, Ngige hopes to expand further through a new web platform that offers advice and guidance for first-time mothers.
    "I love what I do," she says. "My work has exposed me to different things. One, the ability to create, the ability to innovate. That's why I like what I do."