Suzie Wokabi is a BeautyPreneur, a mother, a wife. She studied International Relations in college, and thereafter went to pursue a career in the fashion and beauty industries in New York. That’s where she discovered her love for beauty. Suzie worked for Clinique as well as MAC, and trained well by both. She also attended a make-up school in Los Angeles (LA) to study media make-up. Suzie was away in the United States for almost 10 years and moved back home to Nairobi in 2007 to work as a make-up artist. The beauty entrepreneur found a gap in the retail cosmetics space (all products imported and overpriced) so decided to try and fill it, with SuzieBeauty. Suzie talks to Destin Africa Magazine on how it all started.
Tell us more about Suzie Beauty and your range of product offering?
SuzieBeauty is a brand that I created from scratch, with a lot of love and passion – for beauty, and Africa. We offer a full range of colour cosmetics: foundation, powder, concealer, eye shadows, eye kohl, mascara, and blush. In 2018, we launched our skincare line which includes make-up remover, cleanser, toner, moisturizer and primer. We also offer a full range of application brushes. My brand is Kenya’s first beauty brand, created by an African woman, for the African woman. Great quality and affordable products, and that actually works for us.
What inspired you to start the company?
SuzieBeauty started from a place of frustration. Having lived in the US for 10 years, I arrived back home in 2007 and worked in the media make-up industry. I found a gap in the retail cosmetics market, whereby all products were imported and way overpriced. I decided to create my own product for us, the African woman. SuzieBeauty is Kenya’s first beauty brand and we promise great quality product with affordability that actually works for us.
What sets your company apart from other players in the market?
Fortunately for me, I will always be able to maintain the title of first Kenyan beauty brand. My brand promises international quality product, particularly created by myself, a beauty professional, for us, the African woman. We also promise affordability. I directly compete with international brands that have entered the Kenyan market, and I always say, I love competition. They prove my point and brand promises because theirs are different. There is space for many in the beauty industry!
What can you say you have achieved so far?
I have created and launched Kenya’s first make-up brand…. I could stop there! J But there’s lots more. I created a brand and company that was never quite my plan, and we have been retailing in the (very difficult) local retail space for 7 years, quite a feat. I have also had the priviledge of being invited to speak on countless local and global stages, putting SuzieBeauty and Africa on the map. Lastly, it’s great when I get the recognition or accolades that help me to realize that I have done something right. To date I have been nominated for/ won 17 awards, both locally and globally.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
This was not quite a choice, I started SuzieBeauty out of a gap that I found in the industry and decided to venture in, to fill that gap. At the end of the day, I’m proud to be a female entrepreneur.
Have you faced any challenges, and how did you overcome them?
Running a business, as a creative, was very difficult. Finance issues have always been the biggest. I’m fortunate to have great partners (Flame Tree Group) after my brand acquisition in 2016, who help me to navigate the issues which are in operations, logistics and finance, all to which my business depend on.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
To increase the visibility and availability of SuzieBeauty mainly within the continent and also internationally. I do a lot of public relations and speaking engagements so I have interest in the product worldwide, but we need to do the spread correctly!
What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
They must understand what business they are getting into in a very intricate way. Know WHY they want to do what they are doing. And thereafter start the process of getting into it. Knowledge, passion, interest, integrity.