Diaspora Returnee Revolutionizing The Kenyan Cosmetic Industry
When it comes to makeup artistry, Suzie Wokabi defines this art form with skill, passion and excellence. Suzie is an accomplished make-up artist with extensive industry experience. Her expertise covers all forms of make-up artistry – whether it is for print, TV, film, video, commercials, runway or bridal. Suzie Wokabi has 10 years of fashion and beauty experience, having worked in the industries in both the USA and Kenya.
Suzie studied International Relations after which she joined the fashion industry on completion of her college degree. This was followed by training from MAC Cosmetics and a further certification in Media Make-up from Award Studio Make-up School in Los Angeles. Suzie then worked in New York from 2001 before returning to Kenya in 2007.
Some of Suzie's works have been featured in a number of publications including: True Love, Drum, Adam, Upscale, Sophisticates Black Hair and Uzuri. The uniqueness of Suzie Beauty lies not only in the Kiswahili names of each product, but also in their suitability for African skin tones.
In 2011, Suzie founded SuzieBeauty Cosmetics, the first locally designed beauty product in Kenya, made by a beauty industry professional, for the everyday woman.
Suzie Wokabi designs the company’s products and the use of high quality manufacturing and innovative research is to ensure the end products are of a high quality. The company’s mission is to provide a wide range of high quality, affordable beauty products for all skin types and ages.
In addition to its cosmetics range, SuzieBeauty also offers make-up artistry services for weddings, runway, television, events and personal consultations.
SuzieBeauty cosmetics is available at the following retail outlets:
(1) Mimosa Pharmacy, Junction, Westgate, Karen and Ridgeway,
(2) Ni Pambe, Chaka Place and T-Mall,
(3) Beauty Wholesale, Nairobi CBD,
(4) Nothing Like it Spa, Karen.
Suzie was recently interview by Jerusha Wambui, a 3rd year student at University of Nairobi studying Bachelor of Commerce (Business Information System Major).
Suzie, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed by ATB News. May I start off by asking, did you always aspire to own your own cosmetics line and what was the inspiration behind SuzieBeauty?
I always flirted with the idea of having my own product line but would then dismiss this as distant fantasy. My inspiration to create my own line was the state of the cosmetics (retail) industry in Kenya – all products are imported and any good quality products are completely unaffordable to the average consumer. I therefore identified a gap in the market - that of good quality cosmetics at affordable prices and stepped in to fill this gap!
What challenges did you face in setting up this business and what kept you going?
The challenges have all been on the business and financial side of things. As a creative person, it has been a tough learning curve; learning to run a business and all the responsibilities that come with it i.e. managing employees, dealing with lawyers, accountants, investors and so forth. In addition, raising funds to start the business was also a huge challenge but it was my passion for beauty and my belief in SuzieBeauty Limited that kept me going throughout those challenging and trying times.
What made you decide to start the business in Kenya and have you any plans to roll out into neighbouring countries?
Starting the business in Kenya, was a natural decision for me because I’m Kenyan! I am also proud of the fact that this is a product line (the first of its kind), that is made by us and for us. This has been a long time coming and I’m so glad to have played a part in it. We will look to roll out into neighbouring countries and throughout Africa, as soon as we perfect our distribution network.
Has the brand been well received in the market?
It sure has – this is what keeps me going and even when it gets challenging, I’m happy to keep going because of the reception SuzieBeauty has received!
There are a number of ladies who are still reluctant about the idea of using make-up with most of them claiming to want to retain the "natural" look. What easy make-up tips could you give them to help them retain that natural look?
Well, I keep throwing my favourite quote around and it hits the nail on the head: “The best thing is to look natural, but it takes makeup to look natural” by Calvin Klein. Make-up is not there to change anything about your look but rather, to enhance and to improve. My advice to a complete rookie would be: choose one or two products to perfect and build from there.
So far, what has been your biggest accomplishment or highlight of the business?
The highlight for me was actually launching products that I had been working on, for a long time. The whole process from the start of my research to launch was three years!
Finally what advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
My advice would be, Persevere; it will be a rough road ahead! Nothing good comes easy, easy come, easy go. I believe in all these clichés now. But most of all don't start a business that you are not 150% passionate about. There’s a reason why 90% of startups shut down within the first year – if you are not completely passionate about what you are doing, you will give up.
I want to consult on personal reasons,on make ups Im a total rookie,never used make ups even a single day,not because Im ignorant but because Im not aware or let me say do not know where to start,I got a reason to write to you when i read saturday Magazine that featured Suzie Wokabi skills on make up,it really toughed me to get a title (Give me a face and I will make it pretty) Please could this be true? I want an expect to project my dark face.
A cry for a woman of passion.