The growing market and need in Africa for an authentic, affordable and high quality make-up brand created specifically for African women, inspired Kenyan entrepreneur, Suzie Wokabi, to launch a new trailblazing cosmetics brand, Suzie Beauty Ltd. The result is a world-class product range that understands the needs of today’s African women who want bespoke make-up products that work perfectly on African women’s skin-tones and creates a stunningly beautiful look.
LoA spoke to the revolutionary founder of Suzie Beauty Ltd, Suzie Wokabi, as part of our month-long focus on the pioneering women on Africa’s beauty and wellness scene to find out more….
What does your company do?
SuzieBeauty is Kenya's first make-up brand. We create and sell products, we do make-up artistry services, as well as training for professional make-up artists.
"Put a dark-skinned woman and the African sun together, throw in some grossly overpriced, often counterfeit make-up brands into the equation and what do you get - a recipe for disaster! This was the inspiration that led me to pursue my passion and create my authentic, affordable, high-quality African make-up brand, Suzie Beauty."
What inspired you to start your company?
Put a dark-skinned woman and the African sun together, throw in some grossly overpriced, often counterfeit make-up brands into the equation and what do you get - a recipe for disaster! Multiply that and you have a population of fashion police’s most wanted, not to mention a host of unsightly skin reactions. This was the inspiration that led me to pursue my passion and create my authentic, affordable, high-quality African make-up brand, Suzie Beauty. This revolutionary line is Kenya’s first make-up/ beauty brand and a global trailblazer in creating a bespoke product for the African woman, by an African woman. Soon after graduating from University in the U.S, I threw myself right into the fashion industry. I was trained by MAC Cosmetics and completed an intensive Media Make-up certificate course at the Award Studio Make-up School in Los Angeles. I worked in New York within the fashion and beauty industries from 2001 until 2007, when I returned to my hometown of Nairobi, Kenya. I found a huge gap in the retail cosmetics industry and decided to try to fill it.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
The hallmark of SuzieBeauty products is that they are affordable, great quality, and tailor-made for the unique needs of women living in the African climate. I developed this product line with the African woman in mind. It works perfectly on our skin tones, textures and the colours are amazing!
"The hallmark of SuzieBeauty products is that they are affordable, great quality, and tailor-made for the unique needs of women living in the African climate. I developed this product line with the African woman in mind."
Tell us a little about your team
The office team consists of myself and my husband and co-founder (COO), a General Manager, a Finance Manager, an Office Admin, a Junior Sales Manager/ PR rep and a Trainer. We have a team of sales-girls out in the field too, as well as freelance make-up artists trained at SuzieBeauty.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
My dad was a bit of an entrepreneur. I never quite planned to be one. My love is make-up artistry and because of my passion for beauty, I was led into this journey, which I now accept was always meant to be. It has been a full-on roller coaster ride - every single day is full of highs and lows. When I decided to start the brand, the first 2 years were spent doing research, development and testing the product. Then came the painful fund-raising segment. Following that was a successful launch of the product into the market, and we have now been retailing SuzieBeauty products for 3 years.
"My dad was a bit of an entrepreneur. I never quite planned to be one. My love is make-up artistry and because of my passion for beauty, I was led into this journey, which I now accept was always meant to be. It has been a full-on roller coaster ride - every single day is full of highs and lows."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We plan to expand our distribution countrywide, regionally and continent-wide. This year we will also expand our product range and continue to grow the brand!
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
I think the recognition I/we get is really awesome as it makes me realize that we are doing things right. I have been featured in vibrant design and lifestyle hubs including the blogs Fashionnotebook, Fashionforensic, Dressupnation, and Kenyanstylista. Interviewed by world-renowned journalists like Jeff Koinange and featured in the New York Times; I was named one of the Five Fashion icons of 2012 by Nairobi’s Capital FM radio station. My story has been profiled on all the Kenyan TV stations (Citizen, K24, KTN, KBC), Radio stations (Kiss, Capital, BBC), and National Newspapers (Business Daily, The Nation, The Standard, Financial Post). I was featured as one of Kenya’s leading business people in 2013 in Msafiri Magazine (Kenya Airways Inflight) to tie in with Kenya’s Golden Jubilee of Independence, and awarded the Msafiri Business Award for Health & Beauty. A great compliment was paid to the brand by Oscar Award winning actress Lupita Nyong’o when she wore SuzieBeauty’s Zamba lipstick to her appearance on the Queen Latifah Show and posted it on her social media.
#EntrepreneurAdvice "...patience, perseverence and rolling with the punches are a must."
- Suzie Wokabi founder @SuzieBeauty
In 2013, I received a finalist award for the Most Influential Women in Business & Government in Africa. The company SuzieBeauty won 2nd runner-up in the Trade category of the 2013 Africa SMME (Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises) Awards in Johannesburg, South Africa. I have now won twice in the 2014 Most Influential Women in Business & Government Awards in the Wholesale & Retail Category for Country and Region, and was a finalist in the Transforming Kenya Awards 2014 in the Manufacturing category. In March 2015, I attended a Gala in Paris to honour African women who are impacting the African Continent one way or another (Gala des femmes Africane ‘GAFA’). I was nominated in the Entrepreneur category. I travelled to Boston, USA in February 2015 as a Distinguished Panelist at the Harvard Business School – Africa Business Conference with the Panel Title of “Localizing Product and Business Models”. Again in 2015, I am a nominee for the Most Influential Women in Business & Government Awards, as well as a nominee in the Kenya Fashion Awards – Make-up Artist category. SuzieBeauty has also been nominated for the Jumia Kenya Glamour Awards 2015 in the Brand of the Year category. I was selected to be filmed in a high level panel for the GES Kenya 2015, which will be played at the Summit and across Africa for a week. I have also been invited to be a Speaker at the Retail Congress Africa in Cape Town, November 2015.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
That they MUST be very passionate in whatever they are trying to start. It must be a field they love entirely and that they know something about. Also, patience, perseverence and rolling with the punches are a must.
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Why LoA loves it….
At LoA, we love Africa’s women entrepreneurs who are taking business inspiration from a particular market challenge on the continent and turning it into a world-class, highly successful and uniquely African brand. Suzie Wokabi is one such entrepreneurial game-changer, and is revolutionising the beauty industry in her country through her innovative approach to creating a uniquely Kenyan make-up brand that truly understands the needs of women. We think Suzie is an entrepreneurial woman to watch in Africa’s beauty and wellness industry. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa