Suzie Wokabi , Founder of “SuzieBeauty” Kenya’s first beauty brand is a global trailblazer creating a bespoke product for the African woman. After learning the ropes of the beauty industry in New York for 6 years, Suzie returned to her home town- Kenya, Nairobi to set up “SuzieBeauty” Today, Suzie is considered one of the top make-up artists in Africa, whose extensive industry experience runs the full gamut from Print Media to Television, Film, Video, Commercials, Runway, and Bridal. She trains her team and mentees to run the artistry part of the business and has covered and been featured in countless local and international magazines. She chats with us on this week #LadyBoss interview highlighting tips for creating a successful brand.
Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
I am a BeautyPreneur, a mother, a wife. I studied International Relations in college, and thereafter went to pursue a career in the fashion and beauty industries in New York. That’s where I discovered my love for beauty. I worked for Clinique as well as MAC, trained well by both. I also attended a make-up school in LA to study media make-up. I was away in the US for almost 10 years and moved back home to Nairobi in 2007 to work as a make-up artist. I found a gap in the retail cosmetics space (all products imported and overpriced) so decided to try and fill it, with SuzieBeauty. My brand is Kenya’s first beauty brand, created by an African woman, for the African woman. Great quality product with affordability and that actually works for us.
What is it like being a female entrepreneur, and why did you chose to be one?
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.
What new innovation have you introduced to your business?
I am constantly coming up with new product lines. In 2018 we introduced 9 new ones, which makes me proud. In the first quarter of 2019 we plan to launch 5 new products!
What will you say is responsible for your success so far?
PASSION. For Africa, and for the beauty industy.
In your opinion, would you say that there are any unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face?
I think it depends on the industry. I’m fortunate to work in beauty so there’s really no major gender issues. I have many people that I’m in touch with in the various industries and yes, there is gender disparity. Many industries are male dominated, so that is where it gets tough.
What values and principles have helped you so far?
Integrity. Doing everything from the heart and the gut. Keeping my clientele’s needs as a priority.
Why did you decide to go into this particular line of business?
I love beauty and know it best. It’s really important to do what you know best and love most.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what’s kept you going?
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 who help me to navigate the issues which are in operations, logistics and finance, all to which my business depend on.
What’s your five-year plan for your business?
To increase the visibility and availabillity of SuzieBeauty mainly within the continent and also internationally. I do a lot of PR and speaking engagements so I have interest in the product worldwide, but we need to do the spread correctly!
What do upcoming female entrepreneurs need to do to be successful in this path?
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.
The LLA Lady Boss Series is a weekly interview series that highlights the achievements and entrepreneurial journeys of African female entrepreneurs. The idea is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through enterprise and business.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.
If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things in enterprise, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and she could possibly be featured.