BintiMwafrika

“My sleepless nights inspire me” – Suzie Wokabi

By Thandiwe Muriu

Makeup and beauty guru, Suzie Wokabi. Photo by Thandiwe Muriu

In 2009, SuzieBeauty was launched with the aim of bringing affordable quality makeup within the reach of Kenyan women. Founder and professionally trained makeup artist Suzie Wokabi, noticed that a lack of quality makeup was forcing Kenyan women to buy counterfeit products. She went on to found an award winning makeup brand that won her accolades both locally and abroad. Her Zamba lipstick even got a sweet endorsement from Lupita Nyong’o.

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New Developments

On January 25 this year, Mauritian owned firm Flame Tree Group  announced that it was buying the SuzieBeauty brand for an undisclosed amount. The firm, which posted profits of over Sh84 billion in 2014, has acquired a slew of well positioned local brands with the aim of increasing it’s revenues. At the press conference, Suzie reassured her loyal customers that this signaled even better products from SuzieBeauty including a upcoming skincare line. “We started talking in March 2015, and just recently concluded and signed the deal.” she told Binti.

We caught up with Suzie to find out what inspires and drives her entreprenual spirit…

What does the Flame Tree Group acquisition mean for SuzieBeauty?
SuzieBeauty is now able to get to the next level! The Flame Tree Group is a well established organisation (which we are well aligned with) and it has the abilities and resources to back up SuzieBeauty to grow and reach the heights that we had hoped.
I finally get to do my dream job, seven years later! I am the Chief Creative Officer and Brand Ambassador for SuzieBeauty.

What inspired you to start a beauty product line?

I found a big gap in the retail cosmetics market in Kenya when I moved back home after almost 10 years in the US. I was trying to fix my own problem of lacking affordable great quality product!

“I was trying to fix my own problem of lacking affordable great quality product!”

What challenges have you faced as an African woman entrepreneur?

I think I have the safety net of working in the beauty industry, which is friendly to women. As an entrepreneur in general, I am a pure creative at heart so running a business will always be my biggest challenge. Dealing with daily operations, investors, lawyers, employees… all very uncomfortable for me. I am now at a place where I have my dream job within my company!

 So far what has SuzieBeauty achieved and what can we look forward to?

We have created and launched Kenya’s first make-up brand. A huge accolade on it’s own. Apart from that, we have received over seven business awards within two years of business. And a lot of recognition from peers and partners in the industry, very priceless! We are currently increasing our distribution and have tightened up our strategy. Plus, new product lines and colours very soon! I am so excited for 2016!

What advise would you give your 25 year old self?

Learn from your mistakes, have no regrets!

What would you say is the best thing about being an African woman in today’s world?

Africa is THE frontier (not even the next frontier). There is so much attention on Africa, for a reason. As a woman, I do not feel like a lesser entrepreneur or business person, it is an equal playing field. This is OUR time!

Some African women see makeup as frivolous while others cannot be seen without it, how does SuzieBeauty cater to both and why in you opinion is make up important?

Zero make-up is not an option, per Suzie Wokabi and SuzieBeauty. Unfortunately, we live in a rather judgmental society and yes, first impression means everything. For that first impression, they are not looking at your fancy pedicure or pretty belt. It’s all in your face. We have now provided a product that works for all of us, is affordable, and awesome quality!

What are you most proud of?

My family – my three boys (husband and two boys), and our other child, SuzieBeauty. I recognize the feat that it is.

How do you stay inspired? 

Africa inspires me. My friends and family inspire me. My sleepless nights inspire me 🙂 I have nothing but passion for what I do. My favourite quote is “Everything always works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end”. I love Beyoncé and Prince. I do Zumba and have a trainer who helps me try to reach my health and fitness goals. My girlfriends and wine also help me plod along this journey (smiles). I have wild goals for me and my family, that’s what keeps me going every day. Can’t wait for my 40’s!

Check out SuzieBeauty products at suziebeauty.com

“Everything always works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out, it’s  not the end”

By Patrick Ndiba
                                                                                                          Photo: Patrick Ndiba
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