Meet Guara, man who’s been sharpening blades in Nairobi for 25 years


Moses Guara
Moses Guara. Photo/Paul Waweru

In the middle of the busy streets of Nairobi, a man carries a bag about three kilograms heavy on his right shoulder.

Inside the bag are stones, human hair and a brush, tools of trade that police officers once associated with ‘black magic’.

They only came to realise later that they were what Moses Guara uses to serve his clients.

Guara’s main hustle for the past 25 years has been sharpening the blades of shaving machines as he moves from one barber shop to another.

In each shop, he has a designated corner; an empty space that turns into a beehive of activity every time he pops in.

It takes him thirty minutes to dismantle the blades of six machines, sharpen them and put them back to their original form with an ease that oozes experience.

He repeats this process in at least six other barber shops in the city and its outskirts.

According to him, this is the most important part of the shaving process; servicing the machines.

“If a barber use a machine that is blunt, it will scratch the skin and causes some light cuts which if not attended to properly, causes pimples,” Guara says.

Barbers particularly in Eastlands speak highly of him.

Paul, a barber at a high-end shop in town reveals how not servicing the machines at one time cost him a top client.

He claims that former chairman of the Nairobi Stock Exchange Jimnah Mbaru was a frequent customer but one day a machine pricked him and that was the last time he visited the barber shop.

Today, the barber and Guara have an unwritten rule: that the machines gets serviced on the first Tuesday of every month.

As we talk, David Murathe checks in for a shave ahead of a much-publicised TV interview and Paul whispers: “You have to keep your machines in perfect condition to maintain such clients.”

We then move to another high-end barber shop as he narrates how he got to service their machines too.

“I started off as a barber. One day I had a client who was a pilot and he sold to me the idea of selling shaving machines for him,” he says.

Guara embraced the idea but a better one was to follow. When the machines broke down, he realised there was no fundi to repair them or sharpen them when they went blunt so he taught himself how to do it.

25 years later, he has no regrets. He says he gets blades from far and wide.

“Some barbers from Narok, Homabay, Taita Taveta, Naivasha and even Mombasa send their blades to me. They come wrapped in black tape and after sharpening, I return them wrapped the same way,” he adds.

How much does he make? Guara says he sharpens at least 500 machines in a day at a minimum fee of Ksh200 each.

You do the math.

Report by Paul Waweru

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