For many women entrepreneurs in Africa, the inspiration for launching a new business, product or brand comes from trying to find a solution to a challenge or addressing the lack of a particular product in the marketplace. For Shola Ade-Okafor, the inspiration for her company, BlushinGirl Tools, came from not being able to find an eyeshadow primer suitable for professional make-up artists.
LoA chatted to Shola this month to learn more about this niche African cosmetics brand addressing a key gap in the marketplace.
What does your company do?
BlushinGirl Tools is a cosmetic company that provides top quality makeup and professional makeup tools primarily for the African woman. Our products are designed to suit African skin tones so we pay attention to the pigmentation of cosmetics such as lipsticks and eyeshadows.
"I started BlushinGirl Tools cosmetics after I noticed a gap in the market for an essential makeup item for professional makeup artists which is the eyeshadow primer."
What inspired you to start your company?
I started BlushinGirl Tools cosmetics after I noticed a gap in the market for an essential makeup item for professional makeup artists which is the eyeshadow primer. My students couldn’t find this particular product anywhere in Kenya. So it felt like the right time to pursue a dream I had been putting of for a long time.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
BlushinGirl Tools products tell the African story using names like Safarigirl, Lenana, J-town fever etc which our customers identify with. Our products are top quality and designed especially for the African woman.
"I had always wanted to start a cosmetic line so it felt like the time was right. I started research on private label cosmetic manufacturers immediately. I contacted a few of them and that was the beginning of BlushinGirl Tools cosmetics line."
Tell us a little about your team
BlushinGirl Tools currently has a small team of 3. We have a Marketing/PR Manager, an Accountant, and I am the CEO/ Product Development Manager.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
It’s interesting that my immediate background is not entrepreneurial. My parents are lecturers in the university. However, my paternal grand father was a successful cocoa farmer and businessman and my maternal grandmother is a successful grocery trader, so I guess it is inherent. I developed a strong interest for beauty and cosmetics at a young age. This interest led me to register in a makeup school during one of my holidays from university. After the makeup training I went back to school and set up a business as a makeup artist and that was the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey.
My business continued to grow throughout school and after graduation I knew I wanted to work in the beauty industry, therefore I applied to the first African makeup company, House of Tara, where I worked for one year and gained very valuable experience. After a year at House of Tara I had to move to Nairobi with my spouse. In Nairobi, I set up my makeup business and before long I was gettlng requests for professional makeup classes. The makeup industry in Nairobi had just started to grow and there weren't a lot of makeup artists at the time.
It was a good idea to incorporate professional training into the business so I began to offer professional makeup classes and before long I had a good number of students. However the challenge came when students couldn’t find a particular product which I call the "magic product" - the eyeshadow primer in the market. This product is an essential item in every makeup artist’s kit. After weeks of contemplating how to get a steady supply of eyeshadow primers I had a lightbulb moment,... why not look into manufacturing? I had always wanted to start a cosmetic line so it felt like the time was right. I started research on private label cosmetic manufacturers immediately. I contacted a few of them and that was the beginning of BlushinGirl Tools cosmetics line.
"I want BlushinGirl Tools to be the top choice makeup for every African woman. I aspire that our products will be found in beauty stores all over Africa in a few years."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
I want BlushinGirl Tools to be the top choice makeup for every African woman. I aspire that our products will be found in beauty stores all over Africa in a few years.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
I get the most satisfaction when a product development project is completed, we introduce the product to the market, and get amazing feedback from our customers. Customer satisfaction!!
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Just do it!! Be sure you are passionate about the business you intend to start, and talk to as many people as possible within your target market to get an idea of how viable your business idea is.
Contact or follow BlushinGirl Tools
Why LoA loves it….
At LoA we love hearing stories of women who startup their businesses because they are driven to solve a problem or innovate to create a new product or service. In the highly competitive cosmetics industry, particularly in the world of creating new products for professional makeup artists, there is a constant need to find new cosmetics solutions that help these artists in their day to day work. Entrepreneur Shola Ade-Okafor found her initial inspiration in the lack of a particular specialist makeup product for African skin in the marketplace, and did something to fill the gap. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa